During the shed hunting season every year, many people wish to and try to collect antlers from the deer territories. The antlers are beautiful, even majestic at times, and a great collectible no doubt, which is why a lot of people try to hunt for them.
The antlers fall off the deer naturally after the winter arrives, and those fallen antlers are what is collected during the shed hunting season.
The antlers can look great as a showpiece at home, or a bungalow, set up on a wall giving the house a lot more serious and bolder look if nothing else. The popularity of this hunting is so much so that many people resort to different ways of getting their hands on them.
Although some people walk through the deer territory to get their hands on them, these days use of antler traps is quite common as well.
Why People Prefer Antler Trappers?
The traps make it easier to find antlers and even collect a larger number of antlers than what one would have done normally. The antler trappers look not so harmful for the Deer in their functionality.
It is a simple thing if you look at how it works. The deer falls for the trap, the weakened antler or the antler under the process of shedding gets trapped in it and gets detached or falls off. It stays stuck to it, and then later, the person who set up the antler trapper can come and collect it.
However, it is not always a harmless thing. That is why one should not use them, and instead find better alternatives to them no matter how lucrative it might seem.
The traps are made up of metal wires, fiber wires, strong nets, or materials used to make fences and such as well. The material is usually something that can resemble the structure shown in the image, which is strong enough and the bait can be seen and smelled through it easily.
Let Us Talk About the Shedding
Antlers are usually found in male deer. However, they can be found in females with higher testosterone levels as well. The antlers grow when the animal consumes sufficient minerals. The Antlers are somewhat connected to the testosterone level in the body of the animal. So, when the testosterone level of the animal drops significantly the antlers start to shed.
During this time, the antlers actually absorb calcium and start separating from the point it is joined to the skull. It starts becoming rougher and rougher and poriferous. Eventually, it breaks from the point and drops down at the moment it gets the weakest. However, it is not necessary that it may always fall off.
Sometimes, the antlers may remain attached and even get stronger at the point of connection to the skull. So, in a trap, the antlers get stuck, and if they are weak enough, even if not the weakest, due to the force the deer puts upon it to get out of the trap, the antlers break and get stuck there.
Why Are Antler Trappers Bad?
So far it does not look harmful since the antlers are supposedly weak and get detached without much hindrance. That is not the case. As discussed earlier, the antlers detach depending upon the testosterone levels. And even then, it may not be weak enough. In such cases, the antlers will not come out unless they are forcefully torn out of the heads of the deer.
This is what happens many a time when people use antler trappers to get the sheds. Sometimes, even deer whose antlers were still under the process of having their antlers weaken fall for the bait in the trappers and must forcefully remove their antlers to break free.
Due to the forceful detachment, a part of the deer’s skull or muscle from around the head also tears off along with the antler. This is not a rare thing to happen, but on the contrary, this happens a lot and causes serious harm to many innocent animals. The injury at first can harm the future growth of the antlers.
The antlers might not grow as they are supposed to and even harm the animal for many reasons. A deformed antler can affect the buck’s natural life, especially their mating life, duels with other bucks, and defend themselves from a predator. The injury can get infected and make the deer die sooner. The injury can also cause brain damage of some kind causing the deer to die eventually, sometimes within weeks or days.
Showpiece Is Not More Important than an Animal’s Life.
No matter how we look at it, the life of the deer or the buck is much more precious and incomparable to the value of the showpiece or collectible that an antler is. People killing these animals indirectly just for their antlers is unethical and even illegal in many states.
Alternatives for the Trappers
Once a person drops the idea of using the traps to get antlers, they can focus on other alternative methods that change the hunting experience.
Using Cameras and Feeding
This method is long but effective enough. Here the bucks are given supplementary food to feed on. The bait or the food is laid out for them somewhere in their territory which attracts the deer around it. The more often the bucks are around the bait and the more in number they come, the higher goes the chances of getting antlers during the shedding season.
