On the Hunt for Antler Sheds
Holding a white-tailed deer antler is like touching a biological miracle.
Antlers grow in a blood-charged rush each summer on male deer. They harden into bone by fall and become weapons in an eons-old game for domination, as bucks battle for the chance to mate with does.
Then nature recycles the minerals and nutrients. Bucks shed their antlers in late winter or
early spring. That’s when Tyler Dykes of Blue Springs starts searching for shed antlers in what he considers his bonus hunting season.
“The minute you grab one of these antlers, you have a connection with nature,” Dykes says. “It may sound crazy, but it’s an emotional rush when you find one. It’s like holding something that’s a piece of something bigger than yourself.”
Dykes, who is the earth science teacher at the Delta Woods Middle School in Lee’s Summit, hunts deer with firearms and archery equipment. He takes students and his young son, Mason, afield to look for shed antlers.
Simplicity and getting outdoors makes looking for shed antlers a popular late-winter activity for individuals and families. There are no bag limits or special equipment, and unlike most hunting, you can make as much noise as you like while searching for your quarry. You simply walk the fields and forests that deer frequent and look near and far for antlers.
Looking for shed antlers is easy. Finding them is challenging. Shed antlers don’t hide, but it seems that way at times because bucks often drop them in fields with tall grass or brushy areas. Their whitish-gray color often blends with cover on the ground. Plus, they can drop anywhere over vast acres.
Shed hunters consider a found antler a trophy.
One day last winter, Dykes walked the fields at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area and saw plenty of deer trails and bedding areas—but no antlers. A few days later at another public area, he found three, including a matching pair.
“I found the five-pointers with my son, who proceeded to run toward them after I spotted them. He picked them up and shouted, ‘I found it!’” Dykes says with a broad grin. “It was a proud papa moment, I must say.”
Hunting shed antlers is not unlike regular hunting and fishing. Success varies and luck helps.
Vince Crawford of Hamilton, Mo., walked into some fields in Caldwell County early last March. He sent his stepson Tristen Milligan,