Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 Shed Antler Season

Well the reports are starting to trickle in of folks finding a little "brown on the ground", as well as seeing a few bucks here and there sporting one less antler!  The lull between the fall hunts and the spring drop can be a long bit of nothing for many hunters, the anticipation if getting back into the hills to track down the antlers from the boys that got away will about kill a feller!  This year's conditions are a lot better as far as accessing some prime winter grounds, and unless something drastic changes in the weather patterns here in the west, this looks like a great year for laying down boot tracks in search of those sheds!

As you hit the hills, please keep in mind that with the bitter cold, frigid temperatures we have experienced over the past 1-2 months, the deer and elk are pretty stressed this year, and this time of year is one of the most critical for deer and elk anyway as they start to run low on that winter range feed and are doing all they can to survive.  In fact, there have been several reports of people finding deer frozen to death in their beds here lately.  As you hit the hills to search for sheds, please remember that just as there are hunting ethics, there are a few ethical codes we should be following during this season as well.

Pressure:  Winter range in itself is a problem in many areas of the west as habitat is unhealthy and actually disappearing in a lot of areas.  When you get into a good herd of deer or elk, it may be a good thing to just back off for a few days.  Shortly, the weather will change and they will begin to move back up the mountain anyway.  If you do proceed into where they are, do your best to avoid pushing and running them, causing the animals to waste vital energy and food stores in order to flee.  More often than not you aren't going to find your sheds right where the deer are anyway.  Usually you are going to kick them off of beds when you are out in the day, and most of your sheds are actually going to be found in trails to and from water or feed, or in those feeding areas.  Try to focus on those areas to avoid kicking the herds around all day.  Sadly, every year I have also ran into people that intentionally run a herd in hopes of assisting the bucks and bulls to drop their antlers.  I think most of us would agree that this is just lazy and highly unethical, as well as illegal.

Access:  There are 2 points I would like to make here.  First, road systems are very muddy this time of year.  Try to avoid tearing the road surfaces up with your truck or ATVs.  This is a tremendous cost to tax payers to have the roads maintained from spring damage, as well as an unnecessary safety hazard to you and others that may have to come find you if you become stuck and stranded.  If you are getting into bad road conditions, this is probably where you ought to be parking and getting out to hike to find the sheds anyway.

The second part of the topic of access is ATV use.   Again, sadly every year I run across people venturing cross country on their ATVs searching for sheds as they go.  Again, highly illegal and highly unethical.  We all hate to see the federal government lock down our travel systems on public lands more and more, let's not give them the reasoning to keep at it.  Please stay on existing roads and trails.  Getting out on your feet is the best way to find them anyway, and it's better for you physically, and I think adds more of a reward and enjoyment to the experience.

Also, on the topic of ethics, be sure to visit the Utah DWR website if you are in Utah and take your online shed antler ethics course that goes over a lot of these topics, and keeps you legal!   wildlife.utah.gov/shedantler

Optics:  It takes some training for the eye, but one of the best things you can do is find a vantage point and glass, glass, glass!  The people I know that are scooping up lots and lots of sheds do it by tons of glassing and tons of walking.  Click on our Vortex logo on the right sidebar and hook yourself up with some great optics to aid you in finding them!

Predators:  When the deer and elk drop down the mountain, so do their predators, specifically cougars.  I hear of more run ins with mountain lions this time of year than any other.  Be sure to proceed into an area with caution, and look for sign of them as well.  I never go shed hunting without the protection of a firearm.  It is more to scare them off than to actually engage them, but I feel better knowing I am protected.  These animals are also stressed this time of year and can do some crazy things.  A couple of years ago, just outside of town, a cousin of mine was shocked to see a mountain lion jump from a tree and start chasing him on his ATV!  As the scouts always say, "Be Prepared".

