It’s time to get some serious exercise! After a cold winter, it is time to come out of our caves and get back into shape. All we need is some motivation to get outdoors and exercise.
SHEDS are the answer. There is something magical about antlers. While kids may love to find Easter Eggs, I love to search for antler sheds.
I have always been amazed that deer and elk have to grow new antlers each season. During prime time for antler growth, elk can grow 1 ½ inches of antler a day! The antlers attach to the deer’s head at a place called the “pedicle”. When the photoperiod of the sun gets to a certain length, the antler stops growing and the velvet covering comes off. This occurs around the end of August.
Usually in March, the old antler literally falls off or “sheds”! I have seen antlered deer as late as May. After that, any antlered deer is probably a hermaphrodite. These deer have both sex features and produce antlers that stay covered in velvet and may not shed.
Make sure that you have permission from the land owners before you begin. Antlers are precious to some for their monetary value. Competition can be furious. On many public lands, you may not enter before a certain date. Make sure you know the rules. The MT FWP can address any questions.
Back east, many states would not allow you to pick up any sheds or road kill trophies. Antlers were destined to be gnawed on by rodents or weather away. Without a legal tag, antlers were to be left in nature.
Antler is primarily made up of calcium or bone. Bone has no nerves so bucks and bulls feel nothing but pressure. Some folks say that deer make rubs on trees to scrape off the “itchy” velvet. With no nerves there is no need to scratch. In some countries, crushed antler is sold as an aphrodisiac to aid with sex drive. I have never eaten crushed antler but I do get excited when I see a big buck or bull coming through the forest!
My shed destination is where I expect the deer to winter. Usually this is lower elevations with lots of coulees and cover. Find the deer sign and you will find sheds. Look for trails and fence crossings. Think like a deer and travel these areas. The vibrations resulting from a deer jumping across a ditch, log, or fence can cause the antler to fall off. Low branches can snag an antler and cause it to shed.
I save most of my antler sheds for decoration, crafts, or education. Antlers also make awesome chew toys for pets. I trim any sharp tines off and let the dogs chew away. This training also helps dogs to find antlers on their own.
I drove my 4 wheeler into my prime shed collection site. Sturdy boots, walking sticks, binoculars, and a pack was all the gear I needed. The hunt was on. As I travelled down a deer trail, I looked to my left and there it was….my first shed of the year. A white tailed deer 5 pointer! It would have been a great buck during hunting season. The good news is that this trophy buck survived the hunting season and will be waiting for me next fall. It’s a date!