The Dog Journal

Fun & Games:

Antler Shed Hunting

Antler shed hunting. If you’re one of the people who haven’t heard of this sport, then you may be wondering what it consists of or what it even is. In this article, we will dive deeper into what antler shed hunting is and how hunters around the world are making this a well-known sport.


All about shed hunting

Antler shed hunting is basically a hobby where hunters go out and hunt for antlers that have been shed by antler-bearing types of mammals. As many may not know, antler-bearing mammals such as moose, elk, caribou, and deer shed their antlers every year around the end of fall and the beginning of winter. This typically occurs after mating season when their testosterone levels drop. This drop in testosterone causes the tissue that makes up the antlers to soften and eventually will result in the shedding of the antlers. Of course, there are other factors that come into play that could change the timeframe of when the antlers are shed. Things such as the environment in which the mammal is living, the moisture level, excessive heat or cold, and other living conditions have a role in the shedding process. 

It’s hard to really pinpoint when this outdoor activity started growing but finding and using deer antlers has been around since the stone age as many cave paintings depict that they were used in various rituals. It’s safe to say that as long as humans and these animals have roamed the Earth, the antlers that they shed have been found and used in some way. That being said, in modern day America, antler shed hunting is known as a hobby and can also bring the hunter extra money depending on the size of the antler, bonus points (more money), if the antlers are still attached to the skull of the fallen animal. Not only can the antlers be used for monetary gain or even as decoration around the house, but they can also help the hunter track the size of the deer at hand. The bigger the antler rack, the bigger the buck will likely be. This goes a long way for deer hunting season and finding a decent sized buck. This hobby has transitioned into a sport that has become one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in America. Not only do hunters go searching for antlers, but some dogs have also been trained to hunt and find antlers. Per usual, certain dog breeds that are better suited for this activity, but every dog has the instinct that helps them on their antler hunt. Having a dog by your side during shed hunting has more pros than it does cons.

The main three cons that come with having a dog hunt with you is that: 

  • You must train them
  • The fact that they may run in areas that will scare other deer away
  • You must pack extra to have the things your dog will need

Training the dog to hunt shed antlers isn’t a big concern but it does take time, effort, and patience. Not to mention choosing the right dog breed for the job. Although, you likely won’t be hunting antlers at a time where the deer or other antler-bearing animals are out and about, there is always the chance that your dog may stray off and can cause any deer that may be out to run away from that location. This creates a lower potential of finding shed antlers around that area in the future.

Brown hunting dog of the small munsterlander breed, in the position to point out the hunting piece.

The pros, however, of having a dog by your side is that:

  •  You are more likely to come home with a higher number of antlers. Between proper training and the dog’s instinctual nose, you can count on them to find and retrieve any shed antlers.
  •  You have a companion to keep you company
  •  You have extra protection from any strange animals or people
  •  Your dog can go hunting in small areas you may not be able to get into

When it comes to shed hunting, it is best to do the research and learn the best places that will likely have the antlers you are hunting for. The top two places that are best known to have antlers left behind are bedding areas and feeding areas. The bedding area is a place where the animals spend a lot of their time and therefore, there is a higher chance that they will shed their antlers in that area. However, once the mating season is over and the deer or whichever mammal has exhausted themselves and depleted their testosterone levels, they will be on the search for food to replenish their energy. This is where feeding areas come into play. As mentioned, after mating season is the prime time for antler shedding, between that knowledge and the fact that the animal will be feasting, it’s safe to say that

feeding areas are a great place to hunt for antlers. There are certain areas that have restrictions and only allow antler hunting for short periods of time. This greatly depends on the location and can differ from place to place. Though antlers can typically be found from late December into May, many go hunting around March or April as the shedding season should be over. Hunters say that it is best to go earlier in the season before other hunters get to the antlers but also to be sure you find the antlers in good condition. If they are left too long before being found, rodents may nibble on the antlers which makes them worth less, or they can become hidden in the weeds that are growing as springtime comes into play. On the other hand, if you start hunting too early, you risk scaring the deer out of the area and have less chance to find antlers later on.

What you need to go shed hunting

As mentioned, there are some areas and some states that have regulations regarding antler shed hunting. It is best to do a quick search of your particular state and city to see what you may need to know on the topic. Some places require a permit to hunt and keep the shed antlers. If you are in one of those areas, a permit is the first thing you will need to get and be accepted for before adventuring out into the wilderness.


Besides that, there isn’t much else you need for this activity. Of course, this solely depends upon how in-depth you plan to journey during your hunt. If you are planning to hike deep into the woods to do some serious antler hunting, you will need more gear. Having the proper hiking boots and something to carry the antlers in will be beneficial to your trip. Keep in mind that this sport is all about having a keen eye. That means you may want to pack binoculars for a better view or even sunglasses to block the sunlight while trying to hunt. 

