The yearly growth of antlers on White-tailed Deer bucks is noticeable in early summer, even on younger bucks. Triggered by day length and its influence on growth hormones in the pituitary gland, antler development begins in spring and continues through the summer. In this stage, antlers are a mix of cartilage, blood vessels and nerve tissue covered in a hairy skin or velvet, growing at an astonishing rate that may be unequaled in the animal world. Incredibly, these complex structures are transformed into hardened, polished, bone by early fall.
Antler development and size are a function of age, nutrition and genetics. The deer in these photos are probably immature yearlings sporting their first set of antlers, so antler mass will be trumped by the physiological demands of body growth.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.