Shed Hunting with Dogs

For most dog owners, it doesn’t get much better than enjoying the great outdoors with our companion animals along for the adventure. One pastime you can do with them that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is shed hunting. Did you know you can find shed antlers year-round and you can train your dog to find them? Read on to learn more.

What is shed hunting?

Shed hunting is the practice of looking for antlers dropped by deer in the off-season. The great thing about sheds is that they’re always there, although they’re freshly dropped between late winter and early spring.

Antler 300x300 2Are there shed hunting dogs?

The same dog breeds that are seen as good for hunting—Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shorthair pointers, etc.—also tend to be viewed as a good fit for shed hunting. But when it comes down to it, breed doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that your dog has a strong play and prey drive.

Dogs trained specifically for shed hunting are typically trained at an early age to scent shed antlers. But you can teach your dog later in life too. Even if your dog isn’t trained for shed hunting, it likely will enjoy accompanying you and will have fun.

Is there shed dog training?

Yes, there are various programs; the majority comprise online courses and books. You can also teach a dog how to hunt shed antlers at home. It takes persistence and time, just like any other skill, but it can be done.

Can dogs play with shed antlers?

Yes. In fact, many pet stores and websites sell shed antlers as chew toys. However, most dogs prefer them fresh from the woods rather than cleaned and polished by a retailer. One of the great things about shed hunting with your dog is that the discovery is its own reward.

Is shed hunting legal?

Yes. That is, looking for sheds and not taking antlers from deer that’ve been hit by a car or died in some other way. Most shed hunters look for antlers from deer such as whitetails, blacktails and muleys, since they shed their antlers annually.

Keep in mind that laws regarding trespassing, property lines and other issues still apply. Crossing a fence line or opening a gate to a property where you don’t have permission—even if it’s just in pursuit of a shed—is never legally justified.

It’s also important to understand the law regarding deadheads, the skulls of dead bucks that didn’t lose their antlers before dying. In most states, it’s illegal to move or take possession of a deadhead without a tag. Check with your game warden to find out whether you’re legally required to have a tag to take an entire deadhead or to remove its antlers.

Attempting to set a trap for the purpose of getting a buck’s antlers is illegal in all states. As with anything, check your local laws. Claiming ignorance of the law is never a valid legal defense.

Dog 300x300 2Is there a shed hunting season?

Most states don’t have a specific season for shed hunting, but some do. For example, Wyoming prohibits it prior to May 1, largely to reduce unnecessary stress on the animals during tough winter months. Violations in states where there’s a set season can result in hefty fines and loss of preference points, which accumulate to increase the chances of getting tags for certain hunts. Be aware that these violations even apply to being out for another reason, spotting a shed and picking it up.

What can you do with shed antlers?

Sheds are used for everything from making jewelry or cloth napkin holders, to being used for household decorating purposes. They’re also great for dogs to chew on and useful for rattling in bucks during deer season. Some people even use them to create antler Christmas trees or light fixtures. The only limit to their use is your imagination.

Where can you find sheds?

Deer drop/shed their antlers in all sorts of places, so it pays to look closely wherever you are. Shed antlers can get hung up in trees and feeders, left behind where deer bed down, or scattered in open fields. You’re most likely to find them in places where deer have either rubbed them against objects or caught them on something as they were losing them.

Should you go shed hunting?

If you enjoy being outdoors and don’t mind a hike, shed hunting can be a pleasant pastime. Dogs typically love it too because they get to spend time with their favorite human and play in the dirt and woods. Check your local laws, lace up your favorite boots and hit the woods with your four-legged friend. Let the shed hunting adventures begin!


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