There’s No Mistaking A Mature Buck With Dark Chocolate Antlers As He Comes Strutting Through The Brush Checking The Wind Just Before Stepping Into The Sendero.  The Ladies Stop And Stare While The Young Bucks Scatter.

The dark chocolate antlers however, do not come with every buck.

There are many theories as to why some bucks have dark chocolate colored antlers while others seem to have pale white or light-colored antlers.  Let’s take a look at several factors that play a role in antler color.

Age

Generally, with age antlers gradually become darker.  Older, more dominant bucks make many more rubs than younger bucks, resulting in antlers accumulating bark, dirt and other material.  Younger bucks naturally have lighter colored antlers and tend to begin rubbing on thin, light colored twigs.

As with deer age, tree age also plays a role.  Bark coloration varies by age and species.  Younger trees tend to have lighter bark while older trees tend to have dark bark…and bigger bucks love leaving their rub on good sized trees to signal their dominance.

Genetics

Simply put, some antler strains in bucks have white or light-colored racks in their DNA while others have dark brown.  Genetics will always take precedence over external and environmental factors.

Time Of Year

Early in the Fall “new” antlers or freshly rubbed out antlers tend to be darker.  The amount of oxidized blood left over from rubbing out combined with the type of tree rubbed off on may play a role in antler color.  Chemical reactions and sticky residue cause dirt, tree bark and other debris to stick to the surface of antlers.  On the other hand, late season antlers that have been exposed to sunlight longer are much more bleached out especially in open habitat.

Habitat and Region

Habitat may play one of the biggest roles in antler coloration.  The buck pictured on the left lived 5 years in thick, dark timber whereas the buck on the right was taken in open range habitat with sparse vegetation and plenty of sunlight.

Big Deer Blog - Biologist Mickey Hellickson

Big Deer Blog – Biologist Mickey Hellickson

In the Mid-West for instance, most bucks have very white or light-colored antlers where terrain is primarily wide open with sparse vegetation and cover.  However, on the plains of South Texas bucks tend to have very dark and often chocolate colored antlers.  The thick black brush of South Texas provides cover year around.  On a good year, healthy rainfall covers south Texas in an endless lush of green forbs and browse.

Nutrition and Protein

Dark colored antlers contain more moisture, minerals and nutrition.  One way to build and retain moisture is a reliable water source and a Protein supplement your deer can’t get enough of.  Once bucks reach peak body condition after the rut, all minerals and nutrition is absorbed by the developing antler.

© 501 Ranch | Uvalde, TX

© 501 Ranch | Uvalde, TX

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Carlos Riojas is the Creator of WildBuck and contributor and editor to various entities in the outdoor industry. He was fortunate to be introduced to hunting and fishing at a very young age where he grew up in a small rural town just southwest of San Antonio, Texas. He enjoys the beauty, serenity and excitement that is had in the wild waters and woods of Texas. His passions are hunting, archery, fly fishing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and wildlife photography. His favorite animal is the Whitetail Deer.

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