Some are just happy to keep a herd around back and maybe sell a few fawns each year to other breeders. Heather Stevens is the new owner of, and she checked the complete, updated records for me. Hunters (and I'm being generous with the term) typically pay between $1,500-$3,000 to shoot an average buck of 120-140 inches. That's why I cringe every time I open an e-mail proudly offering a 300-, or 400- or even 500-inch whitetail buck at stud. Growing antlers takes a toll on a deer’s body. Meanwhile, the deer keep getting bigger. Deer antlers grow faster than any other mammalian tissue. They are unafraid of humans and upon release in a canned hunt operation, they present little if any challenge to shooters. The animal agriculture industry is comprised of thousands of God-fearing Americans (including veterinarians, feed producers, fence manufacturers and struggling farmers) who are trying to make a simple living. 10 Whitetail Deer Antler Facts ~ Deer Antlers are the fastest growing bone known to man and can grow as much as a ½ inch a day. All she has to do now is wake up and produce a son who grows a few hundred inches of antler by age one and a half. An insemination specialist blows on the other end of the straw and the job is done. They also face biological risks that does don’t. Do you want your bucks to have bigger antlers this year? Notice in the chart that this change goes both ways. However, with a true antlered doe, the growth is always minimal and rarely exceeds “spike” antler structure. An antler is not a horn. During the rut they travel widely, eat little, fight other bucks, and exert themselves to the point of significant weight loss in a short period of time. Maybe, the "freak show" vs. "super buck" argument is just a matter of which side of the high fence you are sitting on. Mad, because unlike the two-headed calf who is a true freak of nature, these whitetails are freaks of a different kind. Why? All deer species shed their antlers in winter, after … A Bonnier Corporation Company. The freak show buck trend will stop when hunters (or shooters as Schoonen calls them) begin to realize that the deer they just shot was bottle-raised as a fawn and was eating Snickers Bars out of a 4 year old's hand a few days earlier. As a rule, only male deer grow antlers. Many products featured on this site were editorially chosen. During the spring and summer, antlers receive a rich supply of blood and are covered by a fine membrane called “velvet.” For $20 a year, anyone who joins the 365 program will get a monthly newsletter where I … The antlers of a buck are the fastest growing tissue in the world. He dropped 44 inches to 166 the next year (center). Here is a general timeline of the antler growth cycle, although, depending on … Make no mistake, breeding big bucks is big business and deer farming is a billion dollar industry. Have you ever wondered about the stages of antler growth? Males of all deer species – elk, caribou, moose, mule deer, Coues deer, white-tailed deer and black-tailed deer – grow antlers. Female moose, called cows, don’t grow antlers. Antlers grow bigger each year as the deer matures. He has been a member of the staff since 2003. It’s a natural progression to wonder about a buck’s golden years, and I am regularly asked by curious hunters: What are the chances an older buck will continue to grow larger antlers each year? Money is literally changing hands all over the deer farming landscape. Injuries claim many of them, and exhaustion makes them more susceptible to disease and winter weather. His obscenely disfigured antlers look more like something you would find growing on a coral reef or in a post nuclear war sci-fi thriller. During summer, deer antlers grow rapidly within two to four months and – according to Peter Yang, PhD, associate professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine, they can grow up to 2 cm per day. How fast and how much antlers grow in the first year can vary with conditions and age, and among individual deer. Tony Schoonen, Boone & Crockett Club's Chief of Staff, refuses to call them "hunts." He contemptuously calls them "shoots." Prior to that, Lindsay was an editor at a Georgia hunting and fishing news magazine for nine years. Some of these breeders breed for antlers and don't seem to care much about how they get them. From the time antlers begin growing in late March through the end of April, growth is minimal. That's the buck's side of the deal. You’ve got a 5½-year-old buck standing broadside in your sights, and he’s yours to take home with you if you want him. The "canned hunts" that many of these bucks are sold into are condemned by both the Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club. Some of these deer seem to have multiple bases and all of the racks are preposterously large for the necks and shoulders that support them. Allegedly, some preserves allow the deer to be "hunted" with transport tranquilizers still in their