Antler sheds an obsession for Missouri man
CANTON, Mo. — Josh McIntosh of rural Canton loves the great outdoors and the many gifts it has to offer.
Not only does nature provide an array of picturesque landscapes, awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets and countless images of beauty throughout the seasons, but it also offers treasures for the taking.
One such gift involves antlers shed each year by Missouri’s enormous herd of white-tailed deer.
McIntosh, 33, knows all about antler sheds. He’s been collecting them for more than 10 years and has amassed more than 120 antlers of various shapes and sizes.
“I’ve got some monster ones, too,” he said.
Two of the biggest antlers are believed to have been shed by the same massive buck. McIntosh found one of the antlers and his father, Kyle Shannon, found the other not far away.
“Mine’s a little chewed up because I found it in the timber,” McIntosh said. “His was laying in a hay field.”
The antler McIntosh found has 10 points, while his father’s side has 11.
McIntosh has found many antlers on his farm about five miles north of Canton. But he finds them in other places in Lewis County and neighboring Clark County where he’s been given permission to go shed hunting, including a 360-acre farm somewhere “up north,” he said.
“Sometimes we even find them on public land,” he said.
McIntosh said he typically finds antlers from February through April – the time of year when bucks usually shed their antlers.
“I’ve found quite a few matching sets,” he said. “I’ve found them laying on top of each other. I’ve found them five feet apart. Sometimes you find them miles apart. I mean, a deer could drop one side and then drop the other side five days later.
“I found the first one by accident while I was fishing,” he said of where it all started.
McIntosh, who has been deer hunting since he was 13, saved that first antler because he thought it was beautiful. Then as he kept finding more in different parts of northeastern Missouri, his collection quickly grew.
While hunting for sheds, McIntosh will walk miles through fields and timber to see what he can find. His success rate, he said, depends in part “on how much snow is on the ground.”
Other members of his family also get in on the shed-hunting action. His son, Noah, 10, and his daughter, Marissa, 7, occasionally accompany McIntosh on his shed-hunting excursions.
“They even have their own that they’ve found,” he said. “My wife (Morgan) goes, too, but she never finds one.”
McIntosh said he enjoys the thrill of finding a large antler because the size of the rack tells him something about the size of the deer that may be found in a particular location.
“You might find sheds from a deer that no one’s ever seen before,” he said. “If he’s hiding out and you find his antlers, you know he’s got to be there somewhere.”
Joe Jerek, statewide news coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said shed hunting is a popular activity in Missouri. He said it is perfectly legal to find, keep or even sell antlers that are found on the ground, and no permit is needed.
The only exception, Jerek said, is if one or both antlers are still attached to the skull of a deer that was found dead. In that case, he said, whoever finds the antlers – and wants to keep them – needs to report the find to a local conservation agent or a regional DOC office. This is to assure the antlers did not come from an illegally poached deer.