Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the summer days.
According to Missouri scientist Dr. Grant Woods, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most beam length will grow by late June.
Those are general rules, but Grant points out that the growth of individual racks varies. “Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack during July,” he says.
More interesting facts about summer antlers:
–Antlers are made of bone, consisting mostly of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals. Although some of the minerals needed for antler growth are taken from food, a lot of them are sucked from the buck’s skeleton, which may cause him to develop osteoporosis during the summer. Setting mineral licks for the deer can help.
–Throughout June and July, velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels that causes them to be hot to the touch. Dr. Woods notes, “There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers that even small antlers are easily detected by thermal imaging devices. Tines show up like neon signs when flying over with thermal cameras in summer.”
–Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make the antlers look bigger than they are. The hairs act as a radar system so the buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.
–Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on the hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also acts as an insect repellent to keep biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.
Now is the time to set out trail cameras and monitor the racks as they grow now through mid-August.
Photo above: This image of an Illinois buck is from July 4 last year, impressive antler growth!