Sam Shelanski, Associated Press
A bull elk's antlers catch the sunlight as he rests in the grass. A bull elk, during a five-month growing period, can produce antlers weighing up to 50 pounds.

Bull elk start antler growth as yearlings, usually with a single point roughly a foot long called a "spike." By the age of 6 or 7, a healthy bull can start carrying around a good-size rack, usually with six prominent points on each side.

By the age of 10, a bull, with a healthy diet and favorable weather, can reach trophy status, with six or seven long points coming off the main beam in those places were points are expected to be.

This constitutes a typical elk. Anything different could place the elk in the non-typical category.

Antlers in older elk start to gain in diameter but shorten in length.

The growth of individual antlers depends on a number of factors, including age, genes, health, weather and habitat.

Bull elk, for example, that enjoy abundant food and encounter mild winters will typically grow the largest antlers.

An elk that is stressed by lack of food and harsh winters will have to replace body weight before he can start antler growth. It's the same with deer.

Deer will begin to drop their antlers from January into March. Elk will start dropping antlers from January into April.

"They will begin to grow new antlers immediately after shedding," reported Rudy Drobnick, a former Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist who has done volunteer antler studies for the agency.

What many people don't realize, Drobnick said, is that "antler bone is the same as those bones in the body. The only difference is the redirection in the shape of the antlers."

It takes about five months for antlers to reach full size.

Antler weight, of course, is determined by size. Within the five-month growing period, a mature bull elk can grow a set of antlers weighing up to 50 pounds. A moose can grow a set of antlers weighing up to 60 pounds.

Drobnick noted that in recent years, Utah has been producing a number of trophy deer and elk with wide spreads and large antlers.

A lot of the credit is due to the elk and deer management plans calling for limited entry hunts. It is also a result of good habitat and fair weather.

"The new world-record deer, for example, was taken in the Baja region of California where there is lots of food and no winters," he said.

An abundance of moisture, resulting in good plant growth, and relatively mind winters here in Utah the past few years could mean the possibility of more trophy elk and deer coming out of hunts this fall.