Growing New Antlers

May 16, 2024

Standing in a bed of violets, this albino buck with new antler buds is a
portrait of spring.  Photo by Jeff Boyne.

Spring is the time for new fawns, but bucks get a new addition in the spring, too. May is when bucks start growing their new antlers. These are covered with skin and appear fuzzy—the deer is said to be “in velvet.”

New antlers are soft to the touch and can grow very fast–up to 2″ a week.  In late summer, when the antlers are full-grown, blood flow to the antlers is cut off and the now-dead skin falls off, revealing the more familiar bony structure underneath.

What is really cool with white and albino deer (and very ghostly) is that the skin over the growing antlers is white, just like the deer’s coat. The white can even appear pinkish from blood vessels under the skin.

As if being white isn’t a “scary” enough color for a deer, having white antlers really pulls of that “apparition” look.

The picture above was taken May 5 in La Crosse County by Jeff Boyne.  When Jeff first saw the deer at a distance, he thought it was a doe, but later, when he got a closer look, he could see the developing antlers.

It will be interesting to see more of Jeff’s photos as the deer (and its antlers) grow older.

These side by side photos show what a white deer’s antlers will look like by
midsummer and then after the velvet is rubbed off in the fall.  Photos by
Mike Crowley (Life in the Northwoods).

The above portraits were taken of a single deer at different times of the year. This buck was known as “Broken Ear” for his rumpled ear, which made him very easy to recognize. 

Broken Ear also sports a thicker neck in the right photo, which is typical of bucks during the fall rut.  The antlers will fall off during January-March and then start growing again in April or May with increasing day length.