It’s Time to Find Shed Antlers

I’ve read a few articles in magazines about finding shed antlers. These articles were all written by men. They all talk about heading out with their friends to search for sheds. I thought I’d share with you a woman’s perspective on searching for sheds with my friend. His name is Tom and he’s my husband.

In all fairness, I should start by telling you that looking for sheds was originally Tom’s hobby. Tom has always been an avid outdoorsman. He’s been finding sheds for many years. Tom would come in and show us the sheds he found, and while I thought it was interesting, I never quite understood the attraction. All that changed about three years ago.

We had what seemed like an extremely long winter. Tom announced he was heading out to look for sheds. Suffering from cabin fever, I asked to join him. He was happy for the company, and I was happy for some fresh air.

I was under the impression the antlers would be easy to find. After all, Tom didn’t seem to have any trouble. My first few times out, I didn’t find any. I couldn’t tell the difference between a tree branch and an antler. I couldn’t see the tips of antlers just sticking up out of the brush. It proved to be a lot harder than I thought. I had a newfound respect for Tom’s skill. Being somewhat competitive, I was determined to find sheds of my own. This is easier said than done.

You really need to develop an eye to be able to distinguish sheds from everything else on the forest floor. Who would have thought there would be so much camouflage? I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned from Tom over the past few years.

A nice walk in the woods
We look for well-worn deer trails that lead us deeper into the woods. Maybe we’ll come upon a knoll where a deer likes to rest and find antlers here, or we’ll come upon a spot where it’s obvious that deer have been bedding down and find some antlers there. We’ve found antlers at the bases of trees, in open fields, on deer trails and caught up in bushes. We’re not always the first to find them; some antlers have chew marks signaling they’ve been a winter meal for rodents.

In the Finger Lakes region, the best season to look for sheds always seems to be in the spring, after the snow has melted. The snow will pack down the shrubbery and grass and weeds, and give you a more open area in which to look. One year, when we had an extremely mild winter, we actually found antlers in January. The unseasonably mild weather coupled with the fact the deer were dropping their antlers early, made it productive. We were excited to be getting a jump on the usual season; that is, until the real winter hit us in February. It might have slowed us down, but it didn’t deter us. In April, when the snow had finally melted, we started looking again.

Our success really depends on the weather. We go out as often as possible trying to take advantage of the short season. We start right after the snow has melted and before the forest becomes overgrown. No matter how long or short the season is, I always appreciate being a part of the changing seasons. When we start our search, there are areas of patchy snow, bare trees and shrubs, and barren forest floors. We end at the beginning of May when green grass is sprouting up, buds are forming on trees and bushes, and a variety of birds are calling. I can feel and hear an awakening in the forest that time of year. My favorite is the chorus of spring peepers. Is there any better way to enjoy the beginning of a new season?

Cloudy is better
Tom and I agree it’s easier to look for sheds on an overcast day. The antlers seem to stand out more. The bright sunshine causes a glare, and I have a hard time finding anything. What do I look for? Things out of the ordinary catch my attention. There will be something different about that branch on the ground. The curve and width of the antler is more pronounced than a branch or stick. The coloring might be just a bit off. It could be bleached white from the sun or a darker shade of brown. I look for the smooth and somewhat softer texture than that of a branch.

You really do need to be out in the woods for the love of the outdoors, because if you’re looking for sheds only, you can be disappointed when you come up empty-handed. We could walk for hours and not find anything. We could be out for five minutes and find something. When we find one antler, we check the surrounding area to see if there is a match for a pair. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find the pair. Sometimes we’re just happy with one.

Tom’s enthusiasm has rubbed off on me – I’ve caught the fever. I look forward to the days when we can go out together looking for sheds. I’m easily lured outdoors by the fresh air, the sounds of nature, the warmth of the sun on my face and the fragrance of the woods. It amazes me something so simple can bring so much pleasure. Whether we go our separate ways or walk together quietly absorbing all the outdoors has to offer, finding sheds is just an added bonus to our time together. For me, the hunt for sheds has truly become an enjoyable outdoor experience.

Inspirational Antlers
by Tina Manzer

Now that you’re motivated to hunt for and collect all those shed antlers, what will you do with them?

The Graseks keep the large and unique ones they find and display them in their guesthouse, the converted upper story of their barn. They’ve also sold some of their sheds online.

Many people are inspired to make things out of antlers, with creations ranging from chandeliers to knife handles. “We recently made wine-bottle holders out of antlers,” Frances told us. “Three Brothers’ Winery in Romulus was kind enough to stock them for sale.”

Brant Davis of Gone Wild Creations, a 17-year-old company in Ellicottville that produces real antler chandeliers and other rustic furniture, has seen sales of antler-made products grow in the last five years. “The majority of our work is made from shed antler that we have in inventory,” he told us. “Most of it gets shipped to us from the Rocky Mountain states, as well as from other countries around the world. Hunters will provide their own antler on occasion.”

by Frances Grasek
Twenty years ago, a job at the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus brought Tom Grasek and his family from Rockland County, New York, to the Finger Lakes. Since then, Frances has explored a variety of off-the-beaten-path locations discovered during her travels as a freelance court reporter. A fan of biking, gardening and kayaking, Frances likes any activity that gets her outdoors. “I have a deep appreciation for the beauty of the Finger Lakes Region,” she told us.

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