Deer antlers are among the fastest-growing tissue known. But the bond between the pedicle bone on the skull and the antler is among the fastest-degenerating tissue of which we know. All deer except reindeer shed their antlers annually, usually from January to March, though these times vary with geography. Deer shed their antlers after rutting in late winter/early spring and begin to grow new ones, a process that continues through the summer. Many people make a hobby of finding the antler sheds.
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Educate yourself about where deer travel. If you live in the suburbs or the country, deer can be a common sight and their trails are easily visible. Follow the trails and look for signs of bedding areas, usually among thickets or other covering brush. Tracking deer after a fresh snowfall can help distinguish the trails more clearly.
Find heavily wooded areas and look for deer trails. Big buck habitat is more likely to be found in remote areas. Again, doing this after a snowfall helps. Locate deer-hunting areas and ask landowners for permission to scout for deer trails. Ask them and other locals, especially hunters, where they’ve seen bucks. If you’re a hunter, visit your past hunting grounds.
Scan ahead and on both sides of you once you’ve established a promising search area. Look for protrusions in ground cover. Antlers, especially after a rain, will be whiter than the leaves and branches. Stopping occasionally and scanning an area with binoculars can help.
Take children with you. Children have a natural curiosity and energy that makes them ideal hunters of antler sheds. Make up games to keep their attention. It’s an ideal way to spend a day outdoors with your sons or daughters.
Use your dog. Dogs love to sniff things out, and they can readily locate antlers, particularly recently shed ones. Some people have trained their dogs for this purpose.
Redouble your efforts in an area where you find an antler. Once a buck loses one antler, the other soon follows. A large buck may try to dislodge his second antler once the first is gone to eliminate the imbalance caused by the weight of the remaining antler.
Tips and warnings
- Early-season (January and February) hunting will uncover antlers not yet eaten by scavengers or hidden by plant growth.
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