Deer antlers are the most identifiable feature of the deer family. This includes the mule, moose, elk, and caribou deer.
Antlers fall off yearly, but the horns stay attached as they keep growing. Other horned animals like wild sheep don’t shed it, with one exception which is a Pronghorn.
They shed their horns once a year. Other than that only male deer like white and black-tailed, mule, moose, caribou, and elk deer shed and grow antlers.
Every year during late winter or early spring, most species of deer will shed their antler velvet. A ridge forms at the base of the antler where new antler growth will develop.
Female caribou grow antlers, but not as large as the males. All deer species shed antlers in the wintertime. This happens when there’s a drop in testosterone. After some months the deer species has the growth of antlers from the early spring to late summer.
Can you eat deer antlers?
You must have heard that horns are not edible, but that is not in the case of deer antlers, as you can eat them. Deer antlers are used to make health supplements and medicines. It is also used to make gelatin by boiling the bones and straining the remains. This ingredient is used in homemade jellies and fruit gelatin.
Deer antlers are actually made up of pure bone, so they are safe to eat. People have eaten them for centuries as a nutritional supplement.
However, it’s important to note that most people don’t consume deer antlers whole due to their size and weight. Instead, ground or chopped deer antler is typically sold in pill form as a source of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and other nutrients.
Processed antlers are used in baking recipes, although that’s rare some old food processes still use the same. You will not be able to boil the antlers and serve them on the plat, but they are popular as dog chews. If you are not willing to eat antlers, then your dog will have fun with them. Although you should not give your dog any deer antlers because many dogs have died after ingesting them because they can splinter into pieces while being chewed on.
Facts of Deer Antlers
Deer antlers are pursued and prized among hunters for several centuries. Their rapid growth and regeneration is a fascinating thing for wildlife enthusiasts.
Antlers are formations of bone that develop from the frontal part of the skull of a male deer. The formation and the size of this bone vary in deer.
The growth of their antlers depends on the nutrition they are getting, genetics, and age. The condition of the mother deer also affects the development of deer antlers.
Fact 1: Deer antlers are the fastest growing structures in nature. It can develop an inch a day, and this is the fastest growing tissue on earth. Antlers start growing in the springtime and harden in the fall. Antlers are capable of reaching full size within 4 to 6 months. The shedding process generally takes about three weeks and can take up to several hours for each antler.
Fact 2: antlers are bone. This is a keratin material similar to horns, but in the case of deer, their antlers grow in a honeycomb style. Antlers start as a soft material, they have a velvety texture, after that it hardens. After the mating season deer shed the velvety texture.
Fact 3: Deer antlers are not just for their protection but it is to compete with other males during the mating season. It also shows the dominance in the food area. Deer scrape their antlers on tree barks shows their dominance. They also dig their antlers in the mud or dirt to repel insects and cool down.
During the mating season, bucks use their antlers to fight for access to receptive females; in some deer species, such as mule deer and reindeer (caribou), males also use their antlers to clear out spaces where they can hold a female during mating. The dominant male of a particular area usually claims his territory by marking it with urine and glandular secretions from his forehead.
Purpose of Deer Antlers
There are different theories on the purpose of deer antlers. Only male members of the family can have these but in caribou, females have antlers, though it’s not big as the males. The main purpose of a deer’s antlers is to mark territory, impress females, intimidate other males, and fight for mating rights.
- Sign of male quality: Deer antlers are only the parts of males; it shows the potentiality of male deer to a female. They show off their huge antlers just to attract a female during the mating season.
- Weapon to fight with others: Deer species often engage in fights. They usually fight with other males to gain dominance over a food area or a female. They lock their antlers and start pushing to prove their strength to each other.
- To protect themselves: Wildlife researchers have also suggested that the purpose of antlers is to protect themselves from predators. This theory may be true, but if you think of the females they have no such features for protection. Also, when the antlers are still developing the males are defenseless.
Uses of Deer Antlers
There are different uses of deer antlers. You can eat them, collect them or make crafts it will depend on your choice.
Collecting: If you have found shed antlers, you can simply collect them. Collecting the same is a record among hunters. Although, hunting deer is not something you should do, and the same is banned in so many places. So, you just have to find the discarded antlers and collect them. Protect the antlers from insects and dust, that way they will stay as you have found it.
Crafting deer antlers: Crafts with deer antlers is an art form, and it has been going on for thousands of years. In the older days, these were used to make weapons and tools. These days they are made into weapons but for decorating the house. You can make knife handles, buttons, or other things from deer antlers.
Home decor: Lamps and chandelier structures are often made with antlers. These bones can be used as jewelry holders, bookends, or table structures as well. You can check social media tutorials about how to decorate your home with antlers, you will get several options.
How to find deer antlers?
There are different ways to find deer antlers without killing those animals. Let’s find out some useful methods.
When searching for these incredible structures, it’s best to look in heavily wooded areas with rich soil composition so the bone material doesn’t erode away before they can be found.
Scout your way: Scouting is important when you are looking for shed antlers. Deer often shift their places in search of food, water and to protect themselves from winter. You have to look for tracks on the snow and you might find antlers in the right place. Just be aware of the dangers that come with searching for antlers in these areas; ticks, coyotes, bobcats and even larger predators like bears are all common sights during this time.
Look for buck areas: in case of mature bucks other than fawns and does, they grow into a bachelor group from the last summer. When you manage to find one shed, then you will get other sheds in the same place.
Find the Food: In the winter season, food and water become a problem for deer species. So there will be fewer areas where they gather for food. Find those places and keep watch if they gather in those places or not. Also, you might find antlers in wooded areas.
Look for places with low hunting pressure: Hunting is not ethical nor it’s good for nature, but still, people do it. However, if you are not willing to harm any animals then you can find deer antlers in low hunting areas. In these places, the animals feel safe and they might venture there for food and water. You can also look for antlers in places where hunting isn’t allowed.
Deer antlers are pretty-looking things, and the animals shed them annually. You can find shed antlers in wooden areas, and the low hunting places.