As dogs have become a big part of antler shed hunting, you may be considering taking your dog on your hunt. If this is the case, your dog will need time to train, and you will need to pack essential items for it while out hunting. Some of those items include water, food, a dog bowl, and a harness to keep them close by.

Stories about shed antler hunting and shed hunters

Story after story about how quickly shed hunting becomes an ongoing hobby seems to be on the rise. Many people start shed hunting with no intention of it being an every year thing but once they start, it soon becomes addicting. Joe Shead of Wisconsin didn’t begin shed hunting until he was in college. This hobby has become such a passion of his over the years that he even went on to write a book called “shed hunting: A Guide to Finding White-tailed Deer Antlers” in 2006 and produced two different DVDs covering his antler shed hunting experience. Shead stated that the “most memorable shed came from Joe Biden’s lawn” who was, at the time, vice president. A friend spotted the antler while passing by the yard and once they finally got the attention of the security guard on duty, they were able to keep the antler for themselves. 

While the goal of shed hunting is of course… to find any antler, hunters are always on the search for the biggest. There have been some deer that made the “hall of fame” per se, for having the biggest antlers shed that has been found. First up is the general, he holds the world record for the biggest match-set sheds. When measuring both sides and the inside spread, the general’s antlers reach into the high 220-inch mark. Next up is the Wausau, or as the locals like to call him, “the Walmart buck.” He was first known for hanging around the shopping center, hence the nickname, but is now known for having a matched shed that is thought to reach the 230- inch mark. There are other bucks that follow in line with having some of the biggest sheds known to date and every set is different from the last. This is what makes every antler unique and makes the challenge even more fun for hunters all around.

 According to some shed hunters, though it is the goal, going on these trips isn’t always just about finding the antlers. It’s also a way to spend time with family, friends, or even your dog. Antler shed hunting is a great way to get exercise outdoors and a way to take a break from the fast-living lifestyle that we live. A lot of times, the hunters will travel and make special trips into new states and new cities to try to find the best shedding areas. These trips alone can be one for the books and make a fun hobby.

Not to mention, the hunting trips usually include long walking and hiking trips. It comes with challenges and can bring monetary rewards but there are so many other benefits that antler shed hunting can bring to anyone who participates.


Antler shed hunting has been around for centuries and today is the fasting growing outdoor sport. Typical deer hunters love this sport as it is a way for them to continue hunting even when deer season is over. This is an activity that can include the whole family and at times, have something to show for it. Whether the hunter brings in money from selling the antlers or they decide to place them on the windowsill as decoration, finding shed antlers is an exciting experience. Some people go as far as to adding the antlers to decorative wreaths or adding them to other gifts. Once people start the antler shed hunting journey, they usually find themselves doing it year after year. 

In some families, it’s a tradition passed down from generation to generation. When reading stories about how shed hunters became interested in the first place, a lot of times it starts with the father or grandfather of the person telling the story. From then on, they are shed hunters trying to find as many antlers as the next person. There are techniques and tricks that are used to find more antlers. Learning from other shed hunters can help find the best tricks and locations to increase the number and the size of antlers you find. No matter the reason you may be interested in shed hunting, according to those who are already in the hunting arena, it is a fun adventure and worth the time spent out in the woods and out in the fields!

Vertical composition a human collecting shed in spring nature. red deer picking up in nature vertical. Person holding antler from red deer stag in hands.

Looking For More To Read?

The Right Fit: Shih Tzu

The cute and fluffy Shih Tzu is a popular breed throughout the United States. On the popularity
ranking by the American Kennel Club, this breed is ranked at 20 out of 195 breeds around the country. But where exactly did this small breed come from? Let’s take a closer look!

Unraveled: Kennel Assistance Program (K.A.P) PAWS

The group at PAWS has officially launched the long awaited and worked on Kennel Assistance Program, also known as K.A.P. This program was designed for breeders by breeders, for the simple mission of helping each other improve the industry and public perception of dog breeding one breeder at a time. Here’s the cool part, it doesn’t cost you as a breeder anything to participate, and you don’t even need to be a PAWS member.

Interview: with Paw Print Genetics Dr. Robert Westra

Dr Robert Westra, from Neogen, home of Paw Print Genetics, has taken the time to sit down and answer some questions about the company, their mission, how it began, and much more. With all the buzz right now about genetic testing, we feel
like it’s important to choose a reputable company that offers high quality and a
great experience.

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration