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The Roving Sportsman: The Many Uses of Shed Antlers

This week’s changing weather pattern has finally begun to reveal the hope that springtime is just around the corner. With midday temperatures steadily holding in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s, we can look forward to a slow and even melting of the winter snows and ice and the eventual greening up of the landscape. It is the ideal scenario for success in locating shed antlers. So, what do you do when you come across a shed antler?

More than likely, you will come across sheds from 1 ½ or 2 ½ year old bucks – they are fun to find, but not all that noteworthy, yet definitely worth keeping. When you happen to find a shed from a 3 ½ year old or older buck, it will have more mass and likely have more points. If you find one of these larger sheds from a buck you wish you had seen in the previous deer season, make a mental note of exactly where it was found. Even though this winter has been a little tougher on the deer population because of the deep snow and ice, there is a real chance that buck may still be living come the fall season. Placing a trail camera or two could help identify what his travel patterns are and where he prefers to bed and locate his feeding areas as well.

But, when you have finally picked up your last dropped antler for the season, what the heck do you do with the ones you have collected? Well, there is quite a number of ways to display or use them.

An ideal setup in a game room or family room is merely a single antler or pair of antlers on a window sill or on a bookshelf. Multiple antlers display well in a woven wicker basket or old copper bucket sitting alongside a couch or easy chair as an accent piece. A functional way to use them is to incorporate them into a lighting device – I have seen them stacked together as the main body of a table lamp and also used as the main trunk of a floor lamp. A large number of antlers joined together in a circle, with small candle-like lights can make a dramatic hanging ceiling light.

When it comes to arts and crafts uses of these shed antlers, you are limited only by your imagination. I have seen antlers used as drawer or door handles, and sometimes the bases of the antlers cut to be used as door or drawer knobs. Sections of antlers can easily be used as handles for all kinds of tools – from knives to picks, files, chisels and gouges. They have been used as the handles for kitchen knives, forks and spoons or as the handle for a carving set of fork and knife. Smaller sections of antlers can be used as spacers in a knife handle or used as the complete handle of a larger hunting knife such as a Bowie knife.

Their uses are many when it comes to jewelry. Smaller pieces of antler can often be incorporated in bracelets, earrings or necklaces. If you just can’t come up with other ways to use them in jewelry, I am sure many of our local jewelers can suggest things that will appeal to you. Cross sections of antlers or tips of antlers can be crafted into buttons or fasteners.

If you are fortunate enough to come across a shed elk antler, it opens up a whole new list of ideas. The base of an elk antler is large enough to be made into a belt buckle and multiple shed elk antlers are very impressive as the main trunk of a floor lamp and even more impressive when a number of them are combined to make a hanging chandelier! Note: If you have taken an elk in the hunting season or come across one that was killed by predators, there is another item you should be aware of that is unique to elk. There is a pair of upper teeth, known as the “ivories” that both bull and cow elk have. These teeth are highly prized by elk hunters and are often used by jewelers in making belt buckles, earrings, rings, necklaces or bracelets.

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