The antlers of the deer family are one of nature’s incredible wonders. A mature elk, for example, can grow the equivalent of a human skeletal system in a single year. The pedicle is an equally interesting aspect of the antler growth process; there have been studies where the pedicles from a whitetail deer were transplanted to the middle of its back and the buck grew a set of antlers there. Just amazing! Bernie Barringer is equally excited about this topic, as his enthusiasm surfaces in this OutdoorHub post.
Nonhunters often have a difficult time understanding a hunter’s fascination with antlers. What it is about a piece of bone that creates such a passion in outdoorsmen and women? I believe that the fascinating phenomenon that causes antlers to grow, drop, and regrow each year is a process that draws us in because it is unique and amazing. Antler growth is the fastest form of mammal tissue growth known to man; antlers can grow up to an inch a day. No other animal outside the members of the deer family can boast of this remarkable annual event.
Antlers are not horns. Horns are not shed and regrown each year — they have a core of living tissue and grow from the inside out. Horns are composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up hair and fingernails. Antlers are made of solid bone, consisting mostly of calcium and phosphorous. Let’s take a look at the annual cycle of antlers.
The annual cycle is entirely controlled by photoperiodism, which means that it is a physiological process governed by the length of daylight.