systems. However, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates that one female out of every 20,000 deer have small antlers. As Dave pointed out in his article, disease or injury could easily lead to declines in antler size, and recovery could lead to a rebound. These organizations strongly oppose controlled breeding, genetic manipulation and artificial insemination of whitetail deer. My guess is it's the genetics. Depending on the region, mule deer shed their antlers between late winter and early spring. Some disappoint and top out at less than 200 inches. ", The Quality Deer Management Association does not support "canned hunts" or "controlled breeding" as a means of managing wild whitetail deer populations. Does, on the other hand, had a wider “U” as more of them lived beyond that age. In the following slides I'll describe the methods behind growing these freak bucks and show you photos of just how outrageously large they can get. They are one of the fast-growing tissues in the animal kingdom. Again, the oldest doe lived seven years longer than the oldest buck. They live in a free country and have a right to make a living. All rights reserved. Maybe it's donating more sperm than their bodies can handle. A half straw of semen from one of these freak bucks can sell for more than $10,000, a well bred doe can bring $20,000 and a breeder buck can go for $50,000 or more. White-tailed Deer Stages of Antler Development. A rare mature buck might jump or decline by this much in a single year. Shortly after shedding, the bucks begin growing new antlers. In half that time, a deer can grow an entirely new set of antlers. Oh, deer; that’s amazing! These deer are sold as "stockers" to private high-fence hunting facilities (to "upgrade" genetics) or to shooting preserves for public consumption. One preserve has more than 20 200-inch bucks. Some keep them for the kids, others keep deer to collect urine for hunting products and some raise deer for venison. The antler breaks at the base near the skull. The deer do not have to wait long as new antlers will grow in the spring in preparation for a new mating season. Deer grow their first set of antlers when they are approximately one year of age. An electronic probe is inserted into a "prize" buck's rectum. We are also very concerned about the impact of artificially manipulated genetics (from farm-raised deer) on wild deer populations.". Bucks begin to grow a new set of antlers in the late spring because the increased daylight in the spring stimulates the hormones that regulate antler growth. The doe's job is simpler. He recalled a 17½-year-old doe from Pennsylvania and a 9½-year-old buck from Illinois. Death rates are high among fawns and yearling bucks, dip lowest at age 3½ and 4½, then climb again as you get into older age classes, forming a “U.” A Texas tracking study of 86 adult bucks found 15 to 20% mortality rates in each age class from 5½ to 9½, and none of the bucks lived beyond 10½ years. A white-tailed deer's antlers can grow as much as a quarter-inch per day. With national rates of yearling-buck harvest lower than any time in American history, today’s hunters are encountering and killing more bucks of advanced ages than ever before. Beneath the wound epithelium are cells which will create the antler growth zones. I prefer to estimate age based solely on body characteristics with respect to location and time of year and then use antler size to “check” my estimate or to break a tie if I … In a 2015 article for Quality Whitetails magazine, Dr. Dave Hewitt of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M-Kingsville reviewed data from 170 wild bucks captured in at least two different years while they were 5½ years of age or older. He’s heavy-bodied, fully mature and carries a large rack of antlers. My point is, your calculations about passing that 5½-year-old need to consider not only the odds of larger antlers but the odds the buck will live long enough to grow them, much less appear in your sights next year. Large antlers on a younger deer and small antlers on an older deer can negatively influence your estimated age. Antlers are true bone and mainly made of calcium, and are shed each winter before regrowing each spring and summer. Velvet is considered to be one of the fastest growing mammal tissue on earth. New Growth A deer’s antlers begin growing during March and April and reach full growth by August … The antler growth cycle is driven by photoperiod (day length) and hormones. Deer antlers can grow an inch or more per day, making them the fastest normal growing tissue known to man – only tumors and embryos grow new tissue at this rate. Even the cycle of antler growth carries unique risks, like brain abscesses. Frankenbucks are the products of excessive "line" breeding. Your support enables our mission: Ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting. Should this "freak show" be curtailed or simply left to its own devices? Lindsay Thomas Jr. is the editor of