What to Make with Deer Antlers
September 12, 2011
Our Outdoors: DIY Rattling Antlers – What to Make with Deer Antlers
By Nick Simonson
Do you hear that tick-tick-ticking? It’s either the second hand of the hall clock marking off the moments until I’m up in the stand on bow opener or it’s the beginning of field combat between this year’s herd of whitetail bucks in an attempt to establish dominance.
From Sunday morning hunting shows to a seat in a stand overlooking a food plot, the sound made when antler strikes antler is a hail call to bucks in the fall. You can avail yourself of the attraction it has on whitetails by making a set of rattling antlers to take into the field this year. This fun and simple project can be done in less than an hour with just a few common tools and materials.
Get started by selecting a set of whitetail deer antlers, they might be the ones from a buck you shot, or a pair found while shed hunting. The tines on the antlers should be of sufficient number and size to produce an audible click and clack when the two are rattled together. The tines along the main beam should be at least five inches in length. In this case, I selected an even four-by-four rack from a buck I shot a few years back.
The project will require a hand saw capable of cutting through the antlers, such as a Gerber bone saw, a drill with a 1/4-inch drill bit, a sandpaper cube and a leather cord approximately two feet in length and less than 1/4-inch in width. The starting materials are pictured in Figure 1.
Select an antler and secure the bit in the drill. I recommend wearing plastic safety glasses to protect your eyes from dust and debris while drilling. Find a spot near the base of the antler, about a half-inch up from the bottom, and carefully drill a hole all the way through the antler as pictured in Figure 2. You can cautiously yaw the bit in the hole once you have completed it to provide more clearance for the leather cord, which will be threaded through the antler near the end of the project.
The next step is to remove the tips of the antler tines for safety purposes. As many people hunt from elevated stands or will be walking while carrying these antlers, it is important to remove the points to reduce the chance of puncture injuries in case of a fall. Using the hand saw, remove the tip of the antler tine about one inch down from the point as shown in Figure 3. Repeat the process for all of the main-beam tines on the antler. The cut tines should resemble the image in Figure 4.
Next, place the saw at the point where the brow tine meets the main beam. (If your antlers don’t have brow tines, you’ve saved yourself some time and toil and can skip to the next step.) Cut the brow tine off as close to the main beam as possible with the bone saw, so the base of your antler resembles the one in Figure 5.
Once the tine points and the brow tine have been removed from the antler, it’s time to smooth the saw marks out of the bone. While this step can be skipped, the rounded tips add some aesthetics to your set of rattling antlers. Touch up the tines with a sandpaper cube, as pictured in Figure 6, and buff out the brow tine area until it is smooth.
Thread one end of the leather cord through the hole in the base of the antler. Once through, tie a firm overhand knot and leave a short tag end for a stopper as detailed in Figure 7. Repeat the process for the other antler, and you’re done!
If you have the means and are more artistic, you can scrimshaw a picture of a monster buck into the antlers where you removed the brow tine. You can also make or buy a neck pad at a specialty leather store with your name on it, which you could thread onto the cord before tying on the second antler. Make the project your own by adding a couple blaze orange beads to the leather cord before you tie it off. Or keep it simple like the completed set in Figure 8 – it’s up to you!
With a pair of sheds and a free hour, this project will help you get ready for the upcoming deer seasons. Hopefully then, a curious buck will be drawn out to investigate the tick-tick-ticking of your rattling antlers reverberating through the autumn air…in our outdoors. Check out more projects with antlers here if you’re wondering, what to make with deer antlers?