Monday, January 11, 2016

Abnormal Antlers

 Injured leg leading to spike antler -Todd Reabe in
Antler size and abnormalities are a big topic among deer hunters, generally the bigger the better.  This is mainly a result of the effects of testosterone, not on deer antlers but on some male hunters' brains.  More on testosterone effects on deer later.

I have heard hunters talk of trying to harvest deer with abnormal antlers to "improve the genetics" of the herd.  This is usually applied to bucks with deformed or stunted antlers on one side.  An example of such a buck was sent to me by Dave Shanholzer in the article Leg Injuries can Effect Antler Growth.  As strange as it sounds, it is true.  It even has its own acronym, SOOS, (spike on one side.)

A recent study reported in QDMA.Com confirmed that injuries to a buck's leg is one cause of stunting of the antler on the opposite side of the head.  Why and how this occurs isn't known.  Gabe Karnes, studying this phenomenon for his PhD reports that "It is well documented that antler deformities due to skeletal injuries progressively disappear with each subsequent antler growth cycle, meaning you can expect most SOOS yearling bucks to develop normal antlers in another year or two."

In other cases it is due to damage to the "antlerogenic periosteum," the tissue on the skull that produces antlers.  Scar tissue due to injury, likely battle scars from males fighting over females (imagine that!) affects the blood vessels and the normal development of antlers.

22 point rack - KY3
The bottom line is that there is no reason to preferentially kill SOOS bucks to "improve the herd."   Besides, it may not even be a buck!  A recent story on KY3 showed a massive set of antlers on a 22 point buck, make that doe!  Curtis Russel of Billings had been hunting for it after seeing it on his game camera but wasn't prepared for a she.  According to Derek Farwell of MDC:
"Out of almost 250,000 deer harvested in the state each year about five are antlered does, but I have never seen one with that many points.  There's a couple different situations where this may occur; one, the doe may simply have a high level of male hormone such as testosterone.  The other situation is maybe a hermaphrodite where it has the reproductive organs of both the male and female deer."
Russel say that he watched it as it pushed a small buck around, thinking that was  more evidence it was a male.  I guess you could say it was "passing the buck."

1 comment:

  1. Now that was interesting although feel sorry for the injured deer and the suffering it has to live with.