Deer Antlers…a few facts
This season has brought tribal fashion into the forefront with a heavy push by many of the major labels. With this increase in popularity, we are often asked about the animal related products we have for sale on our website. The following information should help with questions you or your clients may have.
In our picture to the left, we have what looks to be an 8 Point (number of tips) Buck in his prime. When mating is complete, he will shed his full rack in the spring from what are called pedicles. This happens every year and the timing will depend on where he is located in America and the age of the buck. This procedure takes about 2-3 weeks to complete and after a short rest, they start to grow again on an endless cycle.
The pedicles we spoke of, appear on the forehead of young deer during their first year. The following year, they will develop small shafts with branching taking place the third year and beyond. The older the deer, the larger the rack. During the antler growth phase, the antlers are covered in a soft membrane referred to as “velvet”. This velvet contains supplies the antlers with many substances such as amino acids, minerals, proteins and Growth Factor-1 (a protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin).
After a 3-4 month growth period during the summer, the male deer produces higher levels of testosterone which slows antler growth by restricting blood and nutrients. The “velvet” covering then begins to wither away and this is removed by the buck by rubbing on trees and in brush.
The buck will now sport this beautiful rack of antlers through the winter and will have them honed and ready when the breeding season (rut) starts in the spring. Once the rut is over, the buck’s testosterone levels begin to drop and the antlers begin to weaken at the pedicle and then eventually fall off. This happen quickly with the complete shed happening within a 24-48 hour window.
The shedding of antlers is a completely natural process and causes no pain or discomfort to the deer.
Design Ideas with Antlers
The use of bone, antler and other natural products for jewelry and body adornments, date back to the earliest of time. We have compiled a few ideas here that may help you with your creative flow.
Something as simple as a piece of sueded or leather wrapped around an antler tip can make an interesting and earthy pendant. You can add a metal cap or just wrap it up.
Scrimshaw and Carving
There are great articles online that can teach you quick and simple techniques for adding “tattoo like” designs to your bone and antler pieces. Carving is also something that you can easily do if you read a few tutorials and purchase a few inexpensive tools.
Scrimshaw can be easily done by following these easy steps.
- Take some bone, antler, tagua or other workable material and draw your design in pencil on the surface.
- Use an exacto blade, Dremel or dental tools to scratch the design.
- Color by rubbing india ink on the surface of your work area and then rubbing off. The scratched area will take the dye more intensely leaving a nice antique look. If your work piece is not polished and very porous, you may end up with too much ink on the surface which takes a way from the contrast of the design. To help eliminate this, before you scratch your design, rub some bees wax on the surface which will help repel the ink where it is not wanted. Ultra fine sharpie markers also work great and come in a wide array of colors. Once complete. you can use alcohol to lighten up over inked areas and then be sure to seal the entire piece with a jewelers wax. ***NOTE*** Working with any type of carving in any material should be done with good air ventilation and a respirator mask. When I carve, I put a large box fan next to me and crank it up. I also love to carve out on our dock over the water when the wind is nice.
Good Luck and feel free to share tips, ideas or questions with us.