No antler without the appropriate genes to start with, but to start with only : in red deer, some(around 1%) stags never wear any antler, they are called "Hummels" in UK, and "Monks" (...) in France. They are able to sire hinds with success, and their male offspring are perfectly normal, even when a hummel is made to breed with his daughters. The genes are there, but not the antlers !
The only explanation I ever ran across is that they failed to develop pedicles "possibly as a result of malnutrition in their first year or two of life." On my own, I will also add this may also (?) happen at the very first stage of pedicles growth, between the 8th and 14th week of fetal life, period of sexual differentiation.
The male genes are there, but antlers are absent !
As one can readily see, genes are necessary, but not sufficient !
Closer to you, a research by B.A. FRIEDEL and R.J. HUDSON (University of Alberta)about "Improving Velvet Antler Production" in farmed Wapiti deer, came to the following conclusions "About 35% of the variability in velvet antler weight is of genetic origin whick makes it a moderately heritable trait",
"While the relationship between body weight and velvet antler weight is well established".
Please refer also to what I already wrote on this in "Buck/Doe sex ratios" as well as in "Average and individual quality".
Biological and Social well-being are the only keys to a quality herd : The bucks, does, fawns one see are, far above all, the end results of both.
As nobody will ever made a DNA analysis before shooting a deer ...genetics have mainly a scholarly interest. The single practical interest it may have is that, when the genetic potential expresses itself in different types of antlers in a given species, this biodiversity should be maintained (obviously this goal can only be reached through the male cull).
I recently learned from a Ph.D of world wide reputation that the heavy-antlered deer painted in caverns by our far ancestors had been painted by very young men and that these, in fact, had been painting "their dreams" : I concluded, and he agreed, that if trophy mania was already present at the time ...it was there for ever ...
As I already wrote in "Buck-Does sex ratio", the only way to cope with it and yet have a quality herd, is to strongly skew the sex ratio in favour of males, the higher the better, up to 1,4 / 1 : once this goal is reached, on the basis of the yearly recruitment, 1/2 of it to be shot before the second head (33% fawns -not sexed-,17% yearlings -the weakest of the area herd) 50% older males , with a 1,4 / 1 sex ratio, you have a full year cull of males in "advance" which will grow and maintain a good age structure, a strong good "natural" mating competition, put the younger males to rest for their benefit ...and offer a maximum of satisfaction to the trophy maniacs.
Friendly yours, Jack.