White-tailed Deer - Antler Development

Whitetail bucks shed and re-grow their set of antlers each and every year.  Every winter a buck sheds, or casts, their antlers.  As soon as their antlers are shed they start growing them again.  The antler is the fastest organ regeneration in the animal family and can grow several centimeters per day.  The network of antler consists of veins, vessels, arteries, and cartilaginous tissue. A thick tissue called velvet encases the antler during the growth period.  As the growing period goes on, which lasts throughout the summer months, the antler begins to calcify and harden. Once hard the velvet dries and is rubbed off by the buck.  The antler cycle of a buck directly corresponds with their hormone level.  When antlers are shed the buck’s hormone levels are at an extreme low. As the growing period goes on the bucks hormone levels gradually increase.  The period that directly follows the shedding of the velvet is when the buck has his highest hormone levels.  From this point on the bucks hormone levels drop.  When levels get extremely low it causes the antlers to be shed.  The cycle repeats itself. There are three main components that determine the size of the buck’s antlers.  These are age, genetics, and nutrition.  Nutrition and genetics all depends on where the buck is found.  An average buck will usually maximize his antler size between five and seven years of age.  After this age the buck will usually decline slightly in size.