DALLAS MORNING NEWS
DALLAS -- Archery hunters, as many as 100,000 of them, took to the field this past weekend. Next month, more than half a million Texas deer hunters packing rifles, pistols or shotguns will follow.
They'll all have the same quest -- a heavy antlered whitetail buck with long, sweeping beams and 10 or more towering points. Hundreds of those hunters will find what they are looking for. Thanks to Mother Nature and Daddy Greenbacks, Texas is the top state for high-quality whitetails.
What is this calcium halo that is the whitetail buck's crowning glory? It's not horns, though many Texas hunters refer to a buck's rack as horns. Horns are permanent. Wild sheep have horns, and so do bison. Horns are never shed.
Antlers, on the other hand, are shed each year, usually in late winter or early spring, then regrown during spring and summer.
Antlers are the fastest-growing animal material. People who observe captive deer on a daily basis can frequently see the antler changes from one day to the next. Deer antlers may literally grow an inch per day in a soft, fuzzy form that's usually called "velvet."
Velvet is a specialized skin complete with blood vessels that supply nourishment to the growing antlers. The growth process takes 100 to 120 days. Some bucks shed their antlers early and start their spring regrowth early, whereas others shed late and begin antler growth correspondingly late.