However, do make a note before using this method that it is not legal in certain states or places to give feeders to bucks. The high in nutrients supplements can be harmful to the bucks as they are not used to them naturally. The bucks are normally used to feeding on low nutrient food sources during winters. Their stomachs are adapted in that way. For that also they have to look carefully through the forest or the area in order to survive.
Now if they get the food easily through the feeder and that too rich in nutrient levels, the deer can starve. This is first because the deer’s stomach is not used to digest such a high level of nutrient-laden food.
The digestive microorganisms inside its stomach are incapable of digesting and extracting the nutrients and so is the overall digestive system. This, plus the ease of availability causes the deer to keep feeding on it nonetheless while starving gradually. This becomes a pernicious thing for the deer in the longer turn and can weaken the deer.
However, this can be avoided. By getting the animal adapted to the food source you are going to use it as the bait or the feeder. First, introduce a small quantity of the stuff, say around 8 pounds or 10. Then slowly increase the quantity every week. This allows the deer to have ample time for adaptation.
Now the second step is to add cameras to the locations. Having trail cameras works the best. This way one can keep a track of how many bucks are there in the area, how many have antlers, their age, and health conditions as well can be tracked down. This helps to see if any deer’s antler got dropped off near the feeder without having to go and check the location manually again and again.
Let us say if one spot a deer with an antler one day on their camera, and after a few days they spot the same one, recognize it, without an antler, one can know that the antler has been dropped somewhere and can go search for it around the area or keep a track of it for the eventual search every two weeks or so.
Having multiple cameras, one camera per 80 acres or so, across the area can help keep a track of the deer in a much more organized and better way, and the chances of witnessing a shedding or finding a dropped antler on one of the cameras go up much higher.
The Traditional Method
Probably the most enjoyable and the perfect way to hunt antlers during the shedding season would be to go on a hike by you and search for them. Strap on your boots, get on the jacket and the essentials and just go out there by yourself to the hotspots where the probability of the bucks being is the highest.
One of the hotspots is near any water source, such as a lake, or a food source. Animals frequently visit the water sources, and the bucks are no exception to that. Scouting the areas and scanning them for the antlers is surely a great way to start the hunt.
To go manual searching, one also should have some extra knowledge which makes things not just interesting but also easier. There are books and information on the internet or can be learned from someone experienced as well such as about the signs of the presence of a deer in the area such as some scrapes on a tree or presence of faces, footsteps, places where the food sources might be present and such.
The signs can be studied prior to the antler searching season to learn about the movements of the bucks and learn their trajectory, find out the places of bedding for the animal, and predict where all they can be present, and thus narrow down some areas for the search.
The Bedding areas are also one of the locations with the highest probability of having fallen antlers, that too in a good quantity. However, be cautious that you do not step or step very carefully into a bedding territory before the bucks have shed their antlers.
If you are spotted and the animals get scared, they will shift their locations, and then it will become more of a hassle to find their new bedding location on time.
Each Deer Is Different
The testosterone level of the deer varies individually within the same species as well as can greatly vary among different species of the same animal. Some shed early while some shed late, and some may shed not at all.
The shedding is also affected by the weather of the area, the nutritional quality of the food that the animals are getting, any type of injury that may have occurred to them (especially to the antler), and their stress level as well (as the hormonal level gets affected by the stress level). Safe to say however, that the animal sheds between the month of December and March.
Prepare for the Next Season
Some people might not have a bedding area or a water source on their property which they go hunting in since some people use their private property only for the search as it is illegal to hunt on someone else’s property.
Now, in that case, one can do many things to attract the bucks like leaving a portion of the land with crops for them to feed on before the winter arrives. This can be also done on the property that people take on lease for the season.
Therefore, in these ways, the use of harmful antler trappers can be stopped with the benefit of having a good time hunting for the antlers and learning as well in the process. Saves the lives of many bucks and gets your hands on those majestic and beautiful antlers that you have been looking for, just by adding a little more effort.