If you’ve been following my blog or have subscribed to my newsletter, you probably know how much I love using deer antler. This is such a versatile and durable material for making a variety of crafts. I’ve shared numerous tutorials on my site that show you how to transform antler into rings, writing pens, letter openers, bottle openers, basket handles, etc. So I often get asked the question: Where can I find deer antler?
And it’s a great question, because if you want to make crafts with deer antler you need to know how to get the raw material. The short answer: there are really only 2 general ways you can acquire antler — directly from nature or through some other human-inspired outlet.
Below, I will share a few more specifics. I’ll start with the most obvious and also list some ideas you maybe haven’t thought about.
Directly from the deer.
- Yes, the male deer regularly sheds his antlers every year generally around the latter part of the winter months. It’s a great excuse to roam the woods and get exercise. Bugs and snakes are usually dormant. It helps to know a little about where the male deer (usually referred to as bucks) likes to hang out. Finding deer sheds is no easy task, but I advise folks to look around areas where male deer like to hide, forage, and bed during the latter winter months.
Find game trails into and out of those areas. Look around fences or streams or other structures that deer need to jump over or push through. These activities may help loosen or dislodge the antlers. Some people have even trained dogs to locate antler sheds.I’ve seen articles and pictures where people have create antler traps. I cannot say if this is effective or not. My only fear would be an animal getting caught or trapped if the antler was not ready to detach.
Getting fresh sheds is very important — preferably the same season they fall from the deer. I’ve found sheds that have been lying around on the ground for years. They can become cracked, bleached out, stained, and are often fodder for gnawing squirrels.
Hunters or deer processors.
- I’ve been hunting all my life and believe it’s an effective way to regulate deer herds and conserve healthy deer populations. I don’t condone killing a deer simply to get its antlers. My family loves deer meat and the added health benefits it provides. I don’t find personal enjoyment in taking an animal’s life, but I also see the need to control game populations and stay in touch with this way of life.
Having said all that, I’m not trying to convert anyone into a hunter. But if you have friends who are hunters or live near a deer processor, then check with them. I’ve often been able to get several antlers from my hunter friends if I promise to make them an antler pen for example. Since hunters spend a good deal of time in the woods, they often come across deer sheds fairly regularly and will tend to collect them.
Deer processors sometimes have discarded antlers that a hunter may not want to keep, especially if the antler is deformed or on the small side. Granted, that might limit what you can make with them.
Zoos, wildlife refuges or deer farms
- The cool thing about zoos, is you might be able to procure antler from a more exotic deer species. I once tried this with a large outdoor safari zoo near Pine Mountain Georgia. They had several antlers from other deer species on hand. They were asking a pretty hefty price for them, so I declined. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You may have to do some research to find wildlife refuges or deer farms in your areas. But they do exist. Make sure you have the proper permits to access these areas and you have permission to collect sheds.
Flea markets and yard sales
- Some times you can come across antler through these avenues at a decent price and often a price that’s negotiable. In some cases, the antlers may be mounted to a plaque or a whole head mount. You can use a hacksaw to cut them off at the base.
Antique shops or craft stores.
- Prices will vary here depending on the store. Antler for home decor has become a popular thing. So somethings the price may be relatively high. I was wandering around a local antique shop about a week ago, and noticed they had several sets of deer antler. The price on each set — $95. That’s a little too steep for my wallet. But some stores carry them at a much more affordable price.
- So, yes there are folks who make it their business to sell these natural/raw materials. I’m most familiar with suppliers like Penn State Pens and Craft Supplies USA. They provide antler blanks for pen makers. I would also advise you to research knife-making suppliers. Antler is a common material for knife handles.A quick internet search yielded these suppliers: Antler Craft Supply and The Deer Antler Store.
Other supplier sources you want to check: Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, etc.
Make sure you research these suppliers and understand what kind of antler you are getting. Some suppliers tailor their antlers to dog owners who buy them for chew toys. These type antlers may or may not be suitable for crafts. And the antler chews you find in pet stores could possibly have chemical additives.
Online Craft Forums
- I almost forgot to list this, but it can often be a valuable source of antler materials. Do an internet search to find these or ask around. I’ve found Facebook Groups that are sources of deer antler. Look in pen turning groups or knife-maker groups since they are often looking for antler materials for their crafts.
Antlers are a fascinating topic, and I don’t know of any other thorough repository of knowledge on antlers than the book: Antlers: A Guide to Collecting, Scoring, Mounting, and Carving by Dennis Walrod.
Also, I love to use the Dremel Rotary Tool Kit for many of my antler projects. You can buy a ton of attachments to go with these tools. And you’ll be able to use them for many other projects and crafts besides antler.
If you are new to crafting with antlers, I would advise you to start with some small projects and see if you like it. Antlers make a great accent to many different crafts, but they can be challenging to work with. You’ll need sharp tools and be able to endure some odor when cutting or sanding it. Also, PLEASE, wear a respirator because working with antler will produce some fine dust particles you shouldn’t be inhaling.
Finally, whether you are buying antler or eventually selling antler crafts, make sure you’ve checked with all applicable laws of your state. Georgia does allow folks to sell crafts made with antler, but that might not be true for every state.
Thanks for reading this post. Now it’s your turn to contribute. Please leave a comment and share your knowledge about this topic. Are there any other sources I’m missing? Are there any other questions you have about finding antlers or working with antlers?