Conservation For You
BY: G.R. MILLER
MISSOURI CONSERVATION AGENT
During the months of February and March, many deer hunters take to the woods in search of antler sheds. Yes, countless hours are spent scouring the countryside in search of trophy shed antlers. This is an outdoor activity you can share with family members and may give you an incentive to get out of the house and get a little exercise.
In addition to exercise, shed hunting may give you a little insight for deer season next fall. Typically, deer drop their antlers near feeding areas, but they may also drop them in bedding areas as well as along travel corridors. So, if you are fortunate enough to find a large shed, you may make a mental note of the location and formulate a plan on how to harvest that deer next fall when the season rolls around. However, deer habits and patterns change with the seasons, so continued scouting and monitoring will increase your chances for success. Hunters today have the advantage of game cameras to help them monitor the deer near their hunting area. Game cameras along with old fashioned scouting will definitely give you an advantage in harvesting a trophy white-tailed deer.
I am frequently asked “What causes a deer to shed its antlers?” Well, there are a number of reasons, but for the most part bucks shed their antlers when the level of testosterone drops in their blood to a certain level. This may be caused by a lack of estrus does in their home range. In addition, the length of daylight as well as overall health of the deer plays a role in determining when a buck will shed its antlers.
Another question that is commonly asked is “Can I legally possess deer sheds without a special tag or paperwork?” The WILDLIFE CODE states “Any person who finds a dead deer with antlers still attached to the skull plate while afield and takes those antlers in possession must report the taking to a conservation agent within 24 hours to receive possession authorization. Shed antlers not attached to the skull plate found while afield may be possessed, bought and sold without possession authorization”. So, the answer is “No” you don’t need authorization to possess shed antlers. However, if you do sell the antlers you must provide the buyer with a bill of sale consisting of the name and address of the seller and buyer and the date in which the sheds were sold.
If you have further questions about deer sheds or deer in general, you may go online to www.missouriconservation.org or contact the Northeast Regional Office at (660) 785-2420.