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License not needed for shed hunts

This is my first winter in Southern Oregon, and walking recently on my property brought an interesting find: a deer horn. Just one. I showed it to my 12-year-old son, and he said it was a deer horn and that you can "hunt" for horns in the winter because that's when they are shed. He said you can keep what you want and don't need any license or have to report what you get. I have lived a rather successful life by not taking the advice of anyone younger than the age of 35, but is this an exception? Can I "horn hunt" on my property?

— Jason, via email

Well, Jason, like most 12-year-olds, your kid has it partially right.

Technically, you can't "horn hunt" because horns are not shed annually by the animals that have them — think bulls — so there's nothing to hunt.

Antlers, on the other hand, are shed by animals such as deer and elk in the winter, and they can be "hunted" without a license.

In fact, shed hunting is a rather popular mid-winter endeavor among people who like a good reason to traipse around in the woods outside of regular hunting seasons in search of these impressive appendages.

Deer shed their antlers anytime from December to March, with elk dropping their antlers in late March so they can grow new ones each year.

Shed antlers can be a fine find, with some elk antlers weighing as much as 40 pounds, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

You don't need a license and you don't need to report the sheds you find. There's even an Oregon Shed Antlers group that helps promote shed-hunting ethics.

OSH, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State Police collectively urge shed hunters to minimize disturbance of wintering big-game herds and hunt sheds without bringing along your dogs, because they can harass wildlife, which is illegal in Oregon.

Also, don't keep hunting the same spot daily, because deer and elk that use one particular area — they dropped an antler there, so you know it's a place they like — won't use it while you're there. You might unknowingly keep them from finding winter forage they need.

Respect seasonal road-closures, don't drive off roads, and don't trespass onto private property.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.