What Causes Non Typical Antlers?

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When you think about it, antlers are pretty damn interesting. They’re the fastest growing issue in any mammal, they’re the only appendage of any mammal that replaces itself annually, no two antlers are ever the same, and they’re what dreams are made of for many hunters. But what causes some antlers to be “typical” while others are “non typical?”

Given all the uniqueness surrounding antlers, we decided to dive in a little bit deeper to learn about why some deer end up having wild non typical antlers, plamations, and other deformities. Here’s what we found:

Genetics

Probably the most obvious thought surrounding non-typical antlers is genetics. If the father had a massive non typical antlers then the sons are likely to as well, right? Well, not quite.

Sure, there is some genetic influence involved, but in more obvious ways. Missing brow tine, crab claw feature towards the end of the main bean? How about palmated antlers? Those are likely to be genetically influenced.

Ironically, most non typical antlers are not genetic at all. Most non typical antlers are caused by nutrition, parasites, ore diseases.

Pedicle Damage

Have you ever seen a deer with three main beams total, or two on one side? Most bean irregularities are caused by an anomaly in the deers pedicles. The pedicle is where the antler actually connects to the deer’s skull, and where it actually grows from, so it goes without saying that the size and shape of the pedicle have a direct influence on the side of the antler. That means that if the pedicle experiences any kind of damage it can sometimes transfer through to the antler.

Ever heard of “shed traps?” Typically they’re some type of chicken wire spread out around a food source with the intent of tangling an antler that’s about to shed so that it falls off. The only problem with that is that they’re also famous for causing pedicle damage because they can tear antlers off of the pedicle before they’re ready to shed.

Testicle Injuries

We’ve all seen pictures and heard stories of bucks being shot mid season in full velvet. This is primarily caused by issues with the bucks testicles. Antler development is very closely related to levels of testosterone, so any out of normal testosterone levels, due to injuries to the bucks testicles for example, could create a scenario where the buck doesn’t ever get the hormonal response to shed its velvet.

Velvet Injuries

When a buck is still in velvet is has blood being supplied to the antlers, so if the antler becomes damaged while in velvet but the blood flow is not lost it can cause anomalies, bulges, or other non typical antler profiles. Another interesting fact when antlers are in velvet is that they’re still relatively soft, because they have a very high water and blood content, making them susceptible to injury. It’s not until testosterone levels change at the end of summer that the antlers lose their velvet and become bone hard.

Photo: Luke Brewster with his World Record Non Typical Archery Whitetail (Photo: North American Whitetail)

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