May
13

All about Sheds (Not the Kind You Build)

Probably because we in Washington (and elsewhere around the West) have been largely housebound for some weeks, the recent (finally!) opening of state land sent a number of homeys – single and in small groups – rushing out onto the deer and elk wintering ground around us to find the antlers buck deer and bull elk no longer needed. The “shed fever” that affects some folks always surprises me a bit – it’s a big deal both here, and far, far beyond our part of Paradise.

There’s just something that gets people excited about finding a cast “horn.” In Washington, any naturally cast antler found can be kept, and among most any wildlife nut’s prized possessions will be a shed antler with a good story about where and when it was discovered – or even the buck or bull who dropped it. The passion for hunting sheds across wildlife areas and wintering grounds can cause folks to ignore rules. I have already heard several complaints (and stories of law enforcement citations issued) of people sneaking onto closed or private ground and harassing elk while trying to find freshly shed antlers. One of my favorite homeys reported moving through state wildlife wintering ground at the first legal moment it opened, only to find that the sheds had already been gathered up – on ground which every year held a number of shed antlers. Some people get a bit overexcited.

As you know, antler bone grows quickly as blood‑engorged tissue, protected by velvet – a hairy skin. (If humans could grow bone as quickly, broken bones could heal in three days.) By late summer, the bone in the antlers is fully hardened and the velvet is rubbed off. Then, by early to mid-spring, testosterone levels have hit bottom, the cells at the base of the antlers have granulated and the antlers have painlessly (+/-) dropped away at the pedicel. (Testosterone levels drop because of decreasing activity of the pituitary gland, largely due to winter’s shorter hours of daylight.) Anyhow, those dropped sheds are somewhere out there on wintering grounds, much of which is public ground.

Punch “shed antler hunting” into your preferred search engine. That will yield thousands articles and stories about when, where and how to hunt them, along with anything to know about storing, selling, buying, collecting, mounting, sportsmanship, or salivating over shed antlers. Find how to train dogs to find antlers (Labrador retrievers come up most often), find the right “shed hunting partner,” find the current sale and purchase value of sheds in various conditions, and explore the how or why of getting kids out looking for cast antlers. Think of any related cast antler subject, and it will be addressed on the web.

The biggest club, arguably, is the North American Shed Hunters Club (NASHC), headquartered in Wisconsin. This is the “official scoring, measuring and record book authority for North American Big Game Shed Antlers since 1991.” Included are caribou, deer, elk, moose, and pronghorns (although pronghorns shed a horn, not an antler). It has a regularly updated record book, measurers, appearances around the country and a lively blog. At www.shedantlers.org you can view record book sheds, download your own measuring forms and arrange to have your shed entered into the record book. In the store you will find t-shirts, hats and the Club’s book, Shed Antler Records of North American Big Game – Fifth Edition.

Something different? The Quality Deer Management Association has a great article about off-beat ways of finding sheds. Just check out www.qdma.com/weird-ways-to-find-shed-antlers/.

Passion and violence? Google “Jackson Hole shed antler hunt 2020” and read about the fist fights and battles over who saw what first – even though it was hours before antlers could be legally picked up.

Kids? Well, you know what a fan I am of any excuse to get kids and grownups outdoors. Check out Robert Loewendick’s Hopewell, Ohio, based “Shed Antler Hunting with Kids.” Still a wise, funny, and great read, you’ll find it at www.backwoodsbound.com/yantlers.html. (Imagine trying to get kids back inside after they’ve found a shed…)

What might a shed be worth, these days? It depends on grade (condition), which runs A to C. Grade A is a brown antler with no cracks, grade B is smooth to the touch with minor cracking (often white on one side and brown on the other), and grade C is weathered, cracked and rough to the touch. Currently (as of 1 May, 2020) prices for elk antlers are $2 to $13 per pound, with all deer and moose antlers in the $1 to $10 per pound range. Matched sets of cast antlers – depending on Boone and Crocket measurements – might bring anywhere from $150 to $1500 for the set. Find current info at antlerbuyers.com/get-antler-prices/.

Where and when to hunt sheds in the Paradise of Central Washington? Start with current wildlife area maps, such as the “L.T. Murray Green Dot Cooperative Road Management Area map” available at the DNR office at the airport, DFW’s Region 3 office in Yakima, and some sporting goods shops.

For these or other wildlife area questions, feel free to contact Melissa Babik, Wildlife Area Manager for the L.T. Murray, Quilomene, Whiskey Dick and Skookumchuck, at 509-925-6746.

Enjoy the game. Have fun. Play nice with the other kids.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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