Shed Searching: One of Our Favorite Things — Ted Turner Reserves
Book Now

Shed Searching: One of Our Favorite Things

by Deann McBride

“I want a 400-inch set,” Brian Palmer said, his eyes bright, gazing out the window at the endless expanse of nature.

“I think about that a lot.”

“Yeah,” Lee Todd smiled in agreement.

Shed laying in field

Both guides are envisioning a set of antlers, freshly dropped from a monster of an elk that would measure in the 400 range on the Boone and Crockett scale. This rating system takes a variety of different measurements into account when determining the score of an antler, but these would be 7 or 8 points, four feet or more in length and spread, and would weigh in at over 20 lbs. each.

Spring is an exciting time at Vermejo with warmer days on the horizon and baby animals of all varieties filling the fields and forests, but the topic Vermejo humans are always buzzing about in the spring is shed hunting.

Photo by Sean Fitzgerald

Each year adult male elk and deer shed their old antlers and grow a new set. Antlers can grow up to an inch per day. They are among the fastest-growing animal tissue on the planet*. With over 7000 Rocky Mountain elk and 3000 mule deer on Vermejo, slightly less than half of them male, there are well over 7000 new shed antlers waiting to be found each year.  And we only find a small fraction of them so there are still thousands left over from previous years.


Scientific studies show that spending time in nature makes us healthier and happier. The opportunities to explore and enjoy abundant nature is one of the best things about working at Vermejo for many of the employees. In March and April, shed hunting becomes one of the residents’ favorite ways to connect with nature.


“You’re out there getting a hike and some exercise and finding a shed is a bonus,” Todd said. He and his girlfriend, Sonja, have lived and worked at Vermejo for several seasons. The couple can be tough to find on their days off because they love to explore the vast wilderness of Vermejo.


According to Todd, there are no special skills required to find sheds.


“We just pick a new spot to hike where we haven’t been before and go. You could never explore all of Vermejo in a lifetime. Sometimes there’s nothing, but occasionally you come across a gold mine. We don’t mind how hit or miss it is,” he said with a shrug.

Once a shed antler is found, the hunt is on for its match. When an animal drops one antler, the other one is usually dropped nearby. Finding a matched set is a big win in the game of shed hunting. A matching pair makes a nice European mount on the wall. If you sell your sheds, a matched set fetches a higher price than a single.

Sometimes antlers can even be spied while driving down the road.

“I’ve been told that the biggest mistake people make is looking too far away,” Front Desk Supervisor, Angel Campbell said, “so many times, you look down and there they are lying right at your feet.”


*U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service