Get ready for shed season
Article and photos by Jason Haley
Shed horns will be hitting the ground pretty soon. Maybe they already are where you live? Hunting for sheds has become quite the rage in recent years. What started out as a springtime hobby for antler lovers, and has probably always been around in some form, has become a craze that now requires state regulation in some places.
If you’re a hunter like me, you understand the strange attraction to horns that many of us have. They’re fun to hold, feel, examine, compare, wonder about and, most of all, talk about. Some folks like high horns, some wide, some heavy, some non-typical and many like the ones that score high. Besides the horn admiration/fascination factor and the pre-season scouting benefits, looking for sheds can be good springtime outdoor exercise. Your mind is busy so it doesn’t realize your body is tired while you pull hills and cross creeks. The entire family can get involved too.
I’ve never actively looked for them, but I used to stumble upon deer horns in the spring turkey woods or quail hunting in the oaks. I’d often wonder. Did it drop right here or did a coyote carry it here only to drop it for something better? Is this buck still alive or did he get taken by a hunter or a cougar or was he hit by a car? Maybe he’s in the shade watching me right now. Where is the other horn? It seems like the sun-bleached antlers often end up in pack rat nests.
My own shed horn interest peaked a few years ago after finding a beautiful matched set only four feet apart while deer hunting. I also saw a display at last year’s outdoor show in Medford that was remarkable. One collector had trophy blacktail sheds from Southern Oregon and he had over five season’s worth of matched sets from a single buck. It was a great study in age-class.
Now people have a new reason to collect sheds; they’re valuable. There are antler buyers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and exporters. Deer and elk sheds are normally sold by the pound, but unique or trophy antlers can garner much more at auction. People are training and breeding dogs, usually Labradors, to find and retrieve sheds. Over-exuberant shed hunters have harassed big game herds on their winter ranges, sometimes following them for days waiting for the second horn to drop or chasing them on quads causing antlers to drop prematurely. Some are selling horns to supplement their incomes. This has led states like Utah and Wyoming to regulate the activity. For example, in some cases collectors can’t enter the winter ranges until late spring and ethics courses are mandatory prior to searching. Shed hunting is unregulated in California and Oregon, so enjoy it for what it is and be sure to educate yourself on the legalities and ethical considerations before entering the field.
I found my prize set of sheds in Siskiyou County, but the buck undoubtedly summered in Jackson County, which is known for trophy blacktails. The horns now belong to a friend. He already had a nice shed collection and enjoys the hobby. He had also put me onto a great archery elk spot a few years earlier. This made the decision to part with them a bit easier.
More Hunting News
US Senate votes benefit conservation04/21/16 -- The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recognized the U.S. Senate for approving a comprehensive energy package that includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as well as... Full Story
I Was an Indoor (Outdoor) Slave
Late Muley Madness
04/01/16 -- It’s harder than ever to take a trophy mule deer with any weapon, let alone a stick and string. Declining mule deer populations contribute to this dilemma, but there’s more to it. That’s part of the reason hunters... Full Story
Proposed new wildlife holding rules
Spring Turkey season opener approaches
Apply for Premium Hunts by May 15
Hunter education for Spring certification
How much venison do hunters harvest?
Pups & Partridges on the Calapooia Prairie
02/18/15 -- They say a great pointing dog only comes along once or twice in a hunter's lifetime. Some dogs don't have the heart or the desire. Others don't seem to have the nose or the brain. We brought home our pudelpointer in... Full Story
DSC convention goers raise $1M in 1 minute01/19/15 -- Responding to a heartfelt appeal for youth outdoor education, DSC convention goers on Saturday night raised $1 million in about 60 seconds. The fast flurry of fundraising was a highlight of the 2015 DSC convention and expo... Full Story
It’s Not over Till the Lady Sings
01/19/15 -- If you want to avoid being attacked by a mountain lion, conventional wisdom says, you should travel in groups. If you encounter a mountain lion by yourself or with children, stop and make yourself look as big as possible... Full Story
09/16/14 --Having been pursuing waterfowl for over 60 years, I was exposed to its history as a mere child by my grandfather, Wilbur S. Pechin. He hunted ducks and geese along the Platte River in Nebraska in the late 19th... Full Story
The buck we didn’t get and two we did
08/10/14 -- “Can you see him? He is just below the sky line to the left of the big live oak.” The respectable three-point stood only 500 yards away, but my hunting partner, Kyler Olson, couldn’t quite get an eye on him... Full Story
Where Are All the Pheasants?
The other day a neighbor stopped by my house after two days of hunting pheasants in the Orland area. He said that he and his golden retriever, Milo, had probably walked ten miles and only flushed three birds. Knowingthat I had grown up... Full Story
Ham on the Hoof
12/17/13 -- We were climbing a steep gravel ranch road in Charlie’s Toyota when we saw it, as big as a full-grown bear and on a dead run. Charlie hit the brakes and switched off the engine. There was no time to load the rifle. The shaggy, gray... Full Story
Never say never
Most of you have heard the saying, patience is a virtue, and I would say persistence is a virtue. If you want to fill your deer tag each season you have to put your time in. If you don’t give in and hunt hard you should be... Full Story
Hunting trip gone bad
If you asked me what I’d rather be doing, most of the time I would emphatically say, deer hunting. For me nothing gets the juices flowing and the imagination spinning like the arrival of bow or rifle season for deer. When... Full Story