A couple of days after our oldest resident buck, QT, showed up missing his antlers, we found his right one beside our greenhouse. (We know it’s the right, because his left antler lacked the little pointed tine part way up from the base.)
I thought it very considerate of him to drop the antler where we’d so easily find it. It’s the second time one of our bucks has done this: QT’s older brother Nibblet left one of his on our front lawn three years ago. Both occasions have given me a good chance to study and appreciate this simple yet complex headgear that is much more than just adornment.
The photo above (taken with a macro lens attachment) shows the antler “burr”, the part that was attached to QT’s pedicle (one of the red spots you saw in my last post). It’s about 4 cm across at its widest point.
Each pedicle is unique, and remains the same throughout a buck’s life – akin to fingerprints on humans – so the rough white part of the burr shows what is essentially QT’s unique “right fingerprint”. If he leaves us next year’s shed right antler, it should have exactly the same fingerprint. If we find his left antler, the fingerprint will be different.
The area between the burr and the little short tine is covered with bony ridges, as you can see above…
while higher up the antler, where the top tines branch out, the surface is smooth and gently curved.
To give you a sense of scale, the entire antler is about 25 cm (just under a foot) high, with the top points 15 centimeters apart. This may seem small for a five year-old buck, but we live on a relatively small island and deer size seems to have adapted accordingly. We grow ’em small!
Regardless of antler size, humans have made use of these bony appendages for weapons and tools, and when you get up close to one, it’s obvious how effective an antler could be for various purposes. In fact, I’m tempted to use the one Nibblet left us, a shaft with a single point, as a dibber when I plant garlic this spring.
Smooth and rough, strong, sharply pointed, finely honed yet sturdy, an antler is a thing of both beauty and utility – form and function in a single package.
In addition to this and my previous post, QT has featured in some of my other past posts. If you’re interested in seeing more of him: