Antlers are an amazing thing. This critter headgear has many uses for the critter and for others. Antlers grow from a ‘pedicle’ on the top of a deer’s skull. Only bucks and bulls grow antlers. Other deer relatives, like reindeer and caribou, do have antlers on both males and females. Usually the female racks are smaller.
Antlers are real bone that can grow up to 1 ½ inches a day in prime season. Antlers are shed each year and begin to regrow within a week or so after being lost. Since you don’t have to kill a deer or elk to get a pair of antlers, many non-hunters will decorate their homes with them. Hunters do the same but harvested the critter to get them.
Every antler tells a story. If a deer was injured on one side of their body, that antler side will be smaller or mis-shaped. Holes in the antlers are caused by wasps laying eggs in the soft new velvet antlers. When the egg hatches, it burrows out leaving a hole. Broken tines reflect a battle with another buck or bull.
White antler is dead. When antler is living, it is covered with a network of blood vessels called Velvet. These scab-like coverings are rubbed off prior to Rut, when bucks compete for breeding does. There are no nerves in bone or antler.
Antlers grow larger with age. A wild buck can live up to 7-8 years old. The last few years will display a more stunted rack. Bull Elk can live 14-16 years old. Their biggest racks are during their mature mid-life stages. Genetics, nutrition, health, and age are required ingredients for big racks.
Antlers are measured by girth, length, number of tines, and character. Total measured inches are scored and recorded. Monster Bull Elk have racks that score around 400 inches. Deer are trophies when around 200 inches.
Horns are not antlers but are a sheath of hair cells that generally are not shed. The horn is made of modified and layered hair cells. Antelope will shed their horn sheath, but they are a unique critter. Neither deer, antelope, nor goat. Natures diversity is filled with exceptions to the rule.
The first thing a hunter touches when they approach their deer kill is the antler. Native Americans celebrated antlers through dance, displays, and uses for tools and weapons. Antler mounts are not just about bragging rights. For most hunters they are a memorial to a great hunt and a wonderful critter.
Most hunters can remember every detail of a harvested antler. Even shed hunters can recall details of where they found an antler. Found antlers can be used for crafting, decorating, manufacturing vintage tools, or yard art. Many shed antlers are sent overseas to Asian countries where the antlers are crushed and consumed. They believe that antler powder is an aphrodisiac and enhances sexual powers.
Looking at and grabbing a huge rack makes most hunters aroused. Maybe there is something to this.
Antler racks I mean!
For more Montana Grant, touch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.