Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Antlers Are Shed-Part 2

In the previous post I described how the young whitetail buck lost an antler while I was present on Saturday morning. This was a golden opportunity to find the shed antler, but it was a very small antler and I am not the best at locating such objects. Fortunately it was an easy task. See if you can pick the antler out in the photograph below.

If you can't find it--look to the left of second bale, on the ground ever so slightly toward where the photograph is taken from.

In some cases animals shed the antlers simultaneously, but in most cases they do not. Years ago, I found a pair of antlers when we were planting clover seed in a Game Commission food plot in late winter or early spring, but in most cases I have found solitary antlers. The interval between loss of one antler and the other may be a matter of minutes, days, or weeks, but in my experience it is usually within a day or two of the loss of the first antler.

According to Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Note-28 by Chuck Fergus, "The antler cycle is influenced by secretions from the pituitary gland. Changes in length of daylight periods
and, to a lesser degree, temperature influence the hormone secretions from this gland".

While the rut is mostly over by early to mid-December, a modest of amount of activity does occur until well into the new year. Fergus reports that testosterone levels peak during the rut and slowly decline thereafter. The bottom line is that many bucks, which are usually the larger ones retain their antlers until all prospects of further breeding activity are over.

After doing quite a bit of reading on this subject, I have found conflicting information, some of which agrees with my personal observations and some, which does not. I can only conclude that location and other factors may play a large part in these discrepancies. Fergus sums it up well when he states, "The roles of age and nutrition in the length of antler retention are not fully understood at present".

Soon after the antler is shed, a scab forms over the pedicel. Eventually a layer of tissue forms over the pedicel, leaving a slightly raised bump. This will remain that way until the new antlers begin growing in March and April.


Sara G said...

Nature is just amazing!! Thanks for sharing your shed hunt with us. Glad you were able to find it!
Take care

Leedra said...

Like a needle in a hay stack, and it blends so well. Not sure how you ever found it. Is it legal for you to keep it, or did you have to leave it where it was? I know in the National Parks it is illegal to keep. I don't know about public land.

This is such good information, I really do appreciate it.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun
Photography By Leedra

Evita said...

Wow thanks for the neat info about the shedding of the antlers. It is really amazing indeed how nature works.

Willard said...

Shed antlers may be kept in Pennsylvania, but they may not be sold. The law varies from state to state and of course Leedra is correct that it is illegal to remove them from National Park land.

The Birdlady said...

Thanks for the photos, and the antler lesson!

Bradley Myers said...

Thanks for the follow up and lesson Willard. I did not know you could keep antlers found in Pa., I was always told that the ones I have from when I hunted could not be sold and that they were still tech. property of the state, is that true?

What about found Elk antlers in Pa.?

Willard said...


It is my understanding that they may not be sold, but you may be in possession of them.

Hunting for shed elk antlers is a very popular and competitive activity in Pennsylvania. It is also legal to possess them, but again they may not be sold.

Stacey Huston said...

Great find Willard.. would make a great knife handle. I am amazed that it is such a big deal there to collect shed antlers.. It is one of our favorite late winter early spring pass times here. We get to take the boys out, hike in the mountains and it is kind of like a treasure hunt.. They LOVE it as do Mike and I.. It is legal to sell them here,*(It never even occured to me that it would be illegal any place other than the national parks) But we don't sell them, we either keep them, make things out of or give them away.. Right now We have about 35 elk antlers from last year on the front deck, Put on alot of miles hiking in the mountain to find them, and can't wait to get out there again this year..walk off some of those winter great post.. thanks for sharing

Tommy said...

I love the pictures of the deer and the 1 antler

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Nature has them go through this process every year? Is it because they lose them or parts of them when the rut is on or is it for some other reason? I never knew why.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Hi Willard.. another great set of posts from you... my interest was caught and I had to read on....

Excellent post and blog...

Your friend

Carletta said...

Hi Willard,
I saw two bucks in my backyard yesterday. One only had one antler and I could tell the other one had fallen very recently. Something scared them before I could get my camera.
A big buck appeared this morning with both still attached.
Since your post below this one I have been trying to watch and see if I can 'capture' a few shots.
When this Arctic air is over I'll walk the woods a little and look for 'treasure.'

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This is an extremely interesting post Willard. I love learning new things.