Deer antlers aren’t just for hanging on the wall. Maybe you already knew that animals like squirrels and mice find ways to use antlers, but did you know human beings can use them too? Let’s learn about the wide range of deer antler uses we know about below.
Human beings use deer antlers for artistic and cultural purposes.
Remember, bucks shed their antlers every year. Maybe you’d like to become a shed hunter, someone who seeks and collects shed antlers.
There are many creative and artistic ways that we can use deer antlers.
Let’s explore some of the artistic, cultural, and practical uses of deer antlers around the world.
Antlers from Hunting vs Shed Antler Hunting
In many cases, humans obtain deer antlers by hunting and killing the animal. However, as we’ve already touched on, you can also look for antlers that living deer have shed and left on the ground.
Many craftswomen and outdoorsmen take to the woods in late fall and early winter to find shed antlers.
That’s right: shed antler hunting is considered a sport in and of itself.
Shed Deer Antler Uses
Some shed antler hunters keep all their sheds in a collection. If you’re like most, though, you’ll want to use at least some of your antlers.
For example, you may want to carve and transform them into other things. Humans have been collecting and using shed antlers to create objects since the Stone Age.
Researchers have found buttons and other tiny objects made from deer antlers dating from that era.
Let’s take a look at some popular arts and crafts items you can make with deer antlers.
Ornaments and Decorative Pieces
Arts and crafts enthusiasts find a plethora of things to do with shed deer antlers. You can create your own design for a piece of jewelry or ornamental carving.
If you don’t want to learn how to carve but would like to use your sheds in a decorative way, choose your most impressive pieces and display them whole on the mantle or some other central part of the room.
Go ahead and show off your most impressive pieces on the mantle or in some other central area of the room.
If you’ve got some skill at furniture-making, make shed antlers into table legs. To make antler table legs, you’ll need four sheds that are approximately the same length.
You’ll have to finesse them a bit, removing the ends of the tines. Most people just shave them off.
If you’re less into building furniture, you can use antlers to create unique decor pieces like this one:
The shape of antlers make combining several into a bowl quite easy if you have ones that match up in size. The end result is a real conversation piece!
You can even make deer antlers into knives. This project is even more complex than the jewelry carving we mentioned earlier.
Remember, knife edges are sharp. You don’t want to risk injury if you’re not experienced in this kind of thing.
But the end result is a beautiful, hand-crafted piece that will last a lifetime.
Antlers as Dog Chews
There are other deer antler uses to keep in mind. One of the most surprising is to offer them to your dog.
It’s almost impossible to find a better canine chew toy than antlers. They’re extremely durable and they resist chipping and splitting.
Another advantage is all the minerals antlers contain, including zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium. That is why many animals in the wild eat antlers.
- squirrels, and
- even mice.
Other animals that occasionally eat antlers include:
- opossums, and
Farmed Deer vs Wild Deer Antlers
Antlers from farmed deer are often used for creating carvings.
That is because their antler bone is especially solid. By contrast, wild deer antlers often have a honeycomb texture in the middle that can make carving trickier.
This has certain benefits for antler quality and consistency. However, deer farms are considered controversial by some.
Some researchers argue that these farms have negative effects on wild deer populations.
Deer Antler Uses in Home Décor
Deer antler carvings and artistic designs can help level-up your interior décor.
They create a rich and even luxurious look in a room. Pairing shed antlers with weathered driftwood and other natural design elements is a common look. You can even use a large palmate antler to create a unique candleholder and centerpiece like this one:
Shed deer antlers create a contemporary look with a sophisticated edge. Use some faux-fur throws to up the ante.
Some people enjoy piling antlers in their fireplace instead of wood. Try this if you have a decorative fireplace.
Deer antlers are so fashionable that designers are making objects in the shape of antlers made from other materials. These are called “faux antlers.”
The Process of Carving Deer Antlers
Want to try deer antler carving? It’s an acquired skill that takes a long time to master.
You’ll need certain tools and materials to carve antlers. These include:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- A container for soaking
- Soft-lead pencil
- Jeweler’s saw
Look into carving courses available in your area or even online. Make sure you know all the safety protocols and the tools required.
Let’s explore the primary steps of preparing deer antlers for carving and getting them carved.
1. Clean the antlers.
Start off by cleaning the antlers with a good soak, specifically with water and hydrogen peroxide (between 3 percent and 9 percent hydrogen peroxide and the rest water).
This will help remove any discoloration and unwanted oils on the antlers.
2. Dry the antlers.
After soaking the antlers, put them somewhere outside so they get full sun. Leave them there until they’re fully dry.
Make sure there isn’t any moisture left.
3. Cut the antlers into large pieces.
Wear a respirator and use your hacksaw to cut the antlers into large pieces.
Train how to properly and safely use a hacksaw before doing this. You risk injury if you don’t.
Inhaling bone dust can lead to a serious lung infection. Wear the respirator so this doesn’t happen.
4. Draw the lines of your design with a pencil.
Sketch your desired carving design on the antler bone with a soft-lead pencil. After this, you’re ready to start carving.
5. Do your carving.
Get training in this before you attempt it. Use a jeweler’s saw to do your intricate carving.
Deer Antlers Around the World
Deer species are present across the world, and these animals play a part in many different cultural mythologies and systems of symbolism. For example, the antlers frequently symbolize spiritual strength, knowledge, and loftiness.
A buck or stag’s antlers are often seen as a sort of crown, implying superior wisdom and worth. Let’s explore some ways deer antlers are used and given symbolic significance in different cultures around the world.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Deer antlers have played a significant part in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The velvet of deer antlers, as well as the base of the antlers, have long been seen as a valuable substance in Chinese culture.
The base of the antlers is traditionally believed to strengthen one’s Yin, as well as boost blood flow, build up muscles and bones, benefit the spleen, and help with kidney health.
Native American Cultures
Like many other elements of the natural world, deer and deer antlers are richly symbolic in Native American cultures.
The significance of wildlife in traditional Native American culture and symbolism is well-known, and deer play a role in this. Antlers come to the forefront in several different stories.
Just one example is a Cherokee legend in which a deer races a rabbit, wins, and gets his antlers as a reward.
The rabbit is found to have cheated and the deer was victorious. The antlers he is given symbolize this.
Final Thoughts About How to Use Deer Antlers
Ready to take up shed antler hunting as a hobby? It’s definitely a great way to spend time in the great outdoors.
And now you know all the things you can do with the pile of sheds you’ll eventually end up with. Let’s review some of the things you can make with deer antlers:
- Carve arts and crafts
- Carve knives
- Make furniture components (such as table legs)
As we learned here, it takes a while to learn how to safely and correctly carve deer antlers. If this isn’t on the schedule, you can still use antlers decoratively.
Add whole antlers as features in your home. If you have some antlers you just want to get rid of, offer them to your dogs as chew toys.