Elk Hunting – All About Elk Antlers

Elk Antlers
All You Want To Know About Bull Elk Antlers

Bull Elk Antlers

Antlers are the headgear male elk and other members of the deer family grow and shed annually.  Peak antler growth usually occurs between the ages of 7-12.  Summer nutrition is the major factor determining antler size, but mineral availability and genetics also play a role.

Growing antlers have a rich blood supply and network of nerves.  Antlers grow by depositing cartilage tissue that mineralizes into hard dead bone once the blood supply pinches off. Then rich velvet blood supply dries and is shed.  Larger bulls grow their antlers for about 140 days, while spikes are complete in 90 days. Antler growthis generally complete by mid-August.

The color of bare antlers comes from the reaction between oxygen in the air and the plant material the The Rut Age Antlers Description 1.5 First set Spike bulls, may be forked with 2-4 points 2.5 Second set “Raghorn” Bulls, smaller slender 3-5 3.5 Third set Smaller with mature appearance, 5-6 points animal rubs on. Different plants result in various antler color. Pines generally create a darker color compared to aspen or willows. Dried blood may appear on the antler as well.

Larger bulls shed their antlers first, generally in early March. Spikes lose theirs as late as May or June.  Declining concentrations of testosterone, seasonal light duration, and an animal’s metabolism cause the erosion of the bone and the bond between the antler and the pedicle.

Once the antler drops, a wound will bleed but will become a new antler bud. New antler growth starts almost immediately, and velvet nubs can be seen within a few weeks.  Antlers can grow up to an inch and a half per day.

Abnormalities are generally caused by genetics or injuries. Occasionally in the winter, elk are seen with velvet antlers. These may be females with severe hormone imbalances, causing sterility and growth of eo-antlers.  These animals may also be a stag or castrated male. These animals either were born without testicles, or sustained an injury to their genitalia.

Stags will sometimes have the coloration of a cow, and will be heavier than other bulls. Stags can also have eo-antlers that may be stunted or deformed. Generally, stags will keep their velvet antlers and not shed them.


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