HOW ANTLERS ARE ETHICALLY OBTAINED FOR ANTLER CRAFT?
Clients often ask, “How do you get your antlers?”
That question comes up all the time, here is the explanation of this amazing phenomenon that takes place annually here in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
Every year, a matched pair of antlers grow on all male deer. Each spring that same set of antler falls from the head of those male deer in a process we call antler “shedding” during “the shed season”. Those same male deer (elk, moose, whitetail deer and mule deer) start immediately growing a new set of antlers just as soon as the last set falls off in a continuous cycle that lasts the lifetime of the animal. A mature bull elk may grow and shed 15 sets of antlers over the course of his life, each set growing larger than the one before until he reaches full maturity at about age 8. At full maturity the size of the antlers will usually stay about the same from then on. You can guess that those antlers laying on the ground are a prized find for the lucky hiker who happens upon them and picks them up. These hardy individuals who hike the steep hills each spring in search of the shed antlers are called “shed pickers” or “shed hunters”.
Starting about mid February, we begin to see shed pickers bringing us their finds to sell. This brisk business of buying shed antlers continues through May until we’ve purchased enough antler to supply the shop for the rest of the year until it starts all over again the next spring.
No animals are harmed in this process of obtaining antler and the shed pickers endure some
extreme weather and remote back country situations in their search. I have shed antler hunted for decades and can tell you, it’s not easy. Many days can go by without finding a single antler, but you stay with the course and keep hiking until you find what y
ou came for. That moment of joy can ease the pain, but you still have to tie them on your back pack and hike back to camp, hopefully before a blinding spring snow storm completes the day!I know many of you are already familiar with shed antler picking but this page was for those who always wondered how we get our antlers.
For fun, I’ve included some actual pictures of shed antler hunting on this page. Most of these pictures are taken near where I live in Montana. Some show how a shed antler naturally appears, laying on the ground, before being picked up. You can even find me in one of the pictures with my son and some of his close friends.