Are you thinking about going hunting for deer antler sheds in the near future? If so, you should read this article to help give you the upper hand on your next outdoor adventure.
Shed hunting is a fun and rewarding activity that can done year-round, regardless of whether or not it's deer hunting season. Not only do you get a chance to find some beautiful trophy antlers, but it also gives you an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the wilderness. Coming from someone who works at a desk job 8 hours each day, I can say that there's truly nothing that compares to being out in nature, and hunting sheds is the perfect excuse to do so.
What is Shed Hunting?
Male deer lose their antlers once a year to grow new, larger antlers. Once the antlers are shed, they will start growing a soft velvet before developing another full antler rack. This velvet is full of blood vessels and nutrients that helps stimulate the antler regrowth process.
The antlers dropped by male deer are called "shed" antlers, simply because they shed them. Hunting for these shed antlers is a fun activity that has become a popular sport in itself. It's something that people of all ages and background can enjoy with little to no experience.
When To Hunt For Deer Antler Sheds
People who hunt for deer antler sheds will always argue when the best time of year is to find them, but depending on the type of antlers you're hunting for, and just how far north or south you are (latitude), the months between January and April are probably your best bet, as this is when most whitetail, mule deer, elk and moose tend to shed their antlers.
If it's still early winter and you're eager to go out in search of deer antler sheds, try to restrain yourself. Going out hunting for deer antler sheds too early could cause you to spook the deer and force them off the property. On the other hand, if you go too late, you run the risk of others animals finding and eating the sheds. If you do wish to scout your area ahead of time, try not to disturb anything by being as quite as possible.
Shed Antler Hunting - Where To Look
During my 15 years of hunting deer antler sheds, I've learned a lot about the sport. One thing that sticks with me is that antlers can really be found just about any place where there is deer activity. I've found antlers embedded on the sides of ridges, in trees, on river banks, and even in fences, so always be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes open.
If you've has success finding antler sheds before, then it's suggested that you try the same areas again. More than likely, the same deer have not gone too far from this area.
If this is the first time going shed hunting for deer antlers, you'll have to use creativity in your search. Look for spots where deer winter in. Check for trails they've left and rubs from their antlers as they try to break them free. If you spot a group of deer, look to see if they've started dropping their antlers yet. If you see some deer missing a side of antlers, there's a good chance of sheds nearby.
One thing to remember is that you'll probably not just stumble upon shed antlers without searching. Look not only at the ground, but eye level in the trees as well. If the deer were traveling through the woods when their antlers dropped, the antlers may have gotten caught up in dense tree branches.
You'll also want to check on the ground, under the snow, and under leaf covering. Don't just assume that because you can't see the antlers that they aren't there. Some people who go shed hunting for deer antlers (including myself) use trained dogs to help them in their search. Dogs can help root out areas you aren't able to get to because of the dense brush. Most of all, have patience, because you may not get lucky your first day out, but by searching methodically and sticking with it, you will succeed.
Here's some basic strategies that has given me success when antler hunting:
- Trails - If you're familiar with your hunting grounds then you'll have an advantage, as you know where the game trails are. Follow these trails and look along ground, as well as the brush and branches at eye-level. If a deer is running when his antlers are shedding, they may become knocked out when hes going through some brush. It's also important to note that deer are more likely to stay to the trails when the snow is thick simply because it's easier travel this way.
- Bedding Areas - Try to look for thick areas of brush where deer are bedding. These are prime spots for finding antler sheds.
- Water Source - Deer, like all animals, need water to survive. Scout out rivers, creeks, swamps and lakes for deer antler sheds. Look for trails along the way that deer may follow. I've found a lot sheds by just walking the trails along a river.
- Food Source - Deer will always travel to their food sources. Check corn fields and the brush around them for any deer antler sheds.
Shed Hunting Laws and Regulations
The biggest piece of advice I can give someone wanting to go hunting for deer antler sheds is to always know and follow the law. There's nothing worse than having your outdoor antler shed hunting adventure turn into a costly ticket or worse - jail time.
For one, this means no trespassing! I know this might be common sense to most people, but I can tell you from my experience that when you're antler hunting in the woods, it's easy to venture off your trail and end up somewhere you didn't intend to go, like someones private property. I suggest purchasing a GPS device and marking the boundaries of your hunting grounds on it to avoid any mishaps.
Shed Antler Hunting Laws and Regulations By State
These are some of the current laws and regulations about hunting for deer antler sheds. It's important to note that these laws change often, so check with your states Game & Fish office to get the latest information on antler hunting.
Wyoming - In fall of 2009, The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission passed a regulation which prohibits antler hunting from January 1 through April 30 on public lands west of the Continental Divide. All private and state-owned lands are excluded from this regulation. If you wish to collect antlers still attached to the skull, contact the Wyoming Game & Fish.
Utah - When hunting antler sheds in Utah, it's important to remember that it's illegal to posses any antlers that are still attached to the skull. You may still pick up shed antlers that have a rounded base aren't attached.
Colorado - In Game Management Units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67, the Fish and Game office prohibits hunting antler sheds from January 1 to March 14 annually. It's also prohibited from March 15 to May 15, sunset to 10a.m. daily.
If you wish to hunt for antler sheds before April 15 in Colorado, you must complete a free course which is found at wildlife.utah.gov/shedantler.
Arizona - Collecting shed antlers is legal, but you must contact the Arizona Game & Fish prior to picking them up to find the cause of the animals death. If it's deemed the animal died in a natural way, possession will likely be granted. However, if the animal died in an unnatural way, such as being hit with a vehicle, possession isn't granted.
It's illegal to collect shed antlers on Native American tribal land in Arizona unless you are a tribal member and are collecting according to tribal regulations. Collecting shed antlers in national parks, national wildlife refuges or national recreation areas is also illegal.
Deer Antler Shed Hunting Tips
- When you're hunting for deer antler sheds and you spot one side, look nearby to see if the other side of antlers is around.
- Dogs can make excellent shed hunting partners when properly trained.
- If you go too late, you might find sheds already damaged from other animals. Squirrels, mice, coyotes, and other animals will oftentimes chew on shed deer antlers.
- Bring a stick or pole to uncover any brush and debris as you search.
- Trail cameras can offer you some incredibly valuable information, such as the size of the bucks and if they're shedding their antlers, which can help aid you on your hunt.
- Be careful when hunting for shed antlers and always tell someone where you went and when you'll be back.
Shed Hunting in Pennsylvania - Video
This video follows a group of shed hunters (Trevor, Shane and John) in Clarion county Pennsylvania as they search their hunting grounds for sheds. Check out some of their nice finds!