My family really loves the outdoors. With several young children around we always have our deerstands filled and we really enjoy deer hunting season. Probably just like you we suffer from the “deer-pression” that comes about once the season ends. Well, this year I decided to figure out a way for our family to continue being active in the outdoors in the off season!
The first idea that came to mind was to build a deer antler catcher! The timing was perfect to start trying to catch horns as the bucks in our area usually start shedding their antlers in January to early February. There is no exact date when this happens, but if you pay attention to your game cameras you may notice bucks starting to drop horns. This is a good sign that deer are starting to lose their antlers.
Generally speaking, in South Carolina antlers will be dropping from mid-December (though that is early) to early April (though that is late). One thing we do know is that after the rut, a buck’s testosterone levels begin to decrease and when they drop to a certain level, antlers will shed. Since testosterone levels to vary from area to area and winter to winter, antlers can shed at various times.
There are a few different ways people go about shed hunting. Some people train dogs to track the smell of antlers, some just go for walks in the woods, and some construct antler traps/catchers. In our case we are opting for the third way, the antler catcher.
You can imagine that my kids were excited for our first family project to be underway! I have 3 sons (Caiden, Bryson, and Kingston), one daughter (Adrianna), and we even got my wife Brandy involved too! With this many young outdoorsmen and women around I have to frequently come up with ideas that they will all enjoy, which is sometimes harder than you think!
Building the Antler Catcher
As a family went out Sunday Jan 8th, 2017, the day after the first 2017 snow, and built our first antler catcher! As you would imagine there are many different styles of antler catchers and there is no official or standard way to build these traps. In our case we are opting for building one using “chicken wire.
Also important is the location of your antler trap. Since hunting season had just ended we have a good understanding of the general trails that deer in our area use to travel. We went out to an active trail near a feeding area and found two trees that were a few feet apart. This was the perfect location for our antler trap.
Once you find the perfect spot you take the chicken wire and wrap it around the trees so that there is wire on both sides of the trees. Pull the wire as tight as possible and staple it to the trees, cut your extra wire off. Take zip ties and run it around the trees and through the wire so that when you tighten the zip tie down it pulls the wire even tighter!
Important: You want to make sure that the wire is tight so that if the bucks aren't ready to drop their horns the tightness will allow them to easily pull their antlers out of the wire and not get hung up!
Then take the fresh corn and pour between the wires so that the deer must stick their heads down close to the wire to get the corn. Havin the wire so close to the corn allows the horns to catch the wire! The idea is that one antler will hit the chicken wire and if the horns are ready to drop the resistance from the wire will help give the antler(s) the final nudge to release and drop. This is like a child pulling their baby teeth out when a tooth is just about to fall. If the horns are ready to come off the resistance in the chicken wire will help them pull off and you should have antlers piled up at the site or close by around it.
This project was a great project for our family. It helps teach the kids and it gives them something to look forward to in the outdoors during the off-season. We hope to collect a lot of sheds this year. We will use the bigger antlers for rattling next season and take the small ones and add them to our collection. We will also have some creative projects for the kids. We will make knife handles, house decorations, and hopefully one day have enough to make a lamp or Christmas tree!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our project and I hope you can take this and use it with your family also! I will post another blog at the end of shed season and give the results! Happy Shed Hunting!