Antler Infection

Over the past few years, my paranoia about my animals’ health has grown into something that would cause most nondeer farmers to shake their heads and ask, “What is wrong with you?” Though most ask this of me anyway! But one can never be too careful coming into the later months of the summer with antler infections.

Antler infections are typically when an animal gets an opening of some kind in their velvet, which exposes the open tissue and substrate of the antler underneath to the external environment. This can be caused by a variety of things with some being more traumatic than others.

There are a few crucial pieces of equipment that one must have to handle these types of situations. The first is a good pair of optics. You can use your choice of gear, whether that be a spotting scope, binoculars,, etc., but this is a key tool in my arsenal. Optics allows you to observe the animal at distance without the stress of interference on your part.

So step one is to give a good evaluation of the area that is potentially damaged. What you are looking for are tiny fly larvae. These will look like little pieces of seed heads from rye grass or something to that affect. These animals are truly amazing in how fast they can stop the flow of blood from a wound and scab over a cut or damage to a velvet area of antler. If fly larvae are present upon visual inspection, immediate action is necessary.

This brings us to equipment piece number two. A quality dart projector is essential, as you will have to handle this animal. I prefer my Xcaliber by Pneudart to any other projector I own. Before you decide to dart animal make sure you have the following (this is a brief list of what you will need):

  • Eye cover
  • Fly spray, (Catron IV)
  • Paper Towels
  • Broad spectrum antibiotics
  • 70% isopropyl; alcohol
  • Vitamins
  • Betadine
  • Hack saw
  • Gauzed pads
  • Scalpel
  • Blood stop powderSuper glue
  • Fluids (lactating Ringers, 1000 ML min)
  • Some type of cauterizing device
  • Zip ties various sizes, rubber bands
  • Sealing spray (alumishield, Pine tar)

Following the injection of a wellplaced dart, identify the region or area of infection. Start by determining approximately how long the infection has been there. This can be done by looking at the developmental stage of the fly larvae, if maggots are thriving, soak the area with fly spray and watch them pile out of the infected area! If the antler needs to be removed, place a couple zip ties or rubber bands around the bases of the infected antler to restrict as much blood flow as possible.

Trim any dead or loose velvet away and clean the area. If there is antler piece that is hanging but broken, it too should be removed safely with your scalpel by simply cutting around the broken area. Again, fly spray and cleaning is important. Be prepared to stop the blood with a wad of paper towels until you have your cauterizing tool ready. Use this tool to sear the edges of the trimmed velvet back onto the bone that exists. You will know you did a good job on the area because there will be no more blood coming out when you are finished.

In the case that the antler as a whole is deeply rooted with infection and has been for more than approximately 2448 hours, it may be necessary to remove the entire antler. This will be the same basic steps as mentioned above, however a hack saw will be used in place of the scalpel, just remember to leave a few inches of antler remaining on the head.
Once you have stopped the bleeding, take your sealing spray and thoroughly coat the area with multiple applications. Administer your choice of broadspectrum antibiotics, vitamins, and fluids. Also, an injection of wormer would be helpful. Cover the entire body of the animal with a fly spray of some kind other than Catron IV. A permithirnbased product would be ideal.

Monitor animal for the next several days for signs of sickness, as a systemic infection can be lethal in short order. You may have to follow up with a remote delivery of antibiotics a few days later.

If you think you have a buck with an antler infection, you probably do. Take quick action and make sure your paranoia level is on alert as these bucks finish up growing some headgear.

Josh Newton
Red Ridge Whitetails