Antlers vs. Horns – Hunting Sheds

Massive six point bull elk antler, Sand Creek, Mission Creek drainage near Cashmere, WA

It is rare to find a matching set…


Antlers grow, and fall off every year. Sheep, goat and bison have horns rather than antlers that are permanently attached to their head. The only way to retrieve their horns is off the dead carcass, requiring special hunting permits.

Pronghorn Antelope will shed the shell of their horns every year, but the actual horn does not drop. These you may find while antler hunting and can be used in various artwork.


Also referred to as “Horn Hunting”—although you are hunting for antlers, not horns—can be a great way to spend time outdoors in nature. Be sure to check the special restrictions in your area and state that may apply. There are some extremely strict restrictions and prohibitions in some areas. Crossing state lines with sheds also requires special permits. Check with your local Game and Fish offices for details.

The first year the antlers fall off, they be will hard and brown in color. They rapidly fade to white, become porous and brittle and become a great source of calcium for rodents. For this reason, there are different grades of antlers. Of course, the most desirable would be the hard brown or “fresh” sheds but many people also enjoy the white “chalk” look in some art. The hard white sheds, faded but have not become brittle yet, are popular to use in antler art because they can be stained quite nicely to look like fresh browns.

It is rare to find a matching set (off the same animal) next to each other because they fall off individually. Quite a bit of walking can be involved. Some people do this as a competitive business, but it can be an exciting, fun, family event as well. Keep your eyes peeled as they blend in well!