Antlers vs. Horns

A member of the ungulate species shows off its majestic antlers.

A member of the ungulate species shows off its majestic antlers. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Q: How are antlers different from horns and pronghorns in ungulate species like deer, elk and bighorn sheep? 

A: California is home to ungulate species that have antlers, horns and pronghorns. Deer and elk have antlers, which are made of bone and grow from pedicels, bony supporting structures that develop in the lateral region of an ungulate’s frontal bones (on the top bones of the skull). Antlers are deciduous, which means they shed every year.

For most ungulate species, only males grow antlers, and typically not until after their first year of life. However, female caribou and caribou calves do grow antlers.

Horns are made of bony core covered in keratin, a structural protein that can be likened to fingernails. Horns occur in bighorn sheep and grow continuously through an animal’s life. Scientists can generally count growth rings on horns of males to determine an animal’s age, but aging females from horn rings is far less reliable.

There are also several herds of pronghorn antelope in California, including on the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County and throughout northeastern California. Pronghorns are comprised of a sheath that grows over a bony core. Pronghorn sheaths are deciduous and shed yearly like antlers. 

Regulation Booklets

Q: Can I still get a paper copy of this year’s hunting and fishing regulations booklets? 

A: As part of a broader effort to go paperless, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is transitioning to a digital format for its 2021 hunting and fishing regulations booklets and Big Game Hunting Digest. Booklets will no longer be printed and shipped to license agents or customers, but electronic versions of the booklets will continue to be available online.

The cost to print and ship booklets is significant, and the money saved by going paperless will be redirected to fish and wildlife conservation. The transition to paperless regulations booklets follows a two-year effort to reduce the number of hard copy booklets printed and shipped to license agents and is consistent with the governor’s directive to reduce paper usage, which is also good for the environment.

As in previous years, digital booklets are available at, and can be downloaded (and printed from home) as PDFs to your computer, cellular phone or other electronic device. Hunters and anglers are encouraged to download the digital booklets to their mobile devices and familiarize themselves with the digital format prior to hunting and/or fishing trips. 

Irom Gate Fish Hatchery

Q: Is Iron Gate Dam on the Klamath River being torn down? If so, what will happen to the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery and stocking of steelhead trout

A: Iron Gate Dam is one of four dams on the Klamath River planned to be removed within the next few years. Iron Gate Fish Hatchery, which is operated by CDFW, will remain mostly in place but will not be operational following dam removal. Only the fish ladder and trap area, which is in the general area of the dam infrastructure, will be removed.

A hatchery will be reconstructed and operated on Fall Creek following dam removal. The goal is to help support Coho and Chinook salmon stocks. Iron Gate Fish Hatchery has not produced steelhead since 2012, and CDFW does not plan to produce them at either hatchery in the future. Klamath River steelhead are very resilient and will re-colonize the new river habitat created by dam removal. 

Late Season Goose Hunt

Q: I noticed there’s a late season for goose hunting scheduled from Feb. 20-24. Is that open to public land hunters, or just private landowners? 

A: You’re referring to the late goose season for white-fronted and white geese from Feb. 20-24 (five days), except in the Sacramento Valley Special Management Area where the white-fronted goose season is closed, see CDFW’s 2020-21 Waterfowl Regulations. During this late goose season, hunting is not permitted on wildlife areas listed in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, sections 550-552, except for Type C Wildlife Areas in the North Central and Central regions.