What could be better than a walk in the woods in early spring? Answer:
Walking in the woods in early spring and getting a big load of “deer sheds”
— as in “antlers.” Deer shed “hunters” have been pursuing these natural
prizes for generations. Indeed, family or affinity groups can do a thorough
area-wide “checkerboard search” gleaning every shed antler in the area.
Usually led by one or more very experienced deer hunters, these groups — or
individuals — use some simple rules for maximum reward.
What you want to look for are deer herding and wintering areas. It’s early
spring. The deer are still bunched up in their “safe” bedding areas. Drive
around if you’re not familiar with a particular area (still best to be with
someone who KNOWS the area inside-out), and look for any remaining food
source — usually some ag fields that have produced corn, alfalfa, or beans.
The deer will herd up and winter-bed near and around these areas. If the
area you’re looking at doesn’t have a lot of agriculture, or is a hardwood
area, then look for an oak ridge, a cedar swamp, or, really good — a
freshly clearcut area. Loggers leave all the tops of the trees and small
branches in these clearcut areas, and they’re perfect forage for deer. And,
yes, loggers do clearcut in winter.
Once you’re in the general area and walking, look for deer trails, and the
foraging spots just described. You’ll see sheds all over. Indeed, if you’re
out real early, when the snow has just left, the antlers stick out like
“sore thumbs.” Real easy to spot. Bring a backpack – or something to carry
the sheds with you, as they can be cumbersome. Some real nice sheds are
always found, and they’re used for many purposes.
Here are some things to do with the sheds, or the way they insure they get
them; be sure to find out your state or area regs and legality before you
do any of the following:
Some people save the sheds as souvenirs or decorations. People buy them —
if such sales are legal in that particular jurisdiction. Artisans use them
to construct lamps or chandeliers — whatever. We’ve all seen some
absolutely gorgeous bric-a-brac produced from sheds. Affinity groups gather
the sheds and then have a “sale” to benefit a charity or something akin to
it. All kinds of things… and why more folks don’t go out and get these
sheds? Friends of ours have seen some enormous sets of antlers — and
grumbled that they didn’t get the buck that wore them during the season!
Some savvy shed hunters use a special method to harvest sheds (again — this
may or may not be legal in your jurisdiction. Check your regs out
carefully! First, there are many jurisdictions that don’t allow deer
baiting. If you’re in one that DOES, you MAY be in luck. Again, we urge
total and strict compliance with all laws and regulations. The following
method is something we’ve only heard about, are sharing because it’s
interesting, but be 100 per cent sure of anything you do.
Shedding usually begins in early spring, when the sheds are ready to drop or
close to it, right? Some shed hunters will set out an old bed spring, or
contraption which will “entangle” a deer’s antlers — but have large enough
“holes” so that the deer won’t become stuck. They “seed” the old spring or
contraption and surrounding area with corn, and when the deer goes down to
feed, the antler will be caught, and a quick twist by the deer will cause
the shed to drop – usually quite easily. It sort of like a loose tooth being
pulled out without any effort.
Happy shed hunting, another way to enjoy nature.
Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at email@example.com
Cool piece on “how to find”, in this case antlers! My sister is a very talented artist in many different formats, I’m going to see if she can make me an antler chandelier if I can find them!