Whitetail bucks grow their antlers to use in fighting for does during the breeding season, and when it’s over, their testosterone levels begin to drop, the tissue and bone at the antler base weakens, and they drop off, usually one at a time, but sometimes close together. It can happen anytime between January and March, so right now is a good time to seek them. One way to find a few “sheds” is to just start walking in territory that is known to be good deer country. If you hike long enough, you’ll probably come across one or more eventually.
Don’t look for full antlers. You might happen across one, of course, but you’ll do best by keeping an eye open for the tip of a tine sticking out of the leaves, or the curves of a main beam in the grass. Train your eyes to look for these parts, and you’ll be more likely to find them. To save wasted steps, concentrate on areas where deer will spend the winter. Wildlife areas usually have food plots from corn to grain for winter wildlife use, and deer will use these, so they’re good places to look.
Private land owners who do the same, or leave some corn unharvested are good places to look too, and since deer are browsers, especially in winter, feeding on twigs and brush, hunt these hard along with bedding areas with good wind protection where animals can lay up for the day. That means creek bottoms, areas of thick brush in the form of hawthorns, briers, and evergreens are all good places to do serous searching. Remember where you found game during hunting seasons and hunt those places thoroughly.
Finally, be patient. You might find a shed or two almost immediately, but you’re far more likely to walk for long hours to turn up one or two. Don’t expect to walk a woodlot for an hour or two and come home with an arm full, because it’s just not likely to happen. Take your time, enjoy the country you’re hunting, and expect to put in long hours or even days to turn up something worth taking home.
The next question is — what can you do with your finds? Depending on your creative ability, almost anything. When my nephew was just 14 years old, he found a good thick shed from a 10 pointer, bought a couple of knife blades, and made decorative handles for them, then self tanned the hide of a doe he killed, and made sheaths for each. You can do that, too. You might use some to make chandeliers and lamps, as bathroom towel handles, as wall ornaments in your den or hunting cabin, as door handles, buttons, fireplace tools, jewelry, the list goes on.
It doesn’t take much to make those things, either. You’ll need a hacksaw or band saw, a drill to make holes, a disc or belt sander, maybe a rotary grinder, vise, and some basic skill or imagination. Google up “Books on deer shed projects” or buy from Amazon such as Antlers, Bone, Horn & Hide by Monte Burch. You’ll find everything you need to know.
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Hooks & bullets
• It's always interesting to try new lakes or to hunt new wildlife areas, but success will be greater if you have a good, well detailed map to take along and show the lake bottom or wildlife area woods and creeks. The Division of Wildlife offers public hunting and fishing maps highlighting access and opportunities throughout the state, and these will definately help. To get one or more, call the Wildlife District headquarters in a chosen part of the state or 1-800-WILDLIFE to order. You can also view and print these maps at wildohio.gov.
• Got a youngster who loves bass fishing? The Bass Anglers Sportsmens Society (BASS) is now accepting nominations to join the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team and perhaps be recognized as one of the 12 best high school angles in the nation. To be considered, a student must be nominated by a parent, coach, teacher or other school official. Students currently enrolled in grades 10 through 12 with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher will qualify. Adults can nominate students by completing an online form at Bassmaster.com/all-American.
• The Division of Wildlife plans to make life tougher for poachers and other law beakers with a new wildlife K-9 program. One wildlife officer from each of the Divisions districts will become handlers in the program, using trained dogs to detect hidden game such as deer, turkeys, waterfowl and fish, along with non-game scents like ginseng and gun powder. The dogs will be friendly and socialized to participate in conservation programs and youth events.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.