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Hunting Shed Antlers

On a sunny winter day a few years ago, my kids and I went out to the woods to look for deer antlers. We didn’t find any, but it was nice to get out of the house.

White tail bucks naturally shed their antlers when testosterone levels drop after the breeding season. They grow a new set of antlers beginning in the spring.  People like to decorate their homes and cabins with antler chandeliers and other antler crafts, so there is a demand for antlers – and the desire to find them.

Joe Shead – yes that’s his real name – is a wildlife writer and an expert in shed antler hunting. He says you’ll have the best luck if you think like a deer.

"The key things to look at are bedding areas, the feeding areas, and the trails that link the two. You can always walk fence lines and look for trails across fences. A lot of times a buck will lose an antler when he jumps over or even maybe snags it when he goes under the fence, so that’s kind of an easy way to start," says Shead. "Beyond that, open fields are good. You can drive around in the wintertime at night and see what fields the deer are using and see if there’s any bucks in those fields, and then come back to those fields later."

Deer like to bask in the sun on a south-facing hillside and find shelter in conifer trees. Those are good places to look at well.

Shead says antlers are yours to keep - if you can find them before the critters do.

"Several different animals will chew on the sheds, they get the calcium content of antlers. Antlers are mostly made out of calcium and phosphorous, and squirrels in particular as well as mice, porcupines, and cattle and elk will even chew on antlers," he says.

The time to look for antlers is anywhere between November and the first week of May, but Shead says you’ll probably have the best luck from the middle of December through early March.