Asymmetrical Antler Development: What Gives?

It’s a timeless question stemming from hunters’ ongoing fascination with whitetail racks. Why do some develop differently than others? Recently Florida Sportsman Member Batemaster posted this photo of a Hendry County buck for fellow Members to analyze. His concerned was related not only to ”trophy” qualities, but, as we later learn, an 8-point minimum harvest restriction on the lease. Answers from Forum Members, not surprisingly, differed widely. For the complete thread, click here.

A few sample responses, edited for brevity:

Hooksetter:
“Could be anything from old injury, to injury just before antler growth, or genetics. Next year he could be perfect or be the same and bigger. All deer don’t look like the Browning sticker. Kill the sum gum, throw his rack on a rafter, eat him and go kill another.”

Huntmstr:
“It might be a nutrient deficiency in the area. I had a lease one time with many bucks like that. We started supplementing their diet and the trait started to go away. We also killed as many 3-year-olds or older as we could with cow horn main beams and a brow tine. Pretty soon (3 years) we stopped seeing them.”

Shine:
“In my opinion, genetics is way over used to explain antler development. General shape and symmetry are often related to genetics. Size/Mass is related to age and associated increases in testosterone, and most importantly, nutrition–including vitamin and mineral in the diet. Antler development will always be a secondary factor to the deer’s body development. So, if sick, injured or in need of better nutrition, body development will sacrifice antler growth. Antler pedestals (base) include the cellular material that regenerates the antlers each year. Its known that damage here can affect antler development for the remaining life of the animal. Deer who have an extra “horn” growing out of the skull are most often those who have been injured and the cells from the pedestal were transferred into the cut – it can grow a horn outside the pedestal area.

“On a lease with feed, would add seed or rice brand to your feeding schedule – particularly in the spring and summer. Mineral block would not hurt either. Aboundance of corn alone in a deer diet is known to have a negative effect on deer nutrition.”

Chasinwhitetail:
“A lot of hunters are obsessed with perfect symmetry. IMHO I think a deer like this in a few years is going to have a lot of character. Where I hunt in North Florida, we have a lot of symmetrical deer, but we also have a gene line where the buck will have a huge, thick 4-point rack on one side and a huge dagger spike on the other side. That genetic line was there before I got there and will be there long after I’m gone. The antler restrictions at some places are silly, too. Some of the guys hit the nail on the head where a lot of young 8′s get shot where the old, mature 6′s and under continue to roam the property. Mature deer are just that, old seasoned mature deer and it doesn’t matter how many points they have.”