What Makes Deer Antlers Grow Larger?

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Three factors affect the size of antlers. The type and amount of nutrition available and the age and genetics of the deer all play a role.

Misconceptions

  • The potential to grow a large rack of antlers lies in almost any deer, but lack of adequate winter feed compromises growth potential, as new antlers begin to form in winter. The number of points the antlers form depends on available nutrition.

Function

  • Deer “need about 17 percent crude protein year-round in their diet in order to fully express their genetic potential for body or antler growth,” according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The extension further recommends supplemental feeding of deer using high protein feed such as soybeans for better production.

Considerations

  • Older deer feature heavier and better developed antlers compared to younger deer, provided comparable nutrition. Deer 6 years and older begin to develop the largest antler sizes; however, the average age of bucks is 2 years.

Warning

  • Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences reminds that a buck’s first set of antlers is not a predictor of the size his later sets of antlers will attain.

Fun Fact

  • Does can and do produce antlers. The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences says the effect is probably due to abnormally high testosterone levels in certain female deer.

References

  • Photo Credit Paul E Tessier/Photodisc/Getty Images
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