Four Essentials of Elk Antler Shed Hunting

Every spring thousands of outdoor enthusiasts head into the mountains in search of bull elk antler sheds. Most folks pick up 2 or 3 every season after spending hours combing the forest and mountains for sheds. I have lived in the eastern White Mountains of Arizona since the early 1990’s and have been hunting antler sheds every spring. I generally pick up 30-50 sheds a season and average one about every 2 1/2 hours. Here are some tips on how you can increase your odds of finding bull elk antler sheds.

OUTERWEAR
Mountain weather can be inclimate and change with very little notice. You will need to prepare yourself in advance by wearing the proper outerwear. First off, you need to be wearing a really good pair of boots. The terrain is steep and the footing is loose. Hiking shoes just won’t do the job. Hiking boots are better, but your best bet is a good leather Gore-Tex hunting boot. I prefer Danner Boots, they are comfortable and sturdy. Next is a regular pair of denim blue jeans. You are constantly going through brush, butt sliding, kneeling and occasionally slipping and falling. Nylon pants get tore up pretty fast. For a top layer, a wick dry tee-shirt along with a technical nylon or fleece top will work very well. You want to stay warm, but allow the sweat to be wicked away. It’s also a good idea to wear a bright color on top especially if you’re shed hunting with a partner, you need to be able to see each other from a distance. Camo is generally not a good idea. A good baseball style hat is also essential to keep the sun out of your eyes. I wear a long bill hat from my wife’s fly fishing guide business. This is mainly because you will not be wearing sunglasses, sunglasses tint the natural surrounding and you will not see the antlers laying on the ground unless they’re old white chalks. Sunglasses also make it difficult to use binoculars effectively.

EQUIPMENT
There are three essential items that you should senderismo en carry with you at all times when you’re shed hunting. The first is a good pair of binoculars. I use a pair of 12×50’s that can be purchased for around $100-150. You also want to purchase the over the shoulder straps for the bino’s ($15). These will hold the glasses close to your chest and keep them from banging on rocks and hanging up in the brush. Next is a sidearm, if allowed in your state. You will be hiking into prime mountain lion country. I carry a.45 titanium revolver and it has saved my life twice by firing warning shots above charging lions. I have never killed one. (Perhaps a future story?) I simply will not go deep into the mountains without a sidearm and will not allow hunting companions to do so either. Finally you will need a 2000-3000 cu.in. backpack with straps that will clip and unclip the antlers onto the back of the pack. Preferably, also a bladder reservoir with a bite tube for hydration.

Remember, the points always are packed away from you and depending on the size of the antler, the button may point up or down… try not to let the points dig into your butt, or bang against your head. I can carry (3-4) antlers in this manner, then one in each hand if I find a real honey hole. Your pack should include: extra hard shell, in case of inclimate weather, radios, if traveling with more than one person (essential), headlamp, matches, map, GPS (optional) first aid kit, utility tool like a Leatherman, sunscreen, toilet paper, extra liter of water and your lunch. In some areas, such as the Blue Wilderness, I carry a lightweight climbing harness, a couple of carabiners, rappel device and a 100′ length of static rappelling rope for getting myself out of tricky situations.




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