How many inches can a Bull Elk grow (in 1 Year)?

393" Elk Antler Set I found in 2006 from this bull 2005 growth year.

393″ Elk Antler Set I found in 2006 from this bull’s 2005 growth year.

I am going to start this off by saying…

“I DON’T HAVE A DEGREE IN BIOLOGY OR NUTRITION.  I have a degree in FIRE SCIENCE and elk hunting.”   

With that said, I  started publishing facts and data on drought impacts on elk antler growth, well BEFORE I was in the outfitting business, so this is NOT a marketing scheme.  I simply love knowing what type of elk antler growth we as hunters will encounter in the Southwest.

February through April Precipitation in 2005.  This time period is perhaps the MOST critical phase for elk antler growth in the Southwest.

February through April Precipitation in 2005. This time period is perhaps the MOST critical phase for elk antler growth in the Southwest.

2005 was in my opinion, one of, if not the best elk antler growth years I have personally seen in Arizona.  We had a very mild, but EXTREMELY wet late winter and spring.   This produced the PERFECT storm for accelerating elk antler growth.

February through April of 2004 was dry for much of Arizona's best elk country.

February through April of 2004 was dry for much of Arizona’s best elk country.

2004 was a subpar elk antler growth year for much of Arizona. It was extremely dry during the critical elk antler growth time period, thus many bulls were smaller than they would have been had they had better nutrients in their feed.

SEE the first image in this post!  Here is this bull's right antler from the 2004 growth year.

 Here is the bull’s right antler from the 2004 growth year.  *See the first image of this post. 

Predicting Elk Antler Growth is not an exact science, but it is very predictable from the standpoint of being able to say it’s going to be a below average antler growth year or a “boomer year”.   When I use these terms, I am NOT saying every bull will be shrunk up in the backend.  I know some bulls are extremely impacted by drought conditions and others may still grow antlers that measure over 400 inches (but very few).  There are a lot of MICRO dynamics we hunters don’t generally think about which play into the equation.

Micro elk nutrition and health implications to consider when it comes to antler growth:

  • Competition for feed *Does a bull have to compete with multiple other animals for nutrition in that area?
  • Water Sources *Is there multiple water sources, which will allow the bull to travel less, thus he will burn less calories?
  • Hold Over Feed *Did the area receive above average precipitation during the previous 1-3 years?  How’s the browse feed?
  • Stress *Is the bull being stressed by shed hunters, predators or other random acts?
  • Rut Weight Loss & Injuries*Did the bull rut hard and/or is he injured?
  • Personality & Habitats *Is the bull a roamer or is he lazy?  Is he the dominant bull in the area, thus allowing him to consume the best feed?
20-25 Inches per side was the FACTUAL elk antler growth swing on this bull.

20-25 Inches per side was the FACTUAL elk antler growth swing on this bull.

So, for those who have asked me for my opinion, this is my fact based conclusion.

A bull with the right Age, Genetics and Feed (Nutrition/Health) can put on 50+ INCHES of antler in one growth year.

-Craig Steele