Hunting for white-tailed deer antlers during warm winter days

Sean HubbardOSU Ag Communications

STILLWATER, Okla. – Do not be alarmed if you see a one-antlered white-tailed deer strolling around the Oklahoma landscape. While hunting season is over, the time to search for shed antlers is just getting started.

As the days begin to get longer in late winter, white-tailed deer undergo hormonal changes, which cause antlers to drop, said Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist. The timing of this varies from deer to deer, but typically by early February many bucks have dropped their antlers.

“It’s not unusual to see bucks that have dropped an antler this time of year,” he said. “This can be due to variations in testosterone levels, injury, age of the deer or nutritional status. Whatever the case may be, a one-antlered deer, while interesting, is not that uncommon.”

Going for a walk through the woods can be relaxing for everyone and adding the intrigue of antler hunting can make it an enjoyable family event. Upcoming warm days will provide the opportunity to search for dropped antlers in certain areas.

“Look along major deer trails, especially where they cross fences,” Elmore said. “The impact of a buck jumping a fence often causes antler drop. Also, areas of thick brush can sometimes yield antlers as bucks tend to stay in heavy cover.”

Occasionally you can find both antlers from the same deer in close proximity. Once an antler drops, bucks typically shake their head and sometimes this will cast the other antler.

“However, it is common for a buck to retain the second antler for hours or days, so don’t count on finding both near each other,” he said. “You could use some of the same tactics used during the hunting season. Checking for tracks or droppings can give you some clues to areas deer are using.”

Bucks tend to group up after breeding season, so if one antler is found, there is a chance more will be in the same area. As time passes, rodents and porcupines, seeking the minerals contained in the antlers, will consume the shed antlers.

“If you want to find an antler in perfect condition, as well as shake the late winter doldrums, get outside soon,” Elmore said. “Worst case scenario, you spend some time outside in the peace and quiet and get some exercise.”