Hunting Shed Antlers
It’s the end of March, time to look for shed antlers in central Texas. The earliest I found some was Feb 28 but 3 bucks on my trail camera still had antlers on March 17. The farther north you go, the sooner the bucks drop their horns. Sheds drop as early as Jan in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Most of the antlers will be on the ground around the first of April.Look for the tell tale tines sticking straight out of the grass. 90% of the time the points hit the ground in the up position, just right for your tractor tires. Sometimes you can find both sides for a matched set. When you find the first one, begin searching about 100 yards in each direction. A few years back I found a beautiful matched set of 6x6 elk sheds in Colorado. Take binoculars to check that antler looking stick without having to walk an extra 20 yards. A backpack is handy for a sandwich and water bottle and to carry the antlers you find.
I leave my corn feeders going in the spring and the trails coming in to these are a good place to start looking. If you know where the deer bed, the trails going in and coming out will produce some horns. When you see fresh droppings, slow down and look carefully. Food plots, wheat and oat fields are also good areas to search. Where bucks jump over a fence will jar them loose. If we get a lot of early warm rains, the grass and weeds will cover up the antlers making them hard to spot. This is where a good antler dog comes in handy. Yes, you can train your dog to find and retrieve antlers. Fresh shed antlers have a scent dogs can smell and find like dove or quail. Start training your dog with an antler in the back yard. Throw it out over and over, letting him fetch, then start hiding it and walk him close. They even sell antler scent to put on old dried up horns. My lab Maggie brings me bones as well as antlers but I praise her anyway.
If you know anyone with a high fence ranch, this is the best place in the world to look. If they have exotic game, you may make some real nice finds. A good friend of mine is the manager of a 5000 acre high fence trophy ranch. He found over 300 antlers last year, including Axis and Fallow deer. Most of his antlers were found coming into the 10 protein feeders and food plots. He just drives around on his 4x4 Mule and picks them up.
There is a good market for fresh brown antlers. The current price listed in Fur Fish and Game magazine is $6 to $8 per pound. A lot of these are going to the dog chew trade and crafts like lamps and knife handles. Sometimes you find antlers that are a year old and bleached out white. They sell an antler stain kit that you can use to restore them to the desired brown color. I have several table lamps made from white tail antlers I have found. Use finishing nails with the head cut off, and then drill a hole in each antler where you want to attach together. Then use super glue to hold together. You can buy the parts for a lamp at a good hardware store. Glue the cord to the under side of the antlers and hide with paint that matches. I also have a chandler over the dining room table made from mule deer antlers and one spike elk.
Hunting shed antlers is a fun thing to do with family and friends and no license or permit is required. Take a child with you, they have good eyes. While you are scouting for spring turkeys, keep an eye peeled for those antler tines sticking up out of the weeds. Once you find a few, you will be hooked and want to go every year. And remember where you found that trophy shed antler when deer season comes around next November.
Pictured above is tree art on Fojtasek Ranch.
More tree art at Fojtasek Ranch
Jerry Ellis manager of Fojtasek Ranch with his find for 2012
My Lab Maggie with antler
Decorative antler coffee table