Antler Replication

The Fine Art of Creating Keepsake Look a Likes

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the December 2019 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter

Antler replication requires an intricate series of steps in order to not only reproduce the look of an original set, but to replicate the weight and density as well. A skilled antler replicator can create a set that looks so real, it‘s almost impossible to tell them apart from the original. Combining both science and artistry, the work of replicating antlers begins by having an owner professionally ship or personally deliver their original set of antlers to a replicator.

Once the antlers have been received, the replicator then begins the replication process by creating an antler mold. This starts by attaching the antlers to a solid base. A release agent is tint applied to the antlers, followed by at least three coats of silicone. Following the silicone coating, a fiberglass jacket is then fitted over the silicone, since silicone itself is not strong enough to hold its shape. Once the fiberglass has hardened, it is very carefully removed in such a way as to not damage the original antlers while creating a top and bottom half fiberglass jacket. Following this step, the silicone is then manually removed from the original set of antlers. After this process has been completed, the original antlers will not be needed again, until it is time to color the replicated set.

The next step involves putting the mold back together. This is the main purpose of the fiberglass, as it naturally retains its shape. A urethane resin is then poured into the mold and then given adequate time to harden. Even though virtually every antler replicator follows these steps, one part of the process remains a secret. “No one gives away their secret concoction for the antlers,” said Jon Dittmer, a professional antler replicator out of Coder, Missouri. However, he did offer this: “You need a happy medium between glass and plastic. Too much glass makes them brittle."

Once the replication material is done hardening, the fiberglass and silicone are removed, revealing a “white blueprint” of the original set. Both the fiberglass jacket and silicone mold can be used again to create yet another set should the need arise. But now, perhaps the most fun part of the process can begin - painting the new set to look like the original. Deferring to every fine detail, groove and color found on the original antlers, the replicator becomes an artist, mixing various colors until the right combination creates the desired look. Some replicators prefer to paint in a room with very little to no natural sunlight, as the glare from the sun might make it hard to gauge and produce the correct original antler color.

Owning replicated antlers can be necessary to have when you travel to trade shows, or decorate your hunting lodge, as the replicated set is not as coveted as the original set. Replicated antlers are also significantly less expensive than real antlers, making antler-based decorations more affordable to purchase. Yet there may also be other more unique reasons to replicate antlers, as was the case with Dittmer. Reflecting on one of his favorite stories “I had new customers,” he began, “and they said they needed a replication done with a 180” typical wild buck. Five guys had been hunting together. They all jumped on this buck, but there was only one bullet in it. So, they had four replicas done.”

Pricing for replication depends on the size of the original set. The bigger the rack, the higher the price. Most replicators find themselves busy year-round. If you have a pressing need to have a set replicated, make sure you get on their list as soon as you can.

“It‘s an intriguing process creating antlers,” said Dimmer, 37, whose initial work with taxidermy became his gateway to antler replication. “Now it’s second nature for me to work on them. Once the antlers look and feel right, it‘s very gratifying to see the finished product.”