Quality Whitetails magazine, the journal of the National Deer Association, and he is NDA's Chief Communications Officer. Deer first begin to grow antlers between early winter and late spring. Deer grow and shed antlers annually. Not all the bucks are "lucky" enough to grow freak show antlers and become breeders. They run the annual gauntlet of legal hunting and year-round poaching, plus predators. Their publications talk about the value of raising kids in an animal-friendly environment and the responsibility that ensues. Nutrition, age and genetics all play a role in how fast and strong the antlers grow. After shedding old antlers, the new antlers begin to grow almost immediately and can grow more than one inch per day! A true hermaphrodite is a buck that has both male and female sex organs with antlers, but these deer typically stay in velvet and shed their antlers early. Push a button and an electric impulse causes the buck to ejaculate. Note that the doe was nearly twice as old as the buck. It can take as little as 24-48 hours for the antlers to actually fall off, but the shedding process takes between two to three weeks and then new antlers will regenerate throughout the summer. As QDMA COO, Brian Murphy states "we have serious concerns about transporting deer raised in enclosed environments as they are more susceptible to some known diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and tuberculosis. Larger bucks, 150 inches and up, typically sell for $5,000-$10,000 or more. Some keep them for the kids, others keep deer to collect urine for hunting products and some raise deer for venison. Our original question makes a big assumption: If you pass that 5½-year-old buck, you’ll see him at 6½. The velvet then withers and begins to fall off, a process facilitated by the deer by rubbing his antlers against trees. Maybe it's too many steroids or food supplements? So how far will it go? There were 211 instances in which antler size was measured in consecutive years (some of these mature bucks were captured more than twice). That’s why you see the biggest antlers after a deer reaches 4 ½ to 5 ½ years of age. The semen is captured in a vessel, gets packaged in "ready-to-inseminate straws" and then it's sold.  You also receive four issues of our award-winning hunting magazine – Quality Whitetails! You know the ones with the two-headed calves and the chickens with three legs and steroid-taking body builders who didn't know how to say no. During this process, the antlers eventually mineralize and harden. A deer’s antlers can grow very quickly. These Frankenstein bucks are man made and money is the motive. Young deer grow their first set of true antlers the first spring after they are born, at 10 to 12 months of age. Deer with a high worm load will not put on the pounds nor will produce as many inches of antler. So, there’s about an equal chance that the 5½-year-old buck in your sights will gain or lose a few inches, and maybe a lot more than a few. It’s a coin flip. The chart below shows the results. During the summer, higher levels of the male hormone testosterone slow antler growth, and the veins and arteries around the velvet constrict and cut off the blood and nutrient supply to the antlers. Major shifts in habitat quality and nutrition from one year to the next, like a drought or acorn failure, could also contribute. They look nothing like the bucks we see on magazine covers, nothing like the buck of our dreams. How long does it take for a buck to form hardened antlers? And to be fair, not all deer farmers are into growing massive antlers. I always try to avoid those sick tabloids at the supermarket checkout counter. With the boost in testosterone, deer antlers can grow up to two inches per week, and in some cases, bull moose can put on a pound of bone per day during the peak of their growth cycle. They aren't bred for hybrid vigor, longevity or the ability to take on all comers and win breeding rights. Which side of the fence do I sit on? Growth starts at the pedicle, which is the antler growing base attached to the skull (see Figure 2). Farmers typically use deer brokers to sell and deliver pen-raised deer to high-fenced shooting preserves. Kevin Hisey, Executive Secretary of Pope and Young, emphatically states: "we strongly oppose this kind of thing. Antler growth begins shortly after completion of the wound epithelium in white-tailed deer and most members of the deer family; in contrast, moose antlers do not begin growth until two — three months after antler casting. What side of the fence do you sit on? One look at this pen-reared buck tells you there is something wrong, something terribly wrong. A real monster in the range of 180 inches can bring much more. She found an Indiana doe aged at 22½ years and a Texas buck aged at 15½. Hard antlers remain on the deer through the peak of breeding (mid November in Virginia) until late fall or early winter. At this time, small stub-like antlers will start their growth from the base of the pedicle. I feel sorry for these freaks of nature and truth be told, they give me the creeps. How to Read Shed Antlers for Health and Habitat Clues. Before you treat your deer, you need to understand the basics of what antlers are and how antlers form over time. To them this is not a "freak show" but a mission to advance the whitetail species. Let’s look at death rates for these older bucks. The whole process is repeated … And to be fair, not all deer farmers are into growing massive antlers. 