Responsible shed hunting

January 30, 2019

A growing number of people take to the woods in winter, looking for antlers that have been shed by Oregon’s deer and elk. This also is a critical time for big game, and shed hunting responsibly can help protect vulnerable animals.

As big game hunting seasons end, another season begins: shed hunting.

Sheds are deer and elk antlers that are naturally “shed” by deer and elk in winter and early spring. Some shed hunters look for sheds as a way to scout for where animals might be during fall hunting season. Others collect sheds to make chandeliers or other crafts.

You don't need a license or permit to hunt for sheds, but in order to deter poaching there are a few rules:

image of successful shed hunter
Photo courtesy of Oregon Shed Hunters

  • Shed hunters can only pick up antlers that have been naturally shed by deer and elk in the wild. Antlers still attached to skulls must remain in the woods.
  • (Unlike deer and elk, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats do not shed their horns each year, so don’t expect to find them as “sheds.”)
  • You cannot keep the antlers of a deer or elk you salvage under Oregon’s new roadkill salvage law. Instead, you must surrender the antlers and head to an ODFW office within five business days of picking up the carcass.
  • If you prefer to buy sheds to make handcrafted items rather than find them yourself, you’ll need a Hide/Antler permit ($34).
  • Once an antler falls off it legally becomes the property of the landowner. Therefore shed hunters need to get permission from private landowners to access their property and pick up sheds.

In addition to these legal rules, ODFW asks shed hunters to follow these guidelines to help protect big game animals during a time of year when they need to be conserving energy to make it through the winter:

  • Don’t disturb big game animals: Don’t approach animals or follow the same ones on a daily basis.
  • Respect road and area closures. These are in place to protect winter range and wintering big game. Some ODFW wildlife areas are entirely closed to public access during late winter; other areas have road and travel restrictions. More information see the Oregon Big Game Hunting Regulations.
  • Don’t take vehicles off-roading. The ground is water-logged at this time of year and off-roading in the wrong place can damage critical wildlife and fish habitat. Travel by foot or horseback instead.
  • Try not to be in the same spot every day. Deer and elk might need to be in that spot for food or cover, and your presence will keep them from it.
  • Keep dogs under your control. Don’t let dogs approach or follow wildlife. State law prohibits dogs (and people) from harassing wildlife. (OAR 498.102 and 498.006)
  • Respect private property. You always need permission to be on private land. Antlers that are shed on private land below belong to the landowner under Oregon statutes.

image of successful shed hunter
Photo courtesy of Oregon Shed Hunters

Oregon’s buck deer shed their antlers from late December through March and bull elk shed them from late February through early April. Antlers begin re-growing soon after they are shed, with most growth happening in spring and summer months. The antlers are covered by “velvet” throughout this growth period, before hardening to bone in late July-early August for elk and late August-early September for deer. This makes antlers ready in time for breeding season (in September for elk and November for deer), when male deer or elk will fight for dominance using their antlers.

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