Antlers are common to all members of the deer family, including the white-tailed deer of West Virginia, mule deer, red deer, elk, moose, reindeer and caribou. Antlers are by and large a male trait, but on occasion a female will develop them. Males use them for defense and to assert dominance during the mating season.
The largest antlers ever recorded in West Virginia belonged to a Wayne County buck killed in 1997 by Ivan McLaughlin of Kermit. The rack had 31 points and totaled 231 5/8 inches using the Boone & Crockett Club's method for scoring trophy antlers.
When antlers are growing, they are encased in a fuzzy, nerve- and blood-rich skin known as "velvet." Antlers develop first into soft, spongy bone, and later mineralize into rock-hard bone. Growth is rapid, usually beginning in late April or early May and finishing in mid-August.