by Scott Bestul

Hunting shed antlers, an activity once enjoyed by a fringe group of deer fanatics, may be getting too popular for its own good. Shed poaching–where horn hunters trespass on property to nab whatever antlers they find–is on the rise in the Midwest. I’ve talked to a growing number of land-owning whitetail buddies who all agree that poacher numbers are growing, and the participants are getting better at what they do. Poachers are often dropped off by a vehicle, wear face masks (to avoid a positive ID, either by a trail camera or witness), tote large packs to haul their plunder, and focus on areas and properties known to hold lots of big deer.

Case in point: Last week Steve Snow, a friend from southern Iowa, spotted a car parked by one of the farms he manages. There were boot tracks leading from the vehicle to the property line, then crossing the fence and heading into the property. Steve spent the better part of the day tracking the trespasser, finally catching the guy in late afternoon when he came back to his vehicle.

After a fairly intense confrontation, the poacher confessed that he’d not only stashed a backpack full of sheds, but was from another state. He’d bought a plane ticket to Iowa, rented a car, stayed in a motel, and was there for no other reason than to pluck antlers from a big deer hotspot.

Three questions here: Is shed poaching a problem in your area? How are such trespassers/thieves handled if caught? And finally, any suggestions for thwarting these guys?