Are you interested in learning more about deer antler shedding? Curious why and how deer shed their antlers? What about when it happens, and how often the shedding occurs?

This blog is going to summarize all you need to know about deer antler shedding. Take a look at the main topics below and comment with any questions or thoughts.

Fun Fact: Antlers are one of the fast growing tissues in the animal kingdom.

Deer Antlers Overview

Deer antlers are made up of more things than you think. According to the National Library of Medicine, their antlers are made up of skin, nerves, blood vessels, fibrous tissue, cartilage and bone (thus calcium) and are natural extensions of the skull.

And don't get this confused with horns! But we'll get that later on in the article. 

Antlers are one of the most popular characteristics of the cervidae species, found on white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Furthermore, antlers are a natural indicator of a male deer, otherwise known as a buck (for whitetail or mule deer) or bull (for moose or caribou). 

While antlers have been found on female deer, it is very uncommon. Interestingly enough, both caribou males and females grow antlers - the only subgroup within the cervidae family to do so. 

Why And How Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Deer have antlers have several reasons, but their main functions including the following:

1. Attract females during breeding season.

2. Establish dominance against other males during breeding season.

3. Protection from other animals. 

4. Regulate body temperatures.

As far as how deer shed their antlers, it's important to note that the antler shedding process includes three complete stages. The first stage is growth, then velvet shedding (mineralization), and finally casting. Antler growth begins from the deer's pedicles and are quickly covered by velvet. The velvet helps to move blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the area - which provides fast growth. This process requires a lot of energy and nutrients for the deer, which is why premium nutrition results in larger antler growth.

Antler Growth Size by Deer Age

When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

While it's somewhat uncommon, deer have been known to shed their antlers as early as late December. However, most deer antlers begin falling off around early March. Of course, changes in temperatures, breeding season, social status, diet, and environment may affect this timing. 

Antler Growth Cycle


How Often Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Deer shed their antlers once per year - a timeline common amongst all deer species. 

What Is Antler Casting?

Antler casting is the stage where deer begin dropping their antlers, which occurs from late December to early March. 

The process usually starts post-rut when male testosterone begins to drop and their nutritional state starts to reach bottom levels. Furthermore, by this time, antlers have ultimately served their purpose for the breeding season.

Deer Antlers vs. Horns?

Horns are made of keratin, unlike bone which largely comprises antlers. Furthermore, horns do not shed as they are permanently attached to the skull. Lastly, horns are a staple for both males and females in the bovine family.

Common big game animals that have horns include pronghorns, big game sheep, mountain goats, and bison.

Pictures Of Deer Shedding Antlers

Take a look at these interesting pictures of deer shedding their antlers, and the process. 

Deer Shedding Process


Deer Antler Shedding


For a blog about What Deer Sounds Mean we have that too!