ANTLER SHEDS: THERE FOR THE PICKING

Antler Shed Hunting

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Treasured by many, antlers are often in high demand. Some hunters actually use shed antlers as rattles to call in deer. More varied uses include use as a hand tool in flint napping, jewelry making, and even making gorgeous heirloom home accessories. Even better, antlers are naturally shed by deer (white tail and the larger mule deer), elk and other ungulates so no harm is incurred by taking the antlers and working them into a wonderful creation. The animal simply grows a new set.
New antlers are grown and old antlers are shed every year by most male ungulates. If you are extremely lucky (or very knowledgeable about the habits of these animals and the habitat where they live) you may be lucky enough to find shed antlers yourself. There is a whole regimen of tips and tricks of how to go about doing just that. Most importantly though, you need to know the animals and how they move across their range.
Antlers grow because of testosterone, the hormone that make the male animals interested in mating with the females. Testosterone levels vary during the year. When rutting season is drawing near, the testosterone levels begin to rise and, one physiological response, is antler generation. The bucks use their antlers to gain their spot in the hierarchy of the herd. In other words, the biggest baddest buck gets the doe! Once rutting season is over, things calm down substantially. The bucks, no longer having a use for their antlers, begin to shed them.
Finding shed antlers is often a casual affair but for many it is an alluring hobby. They follow deer trails and some even go high-tech, mounting field cameras and the like so they can get a better idea of where to look for antlers. Look for patches in the undergrowth where the animals congregate to sleep. Look around the edges of woods and other natural habitats. The “edge effect” (a place where one habitat meets another and has a differing ratio of species of plants) draws many animals to that crucial swath.
The more an animal hangs out in a particular area, the more likely they are to shed their antlers there. During cold winter months when rutting season is over, herds are often found in sunny areas soaking up the warmth. Conversely, game trails are great hunting spots as well. Overhanging trees and brush sometimes actually pull the antlers from the bucks as they pass under. The lesson there is not just to keep your eyes on the ground, look up too! In fact, look all around. When a buck is jumping across a stream, for example, the impact may be the final jolt he needs to be antler free. If the antler falls in the water, it might wash downstream a bit from the actual crossing.
There are thousands of things that can be made with shed antlers. Some people just like to position a few around their home for visual interest. There are much more complex things that are regularly constructed as well, however. Have you ever thought about a breathtaking antler chandelier, a table, or an elaborate coat rack for your entry way? If you would like more ideas, or even some help, as to what to do with your antler sheds contact us.
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