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Mortality studies of bucks show a U-shaped curve when plotted on a graph by age. Your calculations about passing that 5½-year-old need to consider not only the odds of larger antlers but the odds the buck will live long enough to grow them. I’d never pass up a shot at a mature buck just for a few more inches of antler.”. Antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues in nature, growing up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) a day in elk. I prefer to be on the outside looking in, along with all those beautiful, natural, 100-inch main frame eight pointers. But before you post a hot take in the comments section, consider that this is a legitimate question born out of curiosity, and there’s nothing wrong with asking it. Copyright © 2020 Outdoor Life. The main reason that deer grow antlers and one of the reasons that it is the male of the species that grow them is to attract a female deer for mating. Antlers are honeycomb-liked bones that grow from the pedicles of a male deer’s frontal skull. Deer grow antlers beginning in late April or early May and remain in a growth period through late August or early September. Some are just happy to keep a herd around back and maybe sell a few fawns each year to other breeders. The process is referred to as electroejaculation. Here is a general timeline of the antler growth cycle, although, depending on the area or species, the exact months may differ. Outdoor Life may receive financial compensation for products purchased through this site. In any given year, an individual buck may make hundreds of rubs, 99.9% of which are made after the velvet has already been removed. But as you prepare to pull the trigger, a question enters your mind: Will he grow larger antlers next year? The antlers will grow rapidly for two to four months. However, in 3% of the instances, antler size changed by more than 40 inches in one year!”. The cartilaginous antler is a pre-calcified stage of growth. The length of time that a deer keeps his antlers before they shed depends upon his general nutrition and genetics. Then there are the industry participants themselves. She gets tranquilized, scoped and probed until her cervix is located and then a straw of semen is inserted. Antlers usually occur only on male deer. The antlers are soft and covered with a velvet-like layer of blood vessels used to feed it nutrients. Most of these deer are bred artificially. According to a deer farming insider, normal captive deer live for about 12 years while deer bred only for massive antlers usually die by age 7. In tests, bucks kept in constant 12 hours of light and dark were unable to shed their antlers and grow new ones, and . Will the breeders just continue to breed bigger and bigger antlers until these bucks collapse under the weight of their own racks? When the antlers are growing during mating season, the female deer will be shown a display of the male’s antlers, … Rut-related excursions may take them out of their home ranges onto unfamiliar ground and across roads, rivers and other dangerous obstacles. Deer grow antlers, not horns. Velvet covers a deer's antlers until they reach full growth, which occurs after three to four months. They twist and turn and droop and bulge and fork and then fork again. Horns, rather than antlers, are living bone that is covered with hard layers of skin. Found dead shortly after growing a new set of antlers at 7½, he had climbed back to 208! Another reason antler growth is slow in coming during April is the lack of quality food because spring green-up doesn’t normally come to the n… He earned his journalism degree at the University of Georgia. But that’s the average buck, and there are always exceptions to the average. I asked Henry about the oldest doe and buck he ever aged. Last week I received 4 of them, including the deer pictured here which is reportedly a new world record at 561 6/8 inches with 88 scoreable points. Many of these "inferior" bucks are dead (killed by wild bucks or shot) within a few days of being tranquilized and transported to their new homes. The primary reason for this is that the amount of daylight is much less than what it will be in June. As a NDA member, you’ll also gain many hunting benefits including better hunting success, more deer knowledge, and more fun! bucks kept in constant light grew and lost three sets of antlers in two years. “In 90% of the