Growth of antlers in white-tailed deer, along with elk and moose, is one of the most remarkable things in nature.
Consider that from the time a deer’s antlers are shed in late winter, within just a couple of months they’re growing again. Hormonal changes spur the entire process, peaking in late summer when the blood-rich velvet coating is spurring the remarkable antler growth. After shedding the velvet, bucks sport the headgear they’ll have through the rutting period into spring when the process starts again.
Bony antlers grow from the pedicle, the bloody spot on a buck’s head we see after they shed in late winter. That will scab over and heal, unless they get injured during that brief period, and then when the antlers start growing again they’ll erupt from the pedicle. Sometimes when an injury occurs to the pedicle it results in non-typical antlers. Other times, freakish antlers may be the cause of a brain abscess.
Chuck Keefer is the former owner of Valhalla Ranch near Grayling, Mich. He had more than 600 acres under high fence and raised monstrous deer. Keefer also is the founder of Rack One supplements, which he developed and tweaked for maximum year-round benefit. He studied the deer religiously for years, from birth to death, and had everything from jaw-dropping typicals to unbelievable non-typicals.
One thing Keefer always was amazed about was the pedicle, which he compares “to a very unique fingerprint, just like ours.”
“That ‘fingerprint’ stays the same from the time they’re a year old to the time they hit the dirt,” Keefer said. “You look at them and think they’re close to being the same, but the left side (pedicle print) will be the left side forever. Same for the right side. You get a deer that blows up from 130 inches to 190 and has a lot more mass, but you can compare the pedicles and they’re the same.”
Part of Keefer’s management plan was to keep up with bucks as best he could when he owned Valhalla. That was partly for business and partly for his passion for raising deer, maximizing growth and simply the enjoyment aspect. He hunts regularly in the Midwest and still pursues big deer with a deep passion.
Matching a shed always was a treat. If you have some sheds, take a look at the rough spot on the bottom where it was attached. That rough spot is the buck’s fingerprint.
“If I found something, I could go to the shed barn and find the match,” Keefer said. “The pedicle is an amazing thing to start with and its fingerprint is a pretty unique feature. Most people don’t have enough sheds to match them, but that’s the way to do it. You can track deer from the first year they have antlers to when they’re dead.”
— Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
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