All (Mostly, Anyway) About Shed Antler Hunting

You’ve probably been hearing it, too. I’ve had at least a half dozen recent conversations about deer and elk “shed hunting” in the hills around Paradise – our part of Washington State.

People get excited about finding cast “horns,” and some of them get downright nuts about it.  Somewhere in any wildlife nut’s prized possessions will be a shed antler with a good story about where and when it was discovered – or the buck or bull who dropped it. While the level and seriousness of such behavior varies from one wildlife area to another and county to county there have been a number of complaints – and citations issued – over people sneaking onto closed or private ground and harassing elk while trying to find freshly shed antlers. Some people get a bit overexcited.

As you know, antlers grow quickly as blood‑engorged tissue, protected by velvet – a hairy skin.  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.

In Washington, any naturally cast antler found is yours to keep. Joe Watt, Robinson Canyon and Oak Creek feeding areas and the roads around them, however, are closed until Tuesday – May first. Other areas are open to walking and looking, but apparently too many folks just can’t wait.

This shed hunting stuff is a big, wide-reaching deal. I fastened my seat belt and punched “shed antler hunting” into my trusty search engine. I got two or three ads… AND (as best I can tell in my techno-ignorant counting) more than 20,000 web pages about hunting, storing, selling, buying, collecting, mounting, sportsmanship, and salivating over shed antlers. There are web pages with info about every aspect of the game.

Your search will yield articles and stories about training dogs to find antlers, shed hunting clubs, finding the right “shed hunting partner,” the current sale and purchase value of sheds in various condition, and the how or why of getting kids out looking for cast antlers. If you can think of any other related cast antler subject, there will be something on the web for that, too.

Labrador retrievers seem to come up most among dogs trained to find sheds, although other dogs have been local antler-finding heroes, also. Need training tips? It’s all there.

By the way, there are clubs, too. The biggest, arguably, is the North American Shed Hunters Club (NASHC), headquartered in Wisconsin. It has a regularly updated record book, measurers, appearances around the country and a lively blog. Prizes and competitions abound, as do opportunities to hone your craft or arrange a guided shed antler hunt. It’s all there on the NASHC web page at www.shedantlers.org.

Need to figure out the psychological profile for an ideal shed hunting partner? Or about how shed hunting makes you both better hunters overall? It’s on the web.

Kids? Well, you know what a fan I am of using any excuse to get kids and grownups outdoors. Robert Loewendick of Hopewell, Ohio, wrote “Shed Antler Hunting with Kids” a few years back. It’s wise and funny and a great read; find it at www.backwoodsbound.com/yantlers.html. (As you might guess, a big problem is getting kids back inside after they’ve found a shed…)

What are sheds worth? Answers abound. There is a consignment center for your prize pickups, a “buy/sell/trade” site and coaching for making furniture or whatever from your antlers at www.bigantlers.com. The Antler Man (Great Basin Antler Buyers) notes that current prices for deer and elk sheds range from $2 to $16 per pound (condition from chalky to fresh brown) with matched sets of deer or elk cast antlers – depending on Boone and Crocket measurements – selling for $150 to $1500.

Tired of being skunked and need shed hunting advice? Two dozen more-or-less pros each give their top three tips in an article put together by Almo Gregor and Jon Sutton on the Outdoor Empire (outdoorempire.com) site. The article is at www.outdoorempire.com/shed-hunting-tips, and is a fascinating look into the lives of shed hunters.

Questions about the where and when of shed hunting in Paradise? Start with current wildlife area maps, such as the “L.T. Murray Green Dot Cooperative Road Management Area map” available at the DFW office in Ellensburg (201 North Pearl), from the DNR office at the Ellensburg airport, or the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Region 3 office in Yakima.

For access, shed hunting 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 fair.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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