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Question about elk antlers....
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Medicinemann 26-Feb-22
Scrappy 27-Feb-22
Mule Power 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
Cheesehead Mike 27-Feb-22
Pete In Fairbanks 27-Feb-22
FORESTBOWS 27-Feb-22
Grey Ghost 27-Feb-22
Mule Power 27-Feb-22
Grey Ghost 27-Feb-22
Beendare 27-Feb-22
Mule Power 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
Grey Ghost 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
Whatthefoc 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
Whatthefoc 27-Feb-22
Grey Ghost 27-Feb-22
ohiohunter 27-Feb-22
TrapperKayak 28-Feb-22
LKH 01-Mar-22
Bou'bound 02-Mar-22
LKH 02-Mar-22
txhunter58 02-Mar-22
Ron Niziolek 03-Mar-22
Grey Ghost 03-Mar-22
APauls 03-Mar-22
From: Medicinemann
26-Feb-22
I have been watching quite a few elk videos of recent.....and it seems that most bulls tend to have antlers that are all one color. However, there are quite a few bulls that have white-tipped antlers. My question is this....is it that the antlers are white-tipped.....or are the bases darker from rubbing on vegetation, which makes normal colored tips appear to be whiter than normal? ....or is it a function of genetics, diet, or some other factor? I only seem to notice it in bigger, older bulls. I don't remember seeing many (if any) raghorns with this color configuration. Any thoughts?

From: Scrappy
27-Feb-22
Your correct, it's from rubbing.

From: Mule Power
27-Feb-22
Bases are darker. Mountain elk always seem to have darker racks accenting the white tips more than low country private land bulls. Just like the difference between timber whitetails in Pa and farm country deer of Ohio and the midwest.

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22

ohiohunter's embedded Photo
ohiohunter's embedded Photo
I have heard, and believe, the bulls with the nice uniformed dark color is due to the blood in velvet essentially drying and staining the bone. As for the tips, I can only speculate. Mud also stains their horns. I do know juniper gives them a nice color as well, met a guy who colored a shed nicely with juniper branches… needless to say he was an interesting fella.

If I had to guess, the bull picture got most of his color from mud, you can see where he has polished it off. Another view you can see he didn’t really get good and covered.

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22

ohiohunter's embedded Photo
ohiohunter's embedded Photo
Or it could’ve been blood.. hard to say

27-Feb-22
A lot of bulls rake the ground with their antlers, that's what polishes the tips and makes them appear ivory colored. The dark coloration on the rest of the antler is mainly from the trees they rub on.

27-Feb-22
My experience with both elk, moose and deer is that bulls/bucks who rub on conifers often have darker antlers. Perhaps because the pitch from the conifers attracts more dirt? Bulls/bucks that rub on other less-resinless species tend to have lighter colored antlers. For example, animals that rub most often on alder or willow, often have "redder" antlers. Just my .02 cents worth of theory!

Pete

27-Feb-22
Pine tar!

From: Grey Ghost
27-Feb-22
Jake, I think the antler coloration is mostly from blood staining and the type of vegetation the bull rubs on. As mentioned, the tips of bigger bulls get polished up from raking the ground and maybe from sparring/fighting.

Matt

From: Mule Power
27-Feb-22
I can tell you that bulls who rub on aspens don’t compare to ones that rub on lodgepole. Not the blood it’s the tree.

From: Grey Ghost
27-Feb-22

Grey Ghost's Link
This is about deer, but I think the same applies for elk.

"Several factors may be responsible. According to Dr. George Bubenik, world renowned antler growth expert and former professor of zoology at Guelph University in Ontario, antler color depends partly on the amount of oxidized blood on the antlers (from velvet shedding) and partly from a chemical reaction between the blood and juices from plants on which the antlers are rubbed. If a buck begins rubbing his antlers before the velvet and blood have completely dried, the blood stains the antler and gives it a darker color. The predominant species of trees in an area also influence the color. Pines allegedly cause darker antlers, likely from bucks rubbing on exposed sap after they break the tree’s cambium layer. A buck’s genetics may also influence color. Some bucks are predisposed to having lighter or darker antlers, and some rub more or fewer trees. A buck’s age can play a role as older bucks tend to rub more than younger animals. Finally, the time of year can influence color as antlers generally lighten over time due to the bleaching effect of moisture and sunlight."

Matt

From: Beendare
27-Feb-22
Mike nailed it

From: Mule Power
27-Feb-22
I’ll be damned. Lol But the tree is still the predominant factor IMO

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22
Of course they will gain color from the hell the put their racks through. I have a shed that’s black from rubbing burn trees but how would you explain an elk rubbing all the hard to reach places? It’s not like they have a mirror, think about it, all the way down the backside of their horns to the burn with mostly even color. I agree and think tips are whitened mostly with ground raking.