Safety:  You are you going to run into a bit of everything during shed season; heat, cold, mud, snow, sudden storms, you name it.  BE prepared for the worst, you never know what may happen to yourself if you slip and break a leg, get back to the truck and find your truck dead, or maybe you had an encounter with one of those cats!  First of all, let someone know where you are going, and have a plan in case you are not back on time.  Take your pack, filled with your basic survival gear; fire starters, emergency food, knife, warm clothes, water purification means, etc.  Be sure to pack plenty of water, wear appropriate boots to handle the terrain and elements, a radio, and GPS.  Again, be prepared!

What to do with those sheds?  
Most of you already have an idea of what to do with those sheds or you wouldn't be doing this already, but I wanted to point you in the direction of some of my best resources.  Most of what people pick up they sell, the small stuff, or maybe even good sets that will fetch top dollar.  Where can you sell them?  Well, if you find yourself in Southern Utah be sure to stop by Shed Inc in Panguitch, Utah where Mat and Randy Houston are going to give you great prices on your antlers.  Stop and see their collection, and they usually run a "shed of the month" contest as well.  The contest is worth getting in on!  You can also follow the action on their Facebok page, www.facebook.com/shedinc.

If you are outside of the area, get in touch with the Snake River Antler BuyerKC will give you great prices as well, and he also travels around the west purchasing antler.  You can also find him on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SnakeRiverAntlerBuyer.

Mountain Mike's Reproductions:  Do you have that trophy set that you just don't want to part with?  I had this dilemma last year. I found a set of 190" sheds that I just didn't want to part with.  I found Mountain Mikes, and thought I would give it a try.  Mountain Mikes makes replicated skulls that you can attach your sheds to, giving the set a European mounted look to them.  Mountain Mikes makes skulls for a variety of game, from whitetail, to mule deer, elk, and more.  I bought a deer kit for my set.  The kit came with 2 mounting plates, small and large which suited both whitetail and mule deer sheds.  The process was simple; first I have to use a saw to cut the bases of the antlers off flush with the burrs, then use a Dremel tool to grind and even those bases out a bit, drill a hole in the base of each antler, then run a screw through the top mounting plate and into the antler to secure it.  Next, just a couple of screws to secure the base of the skull to the top plate, then a little gap filler to go between the two.  I run our of gap filler, but a little Elmer's glue did the trick to complete it (I think that's all their gap filler was anyway.  They send you a mounting plate in the kit, and now I have this great set of sheds displayed on a skull in my trophy room.  If I can do it, anyone can, if that tells you how easy it was!  Find Mountain Mikes at http://masterofskulls.com/ and on their homepage you will find links to vendors that sell the product.




Zach Owens of Panguitch, Utah with a Mountain Mikes Reproduction.


Our Next Contest!
Alright, with shed season on the way, it's only fitting that we have a bit of a contest to make it a bit more interesting!  We are going to do this as a photo contest again.  The contest starts today, and because of the duration of shed season we are going to run this one through March 31st at midnight, MST.  We want to see your photos not only of your sheds, but also of your trips!  Half of the fun is the country covered, the muddy boots, the adventure of it, so also feel free to send photos of not just your sheds but your outing as well.  We are again going to work on getting multiple prizes, in order to crown more than just a first place.  So, stay tuned to see if we add more prizes to the pot as we go along.  For now, check out this prize we have to offer!



We have a Garmin Rino 120 GPS/radio unit.  These little GPS units are great to track your location, as well as to talk to your buddies, all in one!  To qualify you will need to either submit a photo by email to suhuntandfish@gmail.com or post them directly to our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/suhuntandfish.  We are going to use the honor system and trust that your photos are from 2013.  Be sure to give our Facebook page a like if you haven't done so, and share the contest with your friends.  We will keep updating here and on Facebook as we get new prizes added to the pot. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember to get your shed ethics course permit from the dwr web sure its easy and will keep you legal

Anonymous said...

What's the website?

Clifford Sanderson said...

Hey there! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about shed antler season. I am glad to stop by your site and know more about outdoor informations. Keep it up! This is a good read. You have such an interesting and informative page. I will be looking forward to visit your page again and for your other posts as well.

Clifford,
Duck hunting in Nicaragua