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Deer Antlers!

Updated on November 3, 2013

Working With Deer Antlers!

Working with deer antlers can be a rewarding hobby, both as an art and as a way to make money. There are many different uses for deer antlers. Several of them are as wall decoration, for scrimshawing, making into key chains, etc.

While this site is mainly for those who are just getting started at working with deer antlers, those with experience are welcome. We could use some tips and advice from more experienced "deer horn artists".

While working with deer antlers seems harmless enough, if you learn nothing else from this site, I hope you learn that you need to wear a face mask! Any high speed grinding or cutting on deer antlers produces dust particles that are extremely hazardous. Don't take any chances!

A Little Antler History.

Growing up, I always thought that a deer kept it's anlers and the larger the rack, the older the deer. This is not exactly true!

A deer sheds it's antlers in January or February and starts growing them back in March or April. If you spend a lot of time in the woods, you can find many nice antlers that have been shed.

And, while it is true that an older buck could have a larger "rack" than a young buck, a buck that is five or six years old could have a rack just as large as an older buck. Most deer will have their first set of anlers at about a year and a half. At three years old. they will still only grow antlers that are only about half of the size that a five year old deer might grow.

At five, the sky is the limit. A well fed buck can grow antlers at the rate of one-half an inch per day while an under-fed buck might only grow spikes.

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Kotzebue Caribou Antlers on Rooftop
Kotzebue Caribou Antlers on Rooftop

Scrimshawing On Deer Antlers

Scrimshawing can be a rewarding hobby and if you're an artist, you've got a head start on most of us. I have never been good at drawing so I will be telling you how I have to do my "art-work".

Patience is important! Scrimshawing takes practice and your first pieces might make you feel that you'll never be good at it, but stay with it. You'll get better as you gain experience. I started out by practicing on a set of white plastic dominoes and went through most of the set before I was happy with any of my work.

Whether your working with antlers or dominoes, you need to coat your work surface with a good coat of wax. The wax will help in removing any ink from your project other than the ink that you want in your scratched on design.

Unless you're an artist, find pictures for your projects in coloring books, free clip-art or tattoo designs. Use carbon paper to trace the design on your wax coated domino or antler. The carbon paper will transfer the design to your project and you will then use a needle to "scratch" the design into your domino or antler. I use sewing machine needles that are placed into an exacto knife handle. It works well for me but you might discover another way to help hold the needle.

Scratching the design into your project by tracing the design that you have transferred onto it sounds easy. It's not! Guiding the needle over the design takes practice. Your first few attempts will look nothing like the original picture, but you will find that in time your designs will start looking better and better.

To finish your scrimshaw, you will need to smear ink over the entire design. This can be any type of ink that you might want to use. In the beginning, I used a common "magic marker" and it worked fine. After the ink has had plenty of time to dry, you will want to wipe off all of the ink that is outside the scratched in design. Use acetone for this. It will remove both the excess ink and the wax that you had coated the project with earlier. You can then re-coat your "prize" with another coat of wax to help protect it.

Once you have mastered the art of scrimshaw, you will be amazed at how beautiful a nicely done antler can be.

Deer Antlers: Regeneration, Function and Evolution
Deer Antlers: Regeneration, Function and Evolution

This is a book about one of nature's most remarkable accomplishments. When deer grow antlers they are actually regenerating anatomically complex appendages - something that no other mammal can do. The rate at which antler elongate makes them the fastest growing structures in the animal kingdom. Profoundly affected by male hormones, these secondary sex characters grow into massive tumors if the deer possessing them is castrated. These and other unique characteristics have made antlers the focus of extensive scientific research that addresses some provocative questions: From what tissues do antlers develop? By what morphogenetic mechanisms are they regenerated every year? What social functions prompted their initial evolution? How are they influenced by hormones, and by the seasonal daylength fluctuations that regulate their annual replacement cycles? These and many other questions are considered in this comprehensive account of antlerology.

