It’s the time of year when mom, dad, kids and even dogs can head out on a hunt. Big game hunting seasons have closed. Some of our friends have tagged out and others never quite caught up to the big bucks or bulls they chased. As winter transitions to spring (between January and March), deer and elk begin to drop their antlers. If you’re like LG, you know that means it’s time to do another type of hunting – shed hunting! We get asked how to shed hunt all the time. Here’s how we do it.
LG’s been shed hunting since she was a wee tyke. It’s an activity that gets entire families away from the TV and outside to enjoy God’s creations. Regardless of your thoughts on hunting animals, anyone can enjoy shed hunting.
Where to hunt shed-antlers?
We live in Colorado and rules have changed for a few areas this year, so we want to caution you to always check the regulations in the area you are shed hunting. Some locations do not allow you to retrieve sheds, and others only allow you to retrieve sheds that are not attached to a skullcap or of limited sizes. Shed-antlers are found in the same areas we find deer and elk. They are sometimes rubbed or knocked off when an animal is going through thick brush or trees. Another locale to check is near creeks, fence lines or drainages. When the animal jumps, he may jar the antlers loose, causing them to drop. Something else to keep an eye out for is complete carcasses or skulls that still have antlers intact. Sometimes these are found on lion kills. Others are from accidents, fights during the rut or even animals that expired in landslides.
What are antlers? Antlers are similar to bones, but they grow and then die and fall off each year. While the antlers are growing, they have blood flowing through them and are covered in a fuzzy coating referred to as “velvet.” In this stage, before the antler dies, if it is broken it may bleed. Later, as a male begins to rut, the blood flow decreases. The antler dies and falls off or is shed. After the antler has died, it’s similar to an old, dried-out bone. Hormones restrict blood flow in the antlers, causing them to die and fall off. After a male drops his antlers, another pair begins form. They are generally a little larger than the previous year’s set, until the animal is elderly and on the decline of his life’s cycle.
When do deer and elk shed their antlers? It varies. Whitetail deer may begin shedding antlers in December and continue through February. Mule deer bucks may be seen losing antlers between January and March. Elk tend to shed antlers later yet, losing their antlers between February and April. The periods vary, and antlers may drop one at a time or both at once.
Can my dog go shed hunting? Yes! Your dog can go shed hunting, too. Some shed hunting pros have even trained their loyal companions to find the dropped antlers. Wildlife biologists request that dog owners maintain control of their pets afield, so as not to frighten wildlife out of habitats.
Are antlers the same as horns? Although some refer to antlers as “horns,” they are not anything like horns. Horns are permanent on an animal and do not shed. In fact, horns sometimes have bones inside portions of outer coverings that keep growing. This outer layer is made up of a material similar to fingernails or hair. It continues to grow and does not fall off, until the animal dies, at which time the sheath may dry out and slip away from the interior bone.
Regardless of what you find, shed hunting is a good time for young and old alike.
The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women. View all posts by The WON
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