I have come to the conclusion that I’m the best shed antler hunter in North America. Maybe the world. My world, anyway—no doubt about it.
But I seldom find an antler and almost never find anything dropped by a mature buck. (Try to stay with me on this.)
I’ve read the books and articles, seen the videos, and know what they say. I check all the right places. I scour bedding and feeding areas, and the trails between. If I find a series of rubs I look carefully because that’s a place bucks frequent. I not only look in front of me, I turn around to view the area I covered from a new perspective.
I look where the deer cross creeks, ravines and fences. I check around logs and limbs deer must hurdle or duck under to get by. If antlers are ready to drop, any sudden jarring at those places can make them fall. I particularly concentrate on south facing slopes, especially those with food. I’m seeing where deer are churning the leaves as they vacuum up acorns under the oaks.
I always check under apple trees where deer browse on last year’s fresh, tender limbs. I don’t overlook grassy clearings. I also look under hemlocks and pines because the upper bows of those evergreens protect the ground from snow accumulation, encouraging deer to gather there. They also offer a windbreak and hold pockets of warm air.
I don’t find many antlers, I seldom find one from a mature buck, and I’ve never found a matched set. One reason is that most bucks in these parts don’t get very old. Most of those guys who find pickup beds full of antlers live in places with lots of mature bucks, and small strips of wooded cover for them to hole up in. The terrain focuses their attention in productive places.
Over the years my proudest finds are only a few. One is a 5-point antler that I spotted easily, lying tines down in a clearing where a buck bedded in thick brush about a mile from my home. I searched for a couple of hours, but never found the matching side.
The other prizes have been small. OK, tiny. And that’s why I’m the best. One was the burr of an antler that had been snapped off, probably during combat, and late in the winter he shed what was left—scarcely an inch and a quarter long. When I spotted it I knew immediately what it was.
Then there was the broken tine I found, all four inches of it. Not a whole antler, mind you. Just a dainty tine possibly snapped off in a tussle with another immature buck.
Two more to tell about. A short piece of a main beam so deteriorated it almost crumbled. With a few more rains it would have dissolved. I didn’t even realize what it was until several seconds after I picked it up.
Finally, the only antler I’ve found so far this year. One night just before dark I noticed something ivory-colored mostly hidden under leaves. I thought it might be a bleached stick or the stem of a mushroom, but picked it up anyway and discovered it was a piece of antler a hoard of mice had mostly consumed.
You might be wondering by now why I say I’m the world’s best shed antler hunter. Here’s why: No one finds the tiny specs of buck anatomy I find. So if the big antlers were there—the ones with thick, curving main beams and long multiple tines—I’d spot them. Yessiree. And the bed of my Ford Ranger would overflow with big antlers.
As I covered some prime antler-hunting ground one recent day, I discovered the real reason I’m the great shed antler hunter I am. I was mentally processing all that is going on in my life, and it’s a lot. The spring woods are a great place to sort out some issues and to get some perspective on the things you need to ponder. That’s why I come home on top, whether I find monster antlers or not. It’s productive time, and that’s really what makes hunting for shed antlers worthwhile.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.