Antlers are a single structure composed of bone, cartilage, fibrous tissue, skin, nerves, and blood vessels. As with nearly all other members of their family, the Cervidae, male whitetails sport antlers that are grown anew each year. Why Do Deer Antlers Fall Off / Deer Antler Development Antlers are bone tissue structures that grow from two base points, called pedicles, on top of a deer’s head. Dominance status can also impact testosterone. According to acclaimed antler expert Dr. George Bubenik of the University of Guelph in Ontario, the testosterone levels causing antler casting appear to be very close to the levels responsible for velvet shedding. So, when testosterone levels decline, a special type of bone cell called an osteoclast removes the bone tissue by reabsorbing calcium between the antler and pedicle, and the antler falls off. Do whitetail deer antlers fall off every year? In situations where numerous bucks are involved or where bucks across several square miles cast their antlers early, nutritional stress, physical exhaustion from the rut, or a combination of the two are likely responsible. Nutrition is important, as bucks in good physical condition generally retain their antlers longer than those who are nutritionally stressed. Yes, in mule and Whitetail deer antler fall off every year. A deer rub describes the abrasions caused by a male deer rubbing his forehead and antlers against the base of a tree. Kip Adams of Knoxville, Pennsylvania, is a certified wildlife biologist and QDMA's Director of Conservation. Their levels are running high the antlers will stay on longer; once they lower to certain levels the antlers will fall off. Here's why: Here on the ground, male reindeer shed their antlers at the end of the mating season in early December, while females sport their thinner antlers throughout the winter. One last factor to consider with respect to antler casting is the influence of fighting. During fall and early winter after velvet is shed, male white-tailed deer will have hardened antlers. 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. Bucks skip many meals during the breeding season, and those that rut hard may be in poor post-rut condition. These annual occurrences are triggered by changes in the male’s body. These reports seem to be more common in some years, or more concentrated in specific regions, and sometimes hunting season is still open when these reports occur. Copyright 2021 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. That’s why you see the biggest antlers after a deer reaches 4 ½ to 5 ½ years of age. Unlike horns, antlers fall off and grow back larger each year. Horn is a bone core covered by keratin, similar to nail or hair. It is a little porous in the center and much denser around the periphery. In contrast, horns, found on pronghorns and bovids such as sheep, goat Noted author Charlie Alsheimer reported in 2009 that one of his captive bucks cast his antlers during the first week in March for seven of eight years while the buck was 3½ to 10½ years old. 4 Deer Antler Shed: Social Hierarchy. Dr. Bubenik explains that maintenance of the connection between the dead tissues of the antler and the living tissues of the pedicle is possible only during the period of high testosterone levels. White-tailed deer are widely distributed deer native to the Americas, from southern Canada to northern South America. Antler growth in temperate-zone whitetails commences with increasing day length in the spring and the corresponding rise in breeding hormones. Dr. Kip and his wife Amy have a daughter, Katie, and a son, Bo. Bucks in the Upper Midwest may begin dropping antlers in early December, while their Florida or Gulf Coast counterparts may retain them -- and remain in rut -- into mid-winter or later. Figure 7. Bucks with body injuries don’t immediately cast their antlers. Much has been written on this subject, and you can find detailed accounts of the complex interactions between the pineal and pituitary glands, testes, and the hormone cocktails involved in the process. The deer will grow them back the following season. This factor doesn’t relate to early antler casting, but it can explain late casting in some herds, especially those with highly skewed sex ratios during the rut, those with peak breeding seasons in late December and January, or those with high rates of sexual maturity in doe fawns. Dr. Bubenik said an unbred doe’s pheromones can keep bucks’ testosterone levels elevated. A male’s antlers can be up to 51 inches long, and a female’s antlers can reach 20 inches. He has a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State University and a master's in wildlife from the University of New Hampshire. So deer rub them in December or in April. Antlers don’t always shed at the same time; one-antlered bucks aren’t an uncommon sight in winter. The testosterone cycle is largely governed by photoperiod, so just as decreasing daylight and increasing testosterone causes antlers to mineralize and shed their velvet, increasing daylight and decreasing testosterone causes antlers to fall off. Diminishing daylight and falling hormones after the height of the breeding season begin the antler-weakening process. Every year starting in December, QDMA begins to receive sporadic reports of bucks dropping their antlers earlier than normal. Widespread early antler casting may signify a nutritionally stressed herd resulting from too many deer for what the habitat can support. The beautiful protrudes are the formations on the animal's forehead, a feature that has made the shed antlers an important part of the arts and crafts industry. Testosterone levels begin increasing in July, peak in late October to early November, drop through late December, and remain at reduced levels through the following July. When a deer is injured, the antlers fall off rather easily. Dr. Bubenik states that frequent fighting can prolong elevated testosterone levels and cause unusually deep mineralization of the antler pedicle. These reports seem to be more common in some years, or more concentrated in specific regions, and sometimes hunting season is still open when these reports occur. He’s written for a variety of outlets, including Earth Touch News, RootsRated, Backpacker, Terrain.org, and Atlas Obscura, and is presently working on a field guide. Ethan Shaw is an independent naturalist and freelance outdoors/nature writer based in Oregon. Most northern hunting seasons correspond closely to, or immediately follow the rut, and research in Pennsylvania suggests the majority of does are bred during their first estrous cycle, even in the absence of mature bucks. White-tailed deer may grow deformed antlers as a result of an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, they may cast them earlier than they normally would have. This obsession corresponds with the time of the year when deer shed their antlers. How Do Antlers Fall Off? Deer will shed antlers during the winter months, from as early as December to as late as March deer will shed antlers. It may also be related to younger bucks experiencing less dramatic decreases in testosterone levels. Every year starting in December, QDMA begins to receive sporadic reports of bucks dropping their antlers earlier than normal. You also receive four issues of our award-winning hunting magazine – Quality Whitetails! But, why do antlers grow and what are some of the factors behind their rapid growth? Just as rising testosterone levels triggered antler growth at the pedicle, a drop in testosterone levels will cause the pedicle to weaken and eventually, the antlers will fall off.. As the antler grows, a soft tissue, known as velvet, containing veins and arteries covers the antlers … There comes a time in the off-season when whitetail deer hunters all over the country become obsessed with collecting deer antlers. Weakened bucks may shed their antlers earlier than healthier ones. With blood vessels or pedicle, of the injury, they may cast them earlier than normal presence estrus., in mule and whitetail deer differ from those of mule deer, bones and cartilage Developmental. Deep mineralization can then delay antler casting of one or both antlers: what are antlers for... Good for a bloody pedicle that quickly heals over grow antlers, and a son,.. 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