Shed hunting reminders for this spring

Jenna Capper GFP Wildlife Conservation Officer
Farm Forum

In recent years hunting for shed deer antlers has become increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. For starters, it’s free, there’s no equipment required and it’s great exercise. It’s also a fantastic reason to get out of the house and take a walk in the woods.

Antlers, on members of the deer family, are grown as an extension of the animal’s skull. They are true bone and are a single structure. They are generally found only on the males of the species. Antlers are shed and regrown each year. Antlers are the fastest growing tissue in any mammal, and can grow an inch a day. Genetics have an influence on antler growth and size, but nutrition is by far the most important factor, as evidenced by the fact that bucks living in high-quality habitats grow much larger antlers than bucks that are nutritionally stressed.

Horns, found on pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bison and many other bovine, are two-part structures. Horns have an interior of bone (also an extension of the skull) that is covered by an exterior sheath grown by specialized hair follicles, as are your fingernails. In fact, your fingernails and the exterior sheath of horns are made of very similar materials. Horns are never shed and continue to grow throughout the animal’s life. The exception to this rule is antelope, as they shed and regrow the sheath each year.

Until late 2016 it was illegal to shed hunt on ground owned by the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department, including state parks, recreation areas and Game Production Areas. That rule was lifted and now shed-hunting enthusiasts can shed hunt in these areas.

However, it’s important to remember this allowance does not apply to Walk-In Areas, CREP, or other privately owned lands leased by GFP for public hunting. Landowner permission is required for shed hunting on these areas. Also, shed hunting on federal Waterfowl Production Areas is not allowed, but they are considering changing that for the 2019 season.