I’m talking about deer sheds, not tool sheds.
When you hear the word “shed,” you probably think of the shack that sits in the back of your property where you store your gardening tools and whatnot. You may conjure up a little house with a smokestack and old barn wood siding where a hunter might stop for a break.
But I’m referring to deer antlers that have fallen off naturally. In Appalachian terms, those antlers are better known as “sheds.” You can use sheds for a multitude of crafts and ornamentations. And you can feel good about your rustic décor since all they cost you was a walk in the hills.
Black Mountain Gatherer
Betty Nichols, of Black Mountain, North Carolina, has been collecting sheds for several years. She makes a point every winter to take her hikes in areas where the deer population is strong. She’s found some small pointers, but also came up with some impressive six- and eight-point sheds. It’s a peaceful way to spend a Sunday afternoon — and find treasure along the way. Betty uses her sheds to decorate a Christmas tree at a local business and in her home as well.
Finding sheds is not as easy a taking a hike, though. Finding deer antlers in the Appalachians can be more adventurous because of the terrain. So it’s helpful to know when and where to look.
Ask a Shed Hunting Expert
With a little help from a book called Shed Hunting: A Guide to Finding Whitetail Deer Antlers, by Joe Shead (Minnesota's Bookstore, Shed Antler Press), I gathered a few pointers of my own to help you get started:
- Find areas that deer frequent during winter. Deer tracks in the snow give them away, too.
- Bucks separate from the does and fawns in the winter. Follow their tracks to find the biggest sheds.
- Search preserves and low-hunted areas.
- Look in fields, too. Walk slowly and keep your eyes to the ground.
- Deer generally favor a southern exposure for their beds.
- Look for places where deer jump, such as by fences or downed trees. Jumping can cause them to lose their antlers.
- Time your search. Deer often lose their antlers from January to March in the Appalachians, although it varies due to the size and health of the deer, as well as the weather patterns.
- When the time comes, don’t wait! Squirrels, chipmunks and other small animals hunt sheds for their protein. A squirrel can devour an antler in a week.
Enjoy your shed hunting and let me know if you find a treasure of a shed. Share your discovery on the Simply Appalachian Facebook page — I’m a lot easier to find than sheds.