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Why do deer shed antlers?

White-tailed deer shed their antlers each year, usually in late December and early January, said Bob Kirsch, Two Harbors area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Particularly in a northern climate where you have tough winters, the antlers are more for some type of reproductive display purposes," Kirsch said. "There's not a lot of reason to be carrying a lot of weight on their heads through the winter. It's more of an energy-saving thing."

Some bucks hold their antlers longer than others.

"I saw a buck run across [Minnesota Highway] 61 on the Duluth side of Two Harbors in March," Kirsch said. "That's pretty atypical."

Genetics and nutrition are the main factors that determine how large a buck's antlers will grow, he said.

Bucks begin growing new antlers in early summer. They remain soft or "in velvet" through the summer, then grow hard in fall before mating season in November.