Get ‘em while you can! There’s no license required. And, it’s a great way to get out and get some exercise as well as scout the deer woods while you can still see the forest for the leaves being down. What’s more, the local bow-hunting only hills of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell counties are some of the likeliest places in West Virginia to find some.
If you hadn’t already guessed, we’re talking about the leisurely if not somewhat exhilarating winter sport of deer horn or “shed” hunting. That is, walking about head down with an eye on the forest floor, looking for the bony white, sun-bleached antlers of the adult male or buck white-tailed deer. Specifically, you’ll be looking for the ones that have recently fallen off his head.
But you better hurry since “sheds” from the prior years are likely gone by now. And we don’t mean because they were necessarily picked up by other shed hunters. Though the buck deer has no use for or interest in them once they’re off his head, they become true-blue mineral blocks as they lie on the forest floor. Once there, they are craven by a host of small mammals from mice and chipmunks to gray and red squirrels. This is nature’s purest form of recycling and many a human found shed bears the gnawing marks of these rodents in testament.
As the buck’s sex-hormone levels decline after the fall mating season, they drop or shed their current set of antlers around January of each year. That is, the ones that made it through the hunting season. So it’s prime time right about now to get out and look for them.
Since antlered bucks are more likely to survive the hunting season in the bow-hunting only counties that also feature a one buck only limit, the famous four counties are by far the best bets for finding not only some “sheds”, but some mighty big ones at that from an older average aged specimen.
For the rest of the Mountain State, heavier culling by the rifle and a more liberal buck limit of three logically reduces the odds of finding as many. The successful hunters thereof have already brought home the venison, literally with said head gear attached. Yet, some bucks make it through the annual hunts in every county so the entire state holds some potential for the sport.
The round spot or base of the skull from which the horn detaches is called a pedicel. The pedicel can be a bit bloody when the horn first falls off. It then turns scab-like but within a month or two, becomes a velvety stub, which represents the start of a brand new set of the next year’s antlers. This annual growing and dropping of a set of antlers is common to the deer family members that also include the massive ones from the likes of elk and moose.
The tissue growth rate of antlers is one of the most spectacular known in nature. Deer manager Lincoln Lang who recently passed away perhaps described the annual phenomenon best calling it simply, “the magic of deer antlers.” We second the motion for the equally exciting magic of finding one in the wild, a true needle in the haystack discovery if there ever was one.