On a recent outing to photograph mule deer, Wayne Lewis, Colorado Outdoors magazine editor and art director, came across a mule deer buck with unusual antlers. One side of the buck’s rack appeared normal, but the other side was in a very unusual position – creating what looked like the facemask on a football helmet. When Wayne showed me the photos, my first reaction was excitement. Finding a buck deer or bull elk with non-typical or atypical antlers is like finding the needle in the haystack – they are just not something you come across every day.
After looking a little closer at the photos, I began to wonder if the antler would actually pose any health risk to the buck. I fired off an email to Chuck Anderson, CPW’s Mammals Research Leader, and he responded with some interesting information about this particular buck. In my email, I had identified the buck as having non-typical (deformed) antlers. After reviewing the images, Chuck determined that the antler formation is actually “typical” and only the orientation is “atypical” or non-typical. He also shared that non-typical antler growth can either be genetic or due to injury. And in this case, the normal growth form of the antler, but the atypical orientation, suggests potential damage to the pedicle (permanent antler base). Chuck felt the buck’s antlers are a result of a relatively minor and non-life-threatening injury and that the odd growth orientation would continue in future years.
To learn more about non-typical or atypical antler growth, read What Causes “Atypical” Or Non-Typical Antler Growth In Elk And Deer? (Ask The Biologist).
Photos are by Wayne D. Lewis. Wayne is the editor and art director of Colorado Outdoors. Wayne is based in Denver.