In the fall, antlers are everywhere, native watercooler talk around the whitetail season to autumn decor. If you’ve discovered yourself surrounded through antler speak this fall and also need a few pointers, we at U.S. Fish and Wildlife business can help!

Finding melted antlers is one exciting component of hiking and also wildlife watching. Psychic it’s illegal to take organic items from numerous public lands. Rules and also regulations governing possession of animal parts vary between states and even various designations of commonwealth land. Legal burned collection may have set seasons and also may call for a permit. If burned antler collecting is allowed, girlfriend should always follow moral collecting methods - provide wildlife their space and protect sensitive behavior by remaining on roads and also paths. Friend can always share your experience by photographing her find and leave that in ar to stay a valuable component of the ecosystem.

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Point 1: Antlers are not horns

Girl ~ above the left holds a moose antler to her head, if girl top top the best holds hill goat horns to her head. Picture by

Animals in the deer family grow antlers. Antlers room branched bones the are melted every year. In midwestern states, whitetail deer, elk and also moose have actually antlers. Unsurprisingly, the largest antlers are discovered on the largest deer varieties - moose! various other North American animals with antlers incorporate mule-deer and caribou. Caribou, additionally known as reindeer, are the only species where both males and also females have actually antlers.

Animals in the bovine family grow horns. Horns are long-term bones extended with keratin, the same material as our fingernails. Bovine pets include wildlife choose bison, bighorn sheep, hill goats and also domestic pets like cattle, goats and sheep. Both males and also females have actually horns.

Point 2: Antlers are fast growing

Bull elk with quick antlers spanned in velvet. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/

Antler expansion is extremely fast. In fact, antlers room the more quickly bone growth in the world. Just a couple of weeks after ~ a whitetail deer or elk sheds its antlers, a new set starts to grow. Expansion is prompted by raising daylight and subsequent testosterone production. Adult whitetail deer antlers can thrive ¼ customs per day, whereas elk antlers grow about an customs per day. Moose regrow a couple of months after ~ shedding, making their growth rate even more impressive. A moose in his prime can grow as much as a lb of antler per day!

Genetics and also age beat a role, however the driving force behind large antler expansion is good nutrition. Having actually a healthy and also protein rich diet can lead come a stunning rack. Therefore, high high quality habitat is a must!

Point 3: Velvet can be itchy

Whitetail deer buck rubbing antlers top top a tree to remove velvet and also leave a scent mark (foreground right). 2nd buck walks through savanna (background left). Photograph by

Immature antlers are covered in skin through a short, dense fur dubbed velvet. Velvet enables oxygen rich blood come reach farming antlers, which start as cartilage and also are calcified right into bone. Abnormalities in antlers can be because of injuries come the velvet or genetics.

Growing antlers is costly. In poor habitat, a buck’s bone thickness will decrease together his body will take the calcium and put it toward hardening antlers. Bull moose will spend a quarter of the power from the 35 pounds the vegetation lock eat each day toward cultivation antlers. Cow moose usage these power to prepare because that winter. This may be why female moose live longer than males.

Once antlers with their last size, the velvet dries and also becomes itchy. You’ll watch deer, elk and also moose rubbing their newly formed antlers top top trees and also other vegetation to eliminate the velvet. As velvet is skin, rubbing it off can look an extremely gruesome. However it’s unlikely you’ll view this, as whitetail deer have the right to remove all your velvet in as little as 24 hours.

Point 4: Antlers are provided for saber rattling an ext than together a saber

Two elk sparring. Picture by Todd Frerichs/

Antlers are costly come grow, but necessary during the deer breeding season or rut. Together the rut starts, males proceed to obstacle their antlers top top vegetation to scent mark and begin sparring with each other to determine dominance. Leading males might offer one antler come young males for sparring. The sound the antlers rattling will draw other males come the area, together sparring is critical part of deer social behavior. As the season progresses, sparring ends and serious competition because that females begin. Posturing is generally enough, yet sometimes two equally matched males will certainly fight. Fighting consists of locking antlers and also pushing. When the loser backs down, the winner might swipe at the loser as he runs away.

Point 5: Winter is the best time to melted some pounds

One antlered bull elk in snow scratching at continuing to be antler. Photograph by Lori Iverson/

Once the fall rut is over, why carry around extra weight? Antlers have served their purpose and can it is in discarded. Antlers are heavy and can it is in cumbersome for males whose main interest is currently eating sufficient to make it through the winter. Lessened daylight triggers lower testosterone production which causes the connection in between the antler and also the skull to weaken.

Deer antlers have the right to vary in weight from 3 come 9 pounds. Healthy deer will have actually heavier antlers since the bone is thick from an excellent mineralization. A bull elk in his prime can have one antler spread out of 4 feet, with each antler weighing 20 pounds. Moose antlers spreading six feet weigh about 40 pounds each.

Point 6: One animal’s rubbish is an additional animal’s treasure.

Rodent chewed antler on woodland floor. Photograph by NPS.

Deer, elk and also moose may enjoy the increased mobility because that foraging after they burned antlers. Other animals are excited come find melted antlers throughout their foraging.

Many nutrients are required to do bone, such together calcium, phosphorus and protein. These nutrient are essential for all varieties of pet growth, not just big strong antlers. Rodents in specific love melted antlers - mice, squirrels, and porcupines will gnaw ~ above antlers for their nutrients and also to wear under their ever cultivation teeth. Even bears, foxes, opossums and also otters have been well-known to eat antlers. Since antler sheds are crucial for healthy habitat, antler shed hunting is illegal in countless places. If you buy antler assets make sure they space legally sourced.

Point 7: count candles, not points.

Bull moose. Photo by Tom Koerner/

If antlers are melted each year, deserve to they be used like tree rings to age an animal? No, commonly antlers are not a reliable method to identify an animal"s age. What antlers do suggest is the health and also fitness of an animal. The one situation where you have the right to be fairly certain that antlers room a great indication of period is because that yearling deer and also elk, which have actually spikes rather than branched antlers. Larger doesn’t always mean enlarge antlers. Deer, elk and moose past their prime will have actually smaller, less thick antlers. Whitetail deer will have actually the largest antlers in your prime years from 4 come 6, elk between ages 9 to 12, and moose from ages 5 to 10.

Point 8: how do you count points?

Smaller eight allude buck (right) and larger eight point buck (left) exemplify the size difference between bucks through the same number of points. Photo by Jessica Bolser/

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You’ll regularly hear whitetail bucks and also bull elk defined by their variety of points. Points are tines branching turn off the key beam of the antler that measure at least 1 inch. Extr attributes room measured by hunters to score an pet such because of this as spread, main beam length, and length of points. In whitetail deer, eight point out is the most usual antler type. Eight suggest deer room usually 3 or 4 year-old bucks but also ageing bucks and bucks life in bad habitats. Whitetail deer are described by the total variety of points but elk room counted by each side. Because that example, the most usual mature elk antlers with six points top top both the left and right antlers are referred to as 6x6. Because that moose, the most typical measure of dimension is spread - i beg your pardon is the full width the the antlers. Scoring moose measures also include points, width of palm, size of palm, and circumference that beam at the smallest place. The palm is the main part the the antler, i beg your pardon looks choose the shape of one outstretched hand.