There's no doubt finding sheds can be exciting, but once you've found them, what can you do with them? The answer is: a lot. From collecting and crafting, to decorating and eating, the uses for discarded bones are endless. Even if your wife doesn't approve of such primitive things in the house, all is not lost for a good shed hunter.
There is just something about shed antlers. The way they look and what they mean to the hunter invokes those that find them to want to hold on to them. Keeping shed antlers is a physical record of a particular hunting area, or even a particular animal. There is something valuable about being able to put actual tape on antlers from an area you hunt. There is even more value in being able to track a deer's growth from year to year. This data aside, the excitement of a find makes some sheds too precious to do anything with besides watch collect dust.
For the shed hunter, the most unique antlers deserve a place in the house for all to see. The rest join the collection pile outside. Many avid shed hunters take pride in their shed pile. Like any collection, the collector has a desire to constantly add to the lot and keep searching for the few treasured sheds that are good enough to bring inside.
Some shed piles are a sight to see and can tower the tallest of hunters. The best public collections can be found outside of the National Bison Range in Montana, or the famous shed piles in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Antlers have been crafted into useful things for thousands of years. Although the origins may have been purely for survival, like making weapons and tools, today we can appreciate the art of antlers. Shed antlers can be used for something as simple as making buttons, or something as intricate as making knife handles.
All sorts of items can be easily made at home. Antlers are fairly easy to work with when using the proper tools. A Dremel tool set is the single best tool for antler working. With a little know-how, antlers can be used to create hundreds of different items. Cribbage boards can be a fun and an easy one to start with that almost anyone can craft.
You've heard the adage "you can't eat the horns," but that's not necessarily true. Deer antlers are edible, and not just as a pill used in eastern medicine or a health supplement. Antlers can be used to make gelatin by boiling the ground antler and straining off the remains, which could be used to make fruit gelatin or added to homemade jellies.
Processed antlers can also be used in baking recipes. Although rare now, some old recipes still call for Hartshorn. This product is made from distilled, ground antler by burning in kilns, which makes ammonium carbonate. This was the predecessor to baking powder, which is still used today in thin shaped cookies and crackers. When heated, the gaseous ammonia is released in the baking process, acting as a leveling agent.
Although you would not just bite into a shed antler or boil it up and put it on a plate, recently antlers have grown in popularity as dog chews. This is now a large part of the shed antler market. Dogs enjoy gnawing on them and get calcium as an added bonus. Just because you're not willing to eat the antler doesn't mean your dog won't be thankful a shed hunting trip.
Chandeliers and lamps remain the driving force in the shed market, but really they're used in all types of modern dÃ©cor. From centerpieces on a table to bookends and jewelry holders, castaway antlers have become hip.
Pintrest and other sites are showcasing what hunters have known all along: that antlers are awesome and look great in the house. Unlike crafting, home dÃ©cor situations require less toolsmanship. A well-placed antler is all it takes to create a room that'll impress hunters and non-hunters alike. The simplest project I've done is attaching a shed to the bathroom wall for a unique towel hanger.
It's like money just lying in the hills. Shed antlers are big business, and buyers are out there looking to pay you to find them. Most antlers are purchased at a price per pound and on a quality grading system.
As a general average, brown mule deer antlers fetch around $10 per pound and brown elk antlers average $12 per pound. Last year's white antlers in good condition are $8 per pound for mule deer and $10 per pound for elk. Chalky, white antlers still have a value, but around $1-3 per pound. Fresh whitetail sheds generally fetch around $6-8 per pound, but are not as easily sold as mule deer and elk. This is because the market is saturated with humongous whitetail antlers from farmed deer.
Although some buyers will pay a premium for sets, this generally only applies to extremely large or unique antlers. A 400 class elk can fetch over $1500, while a 200-inch mule deer can be worth $500 or more. In some instances, individual antlers or sets have been sold at a much higher price to collectors looking for giant or one-of-a-kind animals.
As for smaller matched sets, a 170-inch mule deer goes for around $60, and 300 class elk sells in the $200 range. If nothing else, shed hunting can turn into a hobby that pays for itself or provides you with a little extra cash for when the real hunting begins.