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by: Missouri Conservation Agent Shannon Smith
Each year the male species of the white-tail deer forms and sheds a set of antlers. In the spring antler growth is stimulated by increasing hours of daylight. Actual growth starts in April or May when the base of the antler, located on the frontal bone of the skull, is still covered with soft skin richly supplied with blood vessels. This tissue transports the calcium, phosphorus, protein, and other materials from which the antlers are made.
Antler growth occurs during the velvet stage and by late August to early September full size is reached. The male deer then rubs his antlers against trees and shrubs, which help remove the velvet. The deer continues to rub and polish the antlers and are carried throughout the breeding season and are used to spar and fight other male deer to determine male dominance. At the end of the breeding season, from the last of December through mid March, the antlers become loosened around the base and are shed. Therefore, a deer antler is not a true horn.
Many folks enjoy hunting for these sheds. Shed antlers may be possessed without written authorization if they are not attached to the skull plate. Antler sheds may be bought, sold, or bartered when accompanied by a bill-of-sale showing the seller’s full name, address and the number of antlers to be possessed.
Any person who finds a dead deer with antlers still attached to the skull plate while afield and takes those antlers into possession must report the taking to a conservation agent within twenty-four (24) hours to receive possession authorization.