Shed Hunting: What to Do When You Find a Dead Head

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Have You Ever Found a Dead Head Before?

Shed antlers. Lost crowns. White gold. Whatever you call them, we love them. Shed hunting is a fun activity that thousands enjoy every year. It’s become an important part of my post-season scouting. But you can find more than just sheds — sometimes you find dead heads. That’s not the way you want to find them, but it happens. It happened to me twice this year.

We deer hunt for many reasons. But in part, it's so we can chase old warriors like those that I found dead. This is a deer my family and I knew of and hunted for a couple of years. I didn't dedicate my 2017 Kentucky season to this deer because I was chasing a big droptine buck that I was blessed to take early in the season. However, I was hoping to chase this giant eight next fall. But as I searched for his sheds, I found him dead in his bed instead. Thoughts of what might have happened to this buck ran through my mind. Only Mother Nature knows. And she can be cruel.

When you find these dead heads, you’ll likely want to throw them in the truck with your sheds and take them home with you. But you can’t. At least, not without doing something else first. Most states require you to get a tag for a dead head before you can pick it up and take it home.

Here in Kentucky, the law requires for a game warden to come out, inspect the site where you find the dead head, and then provide you with a tag. That’s what I had to do when I found the two dead heads this year. That said, not all states require that. Check the regulations where you shed hunt to make sure you’re in compliance with all game laws.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Brad Bowles provided additional insight into the process.

“In Kentucky, you are required to contact your local conservation officer to obtain a carcass tag for any deer head you find and want to possess,” Bowles said. “There are many things in nature that may result in a deer dying: disease, injury, or a poorly placed shot by a hunter. In most cases, officers will investigate how a person has come into possession of the deer rack. I usually instruct the person to take photos of the deer carcass with their cell phone without moving or altering the location the deer was found. Oftentimes, this will provide some explanation for how the deer died. It also may be helpful if several deer in the area are found dead for our biologists to determine whether there is need for concern with any disease outbreaks, such as the case we recently experienced in eastern Kentucky. After reviewing all of the available evidence, the conservation officer still has discretion on whether or not to issue a carcass tag.”

Happy shed hunting. And here’s to hoping you find sheds instead of dead heads.

In Case You Missed It:

  1. Why Bucks Shed Antlers And How To Hunt Them
  2. Shed Hunting: How to Find Shed Antlers
  3. 12 Things You Should Know Before Shed Hunting
  4. 10 Reasons Why You Aren't Finding More Shed Antlers

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