From: Grey Ghost
27-Feb-22
"...but how would you explain an elk rubbing all the hard to reach places? It’s not like they have a mirror, think about it, all the way down the backside of their horns to the burn with mostly even color.

This one seems to be hitting those "hard to reach places" pretty well. ;-)

Matt

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22
He’s trying, he must have a hot date… say somewhere around September 20th.

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22

ohiohunter's embedded Photo
ohiohunter's embedded Photo
Here is what very little blood does to white bone.

From: Whatthefoc
27-Feb-22
We were on an elk hunt in the west kootenay region (south-central British Columbia) - early September. We came upon one bull that had perfectly white antlers. No blood, no pitch, no colour at all. Perfectly white. Anyone ever seen that before? FYI this bull was HuGE 6x6 375ish.

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22
Could he have been sun bleached? I’ve seen lots of deer like that here in NM. One (yuge) bull I saw briefly had a very white rack, he was hanging out in a shade less burn area.

If not.. I would imagine it would have a lot to do with how the bull sheds out of velvet. If he rips it off early and hits a water hole, light antlers. If he’s lazy and let’s it all dry then peal off, darker??

Has anyone crossed any studies about the hardening process of antler?

From: Whatthefoc
27-Feb-22
The west kootenay is pretty much a rainforest. I doubt that bull ever saw direct sun. It’s like his velvet fell off in a rainstorm and washed the antlers clean. Any of the other bulls we saw were normal - dark antlered and in the rut.

From: Grey Ghost
27-Feb-22
If you watch the entire video, that bull raked pretty much every inch of his antlers, front and back. And that's just one raking session. He's likely to do that several times a day over the course of 3-4 weeks. I think it's fair to say that most of the antler coloration comes from the vegetation they rake. The antler tips get rubbed clean from raking the ground, IMO.

Matt

From: ohiohunter
27-Feb-22

ohiohunter's Link
Sure

From: TrapperKayak
28-Feb-22
The best colored ones imo, are the Roosies that rub on alder turning them almost orange. White tips are a product of very dense and solid, smooth, non-textured antler found on the tips where the color from the trees has a real problem absorbing and staining that portion of the antler.

From: LKH
01-Mar-22
Grey Ghost's posting hits the hard to answer question of how do they get to all the places so uniformly.

I think it's impossible to do with rubbing, especially since it's so uniform. I have a couple of large dark bulls with nice white tips. The darkness is so uniform it's impossible they did it with rubbing.

From: Bou'bound
02-Mar-22
its rubbing. The obviously don't look like that immediately post shedding following the first rain or two.

From: LKH
02-Mar-22
No, they look red from the blood but then that starts to dry and the antlers change to whatever shade they will finally assume.

Look at some of the very dark antlers and yo will see how uniform the shading is away from the tips. That's not possible to do with rubbing.

In Alaska it's not unusual to kill caribou with various colors varying from almost white to a nice brown. Through most of that country there is almost nothing to rub on. Some willow in the valleys but not much else. Also if the tens of thousands of caribou all rubbed brush you would see the evidence of that while hunting. There is almost no evidence of antler rubbing when you consider the size of the herds.

From: txhunter58
02-Mar-22
I can tell you this, pen raised deer with enormous antlers have very light colored antlers.

From: Ron Niziolek
03-Mar-22
I’ll agree with Mike, Pete and Mule power. I’ve spent lots of time with bulls when they shed velvet. White or a slight tinge of red after they are done. They start rubbing on brush and pine, and antlers are significantly darker in a week. Just my experience with Wyoming elk.

From: Grey Ghost
03-Mar-22
Agree with Ron. I've observed hundreds of bull elk during, and just after, the shedding period. Their horns are almost entirely white at that time. By the time the rut arrives, they've usually taken on a much darker appearance, with white tips. That could only come from rubbing, IMO.

Jimmy John's monster Arizona elk is a prime example. That bull had literally shed its velvet the day before it was killed. If you look closely at the pics, there is still remnants of velvet on his antlers. Overall, his antlers have almost no color, and there is no significant difference in the color of the antler tips. Had that bull survived for another 3-4 weeks, I'm confident his antlers would have been a beautiful chocolate color, with white tips.

I'd also add, much of the color of some of the darkest antlers of bulls I've killed was from good old mud. I quick hose off revealed a much lighter color.

Matt

From: APauls
03-Mar-22
It's a combination for sure. I do think if for some reason an animal strips during a rain storm or prolonged days of drizzle that could easily start that animal off whiter than it would have otherwise. My first bull moose that I shot in a burn was very white. My brother shot one a few days later that was nice and dark. Seeing as the weather up there can often be rainy for days, I could easily imagine mine having stripped during prolonged wetness and started very white.

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