Students of development, evolution, and behavior will find much to appreciate in this volume, as will ecologists, wildlife biologists, and zookeepers. It is a rich source of information for endocrinologists and physiologists interested in the relationship of antlers to the reproductive cycle. The orthopedists will find the study of antlers a valuable model of skeletal growth and bone disease, and the purported medicinal properties of velvet antlers will be a subject of interest to the pharmacologist.

Deer Hunting Secrets Exposed - How To Take The Best Buck Of Your Life  -- Whitetail Deer Hunting Books
Deer Hunting Secrets Exposed - How To Take The Best Buck Of Your Life -- Whitetail Deer Hunting Books

Do you: Day dream and think about hunting deer all the time?

Looking for ways to harvest that trophy buck?

Want to earn the bragging rights with your buddies?

Shop for new huntin' gear all the time?

Can't wait to get out to the field to scout and hunt deer?

Taking a trophy buck is a dream to most deer hunters. To be able to do it consistently is what separates the experts from the wanna-bees. Think about it - deer hunting is all about knowing deer habits, where and how they spend their time and what they do under varying conditions. Successful deer hunting - finding and taking those trophies - happens when you discover all the secrets to get into the right position to harvest them. That, my friend, is what this book is all about! Even if you only want meat for the table or only have a tag for a doe, this advanced hunting information will help you be a better hunter and teach you how to maximize your time in the field.

Anyone can get lucky... but to be one of those who can consistently locate and actively hunt big bucks in almost any territory requires lots of professional tactics, special knowledge and inside secrets.

Most new and 'average' hunters are satisfied with marginal results year after year. Yet, with some excellent inside knowledge and tips from successful hunters your ability to harvest the buck of your dreams comes into the realm of possibility. You still have to work at it - but it makes a huge difference when you have the knowledge working for you.


Carving Deer Antlers

Carving deer antlers can also be a fun and rewarding hobby. However, when carving antlers or any type of bone, you must use a dust mask or respirator as the dust produced can cause lung infection.

Before working with the antlers, you should soak them in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Fill a bucket with water and add approx. 4 to 9 percent of the hydrogen peroxide. This will remove the oils from the antlers as well as bleaching out any discoloration. Let the antlers dry out completely before carving.

Using a soft-leaded pencil, draw your design onto the antler. Any mistakes can be erased and re-drawn when you use a pencil for this.

For carving, you can use a hobby knife with a good selection of blades and a Dremel (or similar) tool. Make the initial cuts or rough cuts with the hobby knife. Once you have carved the basic design, you can use the Dremel tool to smooth out the rough edges and do the finer detailing.

When finished with your carving, a coat of linseed oil will protect it from cracking and peeling.

As with scrimshawing, don't be discouraged if your first attempts are not as good as you would like them to be. The more carving that you do, the better you will get at it.

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Antler Key-chains

If you have tips that are broken off antlers or left over from your scrimshaw or carving projects, you might want to use these tips to make key-chains or necklace pendants.

Both antler key-chains and antler pendants are popular and can be sold at flea markets, in craft shops or on eBay.

As with other antler projects, soak the tips in the solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, let dry, polish with linseed oil and add jewelry findings so they can be hung on key-chains or pendants.

You can buy the jewelry findings at most craft shops or on eBay. Some eBay listings for jewelry findings can be found below.

Share your deer antler crafts with us or just let us know what you thought of this site!


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    • wyattfairlead profile image

      wyattfairlead 5 years ago

      I enjoyed your post. I do most of my Scrimshaw work on deer antler, partly because it is something that is somewhat readily available to me, but also because it is just a nice material to work with. It is a lot of fun.

    • WildWilliams profile image

      WildWilliams 6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • knit1tat2 profile image

      knit1tat2 6 years ago

      I really like this lens as I used to make antler buttons, and have a wonderful belt buckle lazer cut into an elk burr. Antler knife handles, tool handles, candle sticks, etc. Not real easy to work with, but so great when done!