I love shed antlers — meaning, the antlers that the male deer “sheds” at the end of every mating season, late Winter and early Spring. Every deer sheds its antlers and grows back larger ones the following season.
What is wonderful about hunting for shed antlers is that, aside from the possibility of finding these beautiful specimens of nature, it encourages you to get outdoors and hike. It’s a fun activity to do with a friend, like a treasure hunt of sorts, and if you don’t find any it at least encourages you to participate in nature, take note of its rhythms, and just be a part of where we’ve come from.
There’s a window of time between February and March where you can find antlers lying on the forest floor and in the fields where deer feed. So here are my tips on how to locate them. If you have experience with shed antler hunting please share your tips in the comments section! Let’s learn from each other.
1. Bucks typically shed their antlers within a mile of their “home” so take note of where you see a big buck and search within that range. Bucks also typically shed their antlers within the same 3 day period of every year. So over time you may be able to see a pattern in your local herd of bucks.
(Note: this is not a buck pictured, this is an opossum that I met in my walk in the woods. We’re full on buds now. We’re working on the sequel to ‘The Wind in the Willows’ together).
2. Take advantage of your dogs nose, or even better, train your dog! If you don’t have a dog, find a friend that does and ask them if they’d like to take a walk in the woods with you. Even dogs that are not trained to be hunting dogs, have hunting instincts and their nose will be much for useful than your eyes.
(Note: This is not a deer or a dog pictured, this is a turkey, also known as an Ol’ Tom. He was large and in charge with his family in the woods and didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Thus, we’re not friends).
4. Look for thick brush and patches. This is what bucks will use to help knock off their antlers. Oh, and you may find other treasures too… like old medicine bottles and old carriage wheels. I certainly have. It’s a treasure hunt after all, remember?
5. Look for fresh droppings. It is a sign that the deer are using this area actively and it is a place where you should spend time scouring.
(Note: I decided not to include the picture of deer droppings here. You’re welcome).
Or I just like to sit them on a mantel and admire nature’s miracles.
Now go take a walk in the woods! And let us know what you find.