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Chew On This: The Hunt For Antler Sheds

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Sheds have been gaining popularity in the pet parent community, and I see them in every pet store I go into. Sheds, which are shedded deer antlers, are a safer alternative to rawhides of questionable origins, and hard-chewing dogs really love them. They’re popular items at our house, and the dogs love to dig in. On the other hand, I don’t like the hefty price tag that comes along with them – keeping this pack of dogs in antlers is expensive!

Related: Adventures In Dog Hiking Part 1

But here’s the good news. Antlers may not grow on trees, but they do grow on deer.  And deer live in the woods!  And the woods are trees!  Wait… I’m going off on a conspiracy tangent here. Sorry about that. What I’m getting at is that if you go out into the woods, you can collect your own antlers for free. When the deer shed their antlers each spring, you just need to know where the deer hang out – and you’ll be knee deep in sheds.

I’ve been on a few shed hunts over the years and have collected more than just chew toys – I’ve also got some valuable tips! Here are some of the basics you’ll need to come away with a great haul.

Related: Adventures In Dog Hiking Part 2

Know your enemy:  If you’re reading this article, that means others have as well. Shed antlers don’t last too long once on the ground. Other people in the know will pick them up, or they will be gnawed by small animals as a source of calcium. Okay, so maybe mice and squirrels aren’t your enemy, but they do make quick work of the sheds, so get out into the woods and go out there often.

deer-antler-sheds-1Bring your dog:  Take care of two tasks with one outing. Shed hunting involves a whole lot of walking – why not bring your dog along for some fresh air and exercise?  Because you will be following deer trails, with real live actual deer, keep your dog on a leash. Who knows – your dog might even have a talent for finding sheds, which would be awesome!

Think like a deer: If you were a deer, what would you do? Here is a deer thought: Look for deer trails near food sources.  Big bucks, the guys with the antlers, often don’t travel that far to go eat. They eat, then wander off a bit and lay down again. If you follow the deer trail, you’re likely to find their shed antlers. Look for trails near farmer’s fields, or where people have been feeding the deer over the winter.   If you are in doubt if this is a deer’s feeding grounds, scout the area for poop. Head out shortly after dawn, or right before dusk – these are peak times that deer feed.

deer-antler-sheds-2Bumps in the road: There’s a chemical the deer produces that causes the antler to weaken at the base and fall off. This means that an antler is more likely to fall off after the deer has gone through low brush, or jumped and landed on the trail. Look for fallen trees and along fence lines where deer trails cross.

Sheds in pairs: When one antler falls, the other is quick to follow. When you find a shed, scan the area.  Walk in spirals around it, increasing your circles with each pass. Keep an eye out, because that other one can be anywhere.

 


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