Statewide

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.

About shed hunting in Oregon

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.

Shed hunters often begin looking for sheds as soon as access and conditions allow. However, by late winter big game animals aren't finding a lot of nutritious food, and need to be conserving energy so the can migrate to summer ranges a bit later in the year.

Late winter shed hunting, especially with dogs, can stress big game animals when they are most vulnerable. Please consider delaying your shed hunting until May or June -- most deer will be moving off their winter range, and you might enjoy better hunting conditions.

Also, winter road closures are in place to help reduce stress to animals -- please respect them.

Know the rules for shed hunting

You don't need a license or permit to hunt for sheds, but in order to deter poaching there are a few rules—and some areas are closed until spring to protect wintering big game. Read on to learn more:

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

When deer, elk shed

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.

Remember that some ODFW wildlife areas are closed until spring to protect wintering big game (see regulations for more info).

Wildlife area closures:

  • White River Wildlife Area (Wasco County), lands north of Forest Rd 27 closed to public access Dec. 1-March 31.
  • Wenaha Wildlife Area (Wallowa County), closed to public access Jan. 1-March 31. (Access still allowed at designated camping areas, on ODFW land along the Wenaha River, and between Grande Ronde River Road and Grand Ronde River from Redmond grade bridge below Troy to the mouth of the Wildcat Creek.)
  • Bridge Creek Wildlife Area (Umatilla County), closed Dec. 1-April 14.
  • Elkhorn Wildlife Area (Baker and Union Counties), closed Dec. 1-April 10.
  • Phillip W Schneider Wildlife Area (Grant County), closed Feb. 1-April 14.
  • Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (Union County), lands west of Foothill Rd closed Feb. 1-March 31
  • Starkey Experimental Forest Enclosure (Union County), closed Nov. 15-April 30

Motor vehicle restrictions

  • Lost River Winter Range, closed to motor vehicles Dec. 1-April 15
  • Bryant Mtn, closed to motor vehicle use Nov. 1-April 15
  • Tumalo Winter Range, restricted motor vehicle use Dec. 1-March 31
  • Prineville Reservoir WA, closed to motor vehicle use Nov. 15/Dec. 1 until April 15
  • Cabin Lake-Silver Lake Winter Range, closed to motor vehicle use Dec. 1-March 31
  • Metolius Winter Range, restricted motor vehicle use Dec. 1-March 31
  • Spring Creek Winter Range, closed to motor vehicles Dec. 15-April 30
  • McCarty Winter Range, closed to motor vehicles Dec. 15-March 31
  • Lost River Winter Range, closed to motor vehicles Dec. 1-April 15

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