Shed hunting is a great spring activity as the snow melts, revealing antlers that have fallen off or shed from deer, elk, and moose. You can go out on your own, or you can involve friends and the whole family, making a day of it. If you’re willing to spend time outdoors and be comfortable with the fact that you might not find anything, there is nothing stopping you from trying.
Why shed hunt?
Shed hunting is a fantastic way to get outdoors and it gives you a reason to explore new areas, or old stomping grounds. It allows you to understand where animals go, how they live, and what habitats they enjoy, fostering a greater appreciation for Alberta’s wild spaces. It’s kind of like nature's own Easter egg hunt: It takes some effort, but the reward is sweet.
People shed hunt for a variety of reasons including:
If it’s your style, sheds can make original decoration pieces, either on their own or with some crafty enhancements. You can simply display them on a shelf or table or incorporate them into something bigger like a hat rack, bottle rack, frames, and more. The uses are only limited by your imagination and willingness to try something new.
If you’re very crafty, or know someone who is, antlers can transform into works of art by carving designs right into the antler or incorporating them into jewellery like bands inlaid into rings.
Depending on your dog breed, antlers can provide a stimulating and nutritious snack for your dog. Just make sure to remove any sharp edges that could potentially harm your dog, supervise them to ensure nothing happens, and keep an eye on their teeth. Any toy can wear down a dog's teeth, but the harder the toy the more it wears.
While you could just pick a spot and go for a walk, here are some tips and tricks to help make your shed hunts a little more successful.
Start with an idea about which animal sheds you are looking for and narrow down your areas based on that. Maps and online forums will help you with your search. Look for areas where the animals can find shelter, food, and water. Bonus points if you’ve seen the animal you’re looking for in that area before.
While it doesn’t take much to get out shed hunting, preparation for the outdoors is essential. Make sure you are dressed properly for the environment, have water, snacks, a first aid kit, bear spray, and appropriate gear to stay safe. On top of being prepared for safety, be prepared that you may not find anything, and that’s okay. You may need to alter your plan for the next time or pick a different area all together—that’s part of the experience.
Knowing that you’re in the right place is a great start when shed hunting. But beyond that, knowing what signs to look for and what they could mean will help you stay on track. If possible, use some form of optics (binoculars etc.) to scan an area. Keep an eye out for signs that an animal was there: bark rubbed from trees, scat, and shed winter fur are all great indicators that they went through and have begun shedding. Investigate any abnormalities: lighter coloured “sticks” or “rocks” around thickets could just be sticks and rocks. But they could also be antlers.
Shed hunting can be a great solo hunt, but if you want to increase the possibility of success, the more eyes on the lookout the better. Go with friends, fan out, and cover more ground. If you’re really looking to get sheds and make this a long-term hobby, consider training your dog to shed hunt. By training your dog to sniff out and retrieve sheds on their own, there will be a second set of eyes and a powerful nose that can help locate and retrieve sheds more efficiently. Plus, it’s great exercise and stimulation for your dog.
In Alberta, naturally shed antlers can be kept or sold without a special permit, however there are a few regulations to know about if you’re going out shed hunting: