One thing I hated about leaving childhood was outgrowing the Easter morning search for hidden eggs. Until I discovered shed hunting, the adult equivalent of a child’s Easter egg hunt, I didn’t know a person could have so much fun finding dropped antlers hidden by tall grass. My husband introduced me to this spring ritual soon after we met. Discovering that first antler thrilled me the same way finding treasured Easter eggs had.
Any Easter Bunny worth his salt knows to hide an egg so finding it is nearly a miracle. Well-camouflaged eggs require a hunter’s eye to zero in on miniscule differences between the hiding place and the colored cackleberry.
Mother Nature and male deer practice the Bunny’s trickery on a less sophisticated level when it comes to hiding antlers. By late winter, grasses lose their green and most of their winter russet and gold to turn a tawny bone-color. Tall, sere grass blends with bone-colored antlers, hiding them perfectly until a person practically steps on them.
Bucks that don’t become menu items during hunting season lose their antlers somewhere between January and March. Sometimes both beams shed at the same time, or the buck drops one antler at a time. As a result, experienced drop hunters know to keep looking for a second prize in the near vicinity of the first.
Once an antler drops, the fun begins. The best part about this seasonal activity is it isn’t over in one morning. Throughout the shedding season, different deer may drop antlers near the place where one was already found, so shed hunters may return to a site several times to find treasure. We once visited a location near Casper, Wyoming, where herds went year after year to shed their racks. We found freshly dropped antlers as well as weathered beams.
Just as some Easter egg hunters are luckier than others at finding eggs, some antler hunters are luckier. Part of this has to do with how often these folks search, but some people have the eye. Over the years, I have found a few antlers while my husband has found many. We know some shed hunters find even more.
I always hoped to find enough to build a deer antler arch similar to the elk antler arch in Jackson Hole.
Without a lot more work than my spouse and I have put into this, that isn’t going to happen. However, I wouldn’t mind taking a lesson from friends who turn their finds into lamps, playing pieces for checker boards, buttons, drawer and knife handles, and wine racks. Regardless of whether I become an antler artisan or not, I love feeling the childhood thrill of searching for a well-hidden object.