Tips & Tactics

What Does ‘Antler Burn’ Mean?

What Does ‘Antler Burn’ Mean?

By Tim H. Martin

After 21 years in the outdoor industry and 40-plus years of hunting white-tailed deer, I thought I knew everything there was to know about antlers.

Recently, I learned something about mysterious scrape marks I’d seen on several racks throughout the years, yet never paid much attention to.

One of these subtle markings appeared on the outer main beam of an enormous Kansas buck taken by longtime BTR Regional Director Wayne Cox. He’d brought his 192 2/8-incher to Buckmasters Expo 2018 to display for the crowd.

As Wayne told me the story of how he arrowed Kansas’ new state record typical by crossbow, a dark, inch-long scrub mark caught my eye. It was slightly indented and surrounded by a light-colored halo.

What Does ‘Antler Burn’ Mean?Wayne saw me looking and asked, “Do you know how he got that?”

I theorized it was from an ATV rack, a car swipe or perhaps the buck had run into a metal fence post.

“Nope,” Wayne grinned. “A buddy of mine told me it’s called an antler burn.”

“Antler burn?” I quizzed.

“Yep, this is a friction mark caused by fighting with another buck,” he said. “It only happens when they get locked up for a while and are struggling to pull apart.

“The heat generated by the pressure caused by two racks grinding in combat is so great, it causes these burn marks.”

I was fascinated, and tried to visualize the epic battle and the death struggle to unlock that obviously occurred between two Kansas goliaths.

Wayne’s buck weighed more than 250 pounds, so if the other deer was comparable in size, we are talking 500 pounds of testosterone-filled beasts trying to escape the grip of each other’s rack. The friction must’ve been incredible!

Then, another thought struck me. Somewhere in those Kansas woods was another buck of the same caliber. Since it was in the same vicinity where Wayne took his record-book monster, it would likely remain nearby when Wayne returned this coming season.

What Does ‘Antler Burn’ Mean?“Well, buddy,” I said, “I bet I know where you‘ll be hunting again next year!”

With a gleam in his eye, Wayne smiled, said nothing, and winked.

– Editor’s Note by Tim H. Martin

Now that you know what an antler burn is, the next time you see one, you might want to get that second tag ready. This is a strong indicator of another trophy buck’s presence. And if it survives until next season, it will likely have gained some antler.

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