RACINE, Wis. (AP) -- Among some native cultures, they were thought to restore life. For a growing corps of contemporary outdoor enthusiasts, they are the basis for recreation.
They are antlers, the bone-like crowns that adorn the heads of deer, caribou, elk and moose, and the activity is shed hunting.
Among its many attractions, shed hunting is nonconsumptive, natural and renewable. Hunters favor it as an offseason means to learn the habits and locations of their quarry.
Shed hunting also is an excellent way to introduce children to the outdoors.
''It's a big treasure hunt,'' said Tom Earle of Palmyra, a shed hunter for the better part of two decades. ''I don't care whether you're a kid or a veteran, it's exciting.''
Earle has found more than 200 shed antlers in Wisconsin, including more than 20 matched sets. One of his most prized finds, a huge non-typical matched set, is mounted on the head of less well-endowed deer.
Like other members of the deer family, white-tailed deer shed their antlers each year and grow a new set.
One of the best known examples of shed hunting occurs each year in Jackson, Wyo. Boy Scouts and other community members collect elk sheds on the National Elk Refuge just outside of town. The antlers are sold at auction to raise money for the refuge and community projects.
Other shed collectors use the antlers to fashion home furnishings such as lamps, tables and chandeliers, or to create works of art by carving on the antlers.
Spring is a prime time for shed hunters. Most animals drop their antlers in February and March with the arrival of warmer weather.
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