instances, successive antler sets vary by less than 20 inches. Reindeer males and females are both known to grow antlers. But one female (doe) in several thousand whitetail does will grow antlers because of a hormone imbalance. According to an industry source, 15 years ago a 200-inch whitetail buck was a real oddity, now they grow 200-inch antlers as a yearling. Most farm-raised deer are bottle fed, receive regular medical attention and are fed out of feeding troughs. Contrary to popular belief, deer do not rub their antlers on trees just to remove the velvet. Antler growth is regulated by hormones, which are controlled by photoperiod (day length). I'm told however that once released, some stockers wise up quickly and become wary (provided there is ample space and habitat to become wary in). With the boost in testosterone, deer antlers can grow up to two inches per week, and in some cases, bull moose can put on a pound of bone per day during the peak of their growth cycle. That buck is so dead. Antlers are grown by male members of the deer family with the exception of the caribou or the reindeer. Secondly, most bucks are still stressed from the long winter so their overall body is in recovery mode. Deer shed their antlers anywhere between January and April, sometimes earlier or later depending on the age of the deer, the physical condition it is in, and where it lives. You know, the kind of bucks dreams are made of. The also might appear to have rougher hair coats and more of a copper hue to their coat. Males typically begin growing a new set of antlers in late spring. ~ Deer Antlers are attached to the deer's skull at a point called the pedical. Considering all this, no calculations are necessary if it’s me drawing a bead on a 5½-year-old buck. I click the e-mails open, cringe and delete. Maybe it's medication and living in a rarefied environment? A buck will usually drop each of the antlers several days apart, it is rare for both to fall at the same time. It will stop once they realize the buck they just shot wasn't a diamond at all, but a genuine certified "cubic zirconium" as Texas veterinarian Bill Eikenhorst refers to them. But that's nothing compared to an elk. By their first autumn, buck fawns often sport hair-covered bumps or … I mean, are you crazy? Simply put, bucks live harder lives than does. A true antlered doe is a deer with female sex organs that grows antlers. An extreme example from Dave Hewitt’s study: This buck grossed 210 inches when first captured at 5½ (far left). Perhaps your reaction to this scenario is: “What, are you crazy? Is it really a coin flip? The breeders are all about big antlers and the money associated with them. I'm no genetics expert, but breeding brothers to half sisters and mothers to sons and then back again can't be healthy. Throughout his career as an editor, he has written and published numerous articles on deer management and hunting. We know from a lot of data that the average buck reaches 99% of his lifetime antler size potential at 5½. There’s some good science on that question. The quarter to half an inch per day by smaller species is still remarkable. Female caribou also grow antlers, though not as large as those grown by males. I’d never pass up a shot at a mature buck just for a few more inches of antler. Comment below and scroll through the gallery to see more of these freak deer. They are typically unbranched and permanently established on the animal’s head. “There were 47 mature bucks that gained zero to 5 inches from one year to the next, and there were 37 bucks that lost zero to 5 inches,” Dave wrote. Then I get mad. ~ Antlers begin growing in March or April and reach maturity usually in August. That buck is so dead. But males’ impressive headgear is … Deer farming permits are issued by virtually every state. The following photos illustrate antler growth for 1 buck from 26 March 1999 through 15 September 1999. Antlers are pieces of bone that grow out of the pedicles of a deer. It can take as much as two to three times the nutrients to grow the rack than it does the skeletal system. My guess is that it will cease only when the demand for obscene-antlered bucks fades away. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. They aren't bred for the ability to avoid hunters, live through a hard winter or to produce tastier venison. I've studied more than a few field champion pedigrees in my day and I've never seen "line" breeding like I see in the antler growing business. Henry Chidgey of Texas, now retired, is the founder of, a lab that ages deer by analyzing cementum annuli rings found in incisor teeth. If I were to break a bone, I would need a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks to heal a small piece of an already existing bone. Pennsylvania and Texas alone list more than 1,000 farms. But the older the buck, the greater chance the inches will be subtracted. Male, or bull, moose grow their antlers each year through the spring and summer.