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Deer antlers confound us nearly as much as they fascinate and obsess us. As a population of hunters, we’re pretty good at quantifying them—the best of us guessing with surprising accuracy the inches of bone on a running buck at 100 yards—but we’re lousy at understanding how that buck grew his antlers, or explaining how those specific dimensions were achieved.

Maybe that’s part of the allure of antlers—their origin remains mysterious.

Trained wildlife biologists have only a little advantage. They can tick off the ingredients that go into building antlers, but they’re at a loss to predict with much accuracy how wide (or tall or heavy) a buck’s headgear will grow, or whether it will sprout a sticker point or a drop

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