Mike: Why do some bucks have chocolate antlers and others white racks? Seems like dark antlers are slightly more common on bigger bucks, am I right?—Tim from MN

Whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson told me in an email one time:

Antler coloration is determined by several things, including: (1) buck age (older, more dominant bucks make many more rubs on trees than younger bucks, therefore their antlers tend to be darker; (2) bark coloration of the predominant rubbing trees in a region; (3) genetics (some strains of bucks have light racks in their DNA while other have dark); (4) time of year (early in the fall “new” antlers are darker; later in the season antlers that have been exposed to sun and light longer and are more bleached out, especially in open habitats.

From my experience, habitat has a lot to do with it. The buck on left in the picture lived 5 years in the thick, dark timber of Saskatchewan, where most all the older bucks have dark to black racks. The right buck was also 5 when I shot him out in western Iowa, where the habitat is much more open with ample sunlight.

BUT, that light rack on that mature buck is sort of an anomaly. I’d say that 90% of the 4- to 7-year-old bucks I’ve shot over the years have dark racks.

Do the bucks have a predominant antler color where you hunt?