Shed hunting.

Submitted by Julie Gabrielsonm, Nevada Department of Wildlife

The great yearly, scavenger hunt for antlers shed by deer, elk, and moose.

After an exhausting rut (mating season) in early winter, males in the elk, deer and moose species experience a significant drop in testosterone levels.  This triggers a specialized cell called “osteoclasts” to begin breaking down the bone at the base of the antler (pedicle), near the skull.  After several weeks, the antler will easily fall off.

The timing of antlers falling off, is paired with the wildlife’s final push for essential nutrients to get through the remainder of winter and begin the migration back to summer ranges.  Deer, elk, and moose rely heavily on wintering grounds for survival.  Without knowing it, shed hunters can push or move them, forcing them to find new food sources, creating additional challenges for the herds at a critical time of year.  This has led to many states, establishing shed hunting seasons.

When shed hunting, a lot of miles are covered and there isn’t a proven method to guarantee a pack full of antlers at the end of the day.  For the sake of the animals and your safety in the field, there are some things you need to know before your boots hit the dirt.

  • Know the local regulations. In several Nevada counties, legal shed hunting runs from May 1st to December 31st.    “A person may not take or gather shed antlers from public land in Elko, Eureka, Lander, Lincoln, Nye or White Pine counties from Jan 1–April 30 of each year.” (Refer to NAC 503.172)
  • Behave respectfully and ethically on both public and private property.
  • Shed hunting is a new and rewarding adventure in hiking. Spend more time on foot than on wheels.  Driving trucks or OHVs off open roads and trails damages habitat that wildlife depends on.
  • Prepare for weather and terrain. What starts as frozen ground in the morning can quickly thaw into a vehicle hazard by mid-day.  Bring extra layers, food, water, and emergency supplies.
  • Dress appropriately. Shed hunting season brings unpredictable weather as well as a chance encounter with other wildlife emerging from cold nights, to warm up in the sun.
  • Tell someone who’s familiar with the area, where you are going and the plan for the outing.
  • Make it a family event. Bringing the kids, pets, and friends not only makes for great memories, but it also increases the chances of finding a treasure!
  • If you pack it in, pack it out.

Shed hunting is a great opportunity to brush off the winter blues, take in some fresh air, and learn some new country.  Some additional items that may make your shed hunting experience even better, include comfortable boots, a good day pack with extra straps to tie sheds up, binoculars, inReach or Spot GPS emergency transponder, and a GPS mapping app that will allow you to see property ownership and boundaries.

Now, go plan your shed hunt!  Be smart, be safe and have a ton of fun doing it!

For more information about shed hunting, call your Nevada Department of Wildlife, 775-777-2300.  You can also find numerous shed hunting articles and videos online.