WATCH Video Shows How Wild Antler Shed Hunting Can Be in Montana
In all my years wandering the woods and prairies of Montana, I have always been delighted to find shed antlers. It doesn't happen all the time, but if you spend time looking and knowing what you're looking for, it can sometimes benefit you financially. There is a huge market for antlers that deer, elk, and moose shed every winter. Just look at your nearest pet store. People are buying antlers and turning them into high-priced dog toys. Others are making everything from knife handles and jewelry to chandeliers. Each year the price people are willing to pay for shed antlers seems to go up. This, in turn, creates somewhat of a gold rush attitude for shed hunters.
In 2020, KRTV News ran a story about the Sun River Wildlife Management Area opener here in Montana.
Think of shed hunting as an adult Easter egg hunt. But, instead of a grassy area near the playground, it is a much larger grassy area near a much larger playground. Every year, Montana's wildlife management areas close in December to allow for animals like elk to have a safe place to survive the winter. In the depths of winter, these animals start to shed their antlers. Large amounts of elk and deer gather on these WMAs until the spring weather starts to warm. That is when the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks open the WMA's back up to people. The day the gates open to these wintering grounds is a big deal for many Montanans. Going back to my Easter egg hunt example, hundreds of people line up at the gate and wait for FWP officials to unlock them. When the clock strikes noon, the shed hunters scatter in all directions to search for antlers.
A video from 406 Adventures shows the first-person point of view of just how crazy the Wildlife management opening days can be.
Fast forward to 2023, and things are just as wild as can be. The Montana FWP released a video on Facebook showing the chaos that is the 2023 opening day of the Sun River WMA. (Note: our favorite part is when the cowboy falls off his horse and the horse just keeps going. We hope no one got hurt.)
These sheds hunts look like a wild west adventure. Possibly the closest thing you can get to witnessing the great land grabs that took place during the Homestead Act of 1862.