There’s nothing quite as authentic as walking into a “country” home that’s replete with braided cotton rugs, hand-sewn valance curtains, pewter candlesticks, and, of course, antlers — antlers mounted above the hearth, antler chandeliers, antler flatware, antler bookends, antler coat racks, antler toilet paper holders, and so on. It seems to me that antlers pretty much define the hunting lodge design aesthetic and without them, a proper country home would feel naked.

It’s nice to think that these charming, countrified home décor staples are either truly “found” objects or heirlooms and that the deer that shed these prized appendages were not harmed in any way. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

In Wyoming, antler collection or "bone picking" is somewhat of a cutthroat cottage industry where antler hunters sweep deer and elk-heavy areas in search of discarded antlers, also called “fallen.” Although this practice is referred to as antler or shed “hunting,” this isn’t hunting in a traditional sense given that it’s not the actual animals that the “hunters” are after. However, as more and more people take up antler hunting as both a hobby and a livelihood, the animals themselves have become threatened.

According to a recent article in The Los Angeles Times, some antler hunters — who can make in the range of $5 to $7 per pound for their finds — have resorted to chasing deer in snowmobiles and ATVs. They believe that the pressure of the chase forces the animals to inadvertently shed their headgear while in pursuit. Wyoming officials believe that this form of wildlife “harassment” has forced the animals to move further into the wilderness in avoidance of humans during the high-risk winter months. And to protect deer that are at risk of starvation because of human activity, Wyoming officials have proposed banning antler hunting during peak "shed season" from January through April.

Says Mark Gocke, a spokesman for the Wyoming Fish and Game Department:

What it boils down to is harassment of wildlife at a real critical time for them to survive. We want to afford them as much protection as we can.
Of course, the proposed ban is not without its detractors, especially those who rely on antler hunting as a year-round source of income. Similar, seasonal bans have been enacted in parts of Colorado and Utah although in the latter state the ban was lifted and replaced with a mandatory online course that educates antler hunters about the detrimental effect that their presence has on wildlife. It's also believed that antler hunting winter-lock-downs in some states is responsible for the boom in Wyoming.

What do you think about the possibility of seasonal restrictions on antler collecting in Wyoming? Do you think that this is a serious matter of animal welfare or do you think there are bigger fish to fry than the ethics surrounding the collection of antlers? Now that you know that deer are often chased in vehicles so that their antlers fall off their heads, will you think differently about antlers as home decor objects? 

And if you're on the hunt for "antler alternatives," I highly recommend this beauty that has long been part of my antler-free home. 

Via [Los Angeles Times]

Photo: DianaLBrks

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The buck stops here
Officials in Wyoming purpose a new animal protection law that could effect the way you look at a decorative staple in many homes: deer antlers.