When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Antlers are one the most interesting parts of a deer and it fascinates everyone who has ever laid eyes on this beautiful creature. 

But did you know that deer shed and grow new antlers every year?

Yes, you heard that right, and you can actually collect them when this time of the year comes around.

So when exactly do deer shed their antlers, and what purpose do they serve?

Let us find out the answers to these questions and even more in this article.

What Are Antlers Made Of?

Antlers are extensions of the animal’s skull which means they are bones made of calcium and phosphorus. They are known to grow very fast and generally are found on male deer. 

The growth and size of them depends on the nutrition, so the healthier the deer the bigger the antlers get. Older deer usually grow bigger antlers than younger ones, especially between ages

4 and 7 considering that is the time their body reaches it’s full maturity. 

What Is the Antlers’ Function?

The antlers of deer are a determining asset during the rutting period, which occurs either in summer or in fall, depending on the species. 

deer antler

Just like men who attract women with fancy, expensive cars, or even muscular bodies, deer use their antlers to attract female deer by showing them off. This makes the antlers the most important part not only for their appearance but also for female recognition.

The larger and more impressive the antlers, the more the deer will be able to dominate the other males, which will allow him to breed with more females.

Longevity

Deer shed their antlers once a year during winter, it generally happens from late fall or early winter up to march depending on the nutrition and location.

For example in Texas Deer are known to shed their antlers from mid January to mid April but most mature bucks drop their antlers by the end of February. 

By the time male bucks are fully grown they establish a pattern of dropping antlers in the same time each year.

When Do They Grow Back?

Deer grow new antlers every year after shedding them in winter.

After a few months, new antlers begin to grow. As it grows, the new antlers are surrounded by a soft, velvety skin called the bast. 

deer without antler

The skin is full of blood veins, which feed the antlers as they grow. When the antlers are finished, the deer scrapes the bast off by sweeping the antlers against trees and bushes. 

This can look bloody because all the tiny veins in the bark are destroyed, but it doesn’t hurt the deer. Once the bark is swept, the deer eats it to keep the nutrients it contains.

Antlers Size

Deer get bigger antlers year by year. The new antlers may have more ends than the old ones. Often, each pole will have an extra end a year, but if the young deer lives in a place where there is enough food, it can put out an antler with even more ends. 

A good-looking adult stag, for example, can have up to 24 ends on its antlers, or 12 ends on each pole. Hunters call one of these a 24-ender, and it can end up as a handsome trophy on the hunter’s wall. 

When Do the First Antlers Come Out?

When a fawn is born, it has no antlers, but during the males’ first year of life, tiny antlers grow out, usually consisting of nothing more than two small sticks or ends, as they are called. Such a young deer is called a spitz deer.

Why Do Deer Lose Their Antlers?

Once the rutting season is over, deer no longer need to have antlers because as we have just seen, antlers are used as instruments of seduction and once they have reproduced, the antlers fade like roses in winter.

The deer loses its antlers due to its testicular function, they measure about 25 cm and during their growth, they are soft and covered with a material called velvet.

Counting the Antlers

 The first antlers are called daggers and come out around 1 and a half years old.

Then, it is around 2 and a half that we call the antlers of the deer staves, these last ones will begin to have branches.

Once the deer has turned 3 and a half years old, starting from the skull we observe the antlers’ branches. There are several branches of antlers, each of them with a specific name.

Hunters have also developed unique names for antlers’ parts: beam, palm, brow, bez or bay, trez or tray, royal and surroyal.

Horns work in pairs, so to count a deer’s horns you simply count them on one side and multiply by two.

How To Find Deer Antlers?

Whether it is for decorative purposes or to enjoy a walk in the forest with your family or alone, picking antlers is a pleasant and invigorating activity. 

In order to find the faded antlers of a majestic deer, you will have to wait until spring and go to a forest where you know there are bucks that have spent the winter. 

Being informed about the local wildlife where you are going is crucial to have hope of finding beautiful horns. 

Summary

  • Antlers are the most crucial part when it comes to attracting females during the mating season.
growing antlers
  • Antlers fall off every year, they fall in winter and grow back usually during the spring.
  • Antlers serve for decorative purposes as well especially for hunters.

Conclusion

Despite their wonderful appearance antlers have a short life and they fall off annually, however the good news is they grow back again.

Finding them can be difficult but it is always worth searching for them. While just being able to witness this beautiful creature in the nature can be an experience of a lifetime.

Photo of author

Cristina Vulpe

Cristina Vulpe has an honours degree in Veterinary (2011) and PhD in Canine Oncology (2015). She is passionate about are animal welfare, infectious disease, parasitology, and pathology.

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