For the last three years, Stansbury High School sophomore Cache Bentley has explored Utah’s mountains hunting for sheds. It’s his hobby and passion.
Shed hunting isn’t looking for a place to store bicycles, yard tools or a lawn mower. It’s looking for the antlers of deer or elk that have been shed during winter. The increase in daylight in mid to late winter, and the buck or bull’s falling testosterone, causes the animals’ antlers to fall off.
Such sheds have captivated the 15-year-old teen, who also loves fishing, baseball and duck hunting.
“I like finding random things,” Bentley said, “like geo-cache, old traps. … But my favorite is finding a pair of sheds.”
Bentley is the youngest of five children, with two sisters and two brothers. His dad Darin Bentley raised the children with a love for deer, elk and duck hunting.
“As a family, we have always enjoyed camping,” said his mom Teree Bentley. “… At the age of six, he could tell you the name of any duck.”
It was his older brother, Boston Bentley, who introduced him to shed hunting. Friends invited Boston to go shed hunting and a few weeks later, he took his family.
“Cache was immediately hooked,” said Boston Bentley. His first time out, Bentley found a deer shed. Since then, he has amassed over 80, and his family has found over 300.
“Each shed has a story behind it,” Bentley said.
One in particular holds a strong memory of shed hunting with friend Zach King.
“We had collected four sheds and got trapped in a lightning storm,” Bentley said. “For safety, we had to hunker down in a ravine and wait for the storm to pass. Of course, our moms were worried.”
Despite the occasional close call, Bentley’s parents support his hobby and are glad to see him have a desire to stay active.
“Cache can tell you where every shed was found and the story behind it,” said Teree Bentley. “He has loved it since the get-go. … He does it because he loves the outdoors and deer, but there’s also the history part of it he loves.”
On Sunday afternoons, Bentley can be found sorting his sheds from largest to smallest, or by color. His mom will even quiz him as to where he found them, and she listens as he retells the stories of his hikes.
“I can go pick any shed right now and tell you where I found it,” he claimed.
Not anyone can just head for the mountains and hunt for antlers. Shed hunting requires certification. A free online course must be taken first and the hunter must carry certification with them while looking for sheds, Bentley said.
Cold winter months is a vulnerable time for the deer and elk populations as they try to find food and are stressed by cold and hunger. The questions on the certification course reinforce how the applicant must hike without hurting the animals or ruining their habitat.
“The exam only takes about five minutes,” Bentley said.
He also said it is illegal to allow any dogs to chase deer or elk, which would cause the animal to drop its antlers.
On opening day this year, Bentley’s family and friends found 24 sheds. Bentley likes the memories he creates from finding the sheds and learning about the animals’ habits. One of the things he has learned is that most bucks lose their second antler within a mile of the first.
Bentley frequently watches videos on YouTube about shed hunting, and two years ago made a few himself with friends about the hobby. Filming took too many hours though, Bentley said.
“I’d rather be shed hunting now than making videos about it,” he said.
One of the tips Bentley offers newcomers to the hobby is to take binoculars while hiking and to look for color under all the foliage.
“It’s something anyone can do,” he said. “Go find sage brush, walk around and hope you get lucky.”
Bentley’s collection is all over the house. He said he has sold a few, loaned a few out to friends, and even used them for table decorations with flowers, like for his brother’s wedding dinner.
“Not very many people can say they have sheds for wedding decorations,” Teree Bentley said.
Sheds can also be used for knife handles, chandeliers and many other unique crafts. Bentley has made necklaces with his older brother Boston and would like to learn a few other crafts to make with the antlers.
When Bentley hunts for sheds he is careful to follow a few of the family’s house rules, Teree Bentley said. After being caught in a thunderstorm and ending up drenching wet, his mom made the rule that he had to be off the mountain by dusk and he always makes sure to hike with a friend or family member.
After watching Bentley’s success shed hunting, his young nephews have expressed an interest. Since the boys were too young to hike in the mountains, Bentley took 10 sheds and hid them in a nearby field. He allowed his nephews to keep those sheds and, he said, the boys loved it.
Sheds are valued by size and color. If they are brown and recently shed, they are considered more attractive and worth more than ones that are old, and chalky white in color. Old, white antlers are often cracked or worn down from weather or animals gnawing on them.
“Their monetary value is based on the current demand,” Bentley said.
He has sold a few sheds on e-bay and got about $8 per pound. According to Mike Hanback, a writer for Cabela’s, an elk, matched set, 6 point (meaning six points per antler) grade A (meaning less than a year old and in good condition), is worth $500-$1,000. Bentley’s collection is valued at over $1,600. For Bentley though, most of the sheds and their stories are worth more to him than any money.
Some days, Bentley will go out and not find a shed at all, but, he said, “having the chance to be outdoors and exercise is worth the effort.
“I like shed hunting more than TV,” Bentley said.
But when he does watch it, he is mostly interested in deer, elk, or duck hunting shows.
Bentley’s love for the outdoors has been fulfilling for him and has created a pastime he is able to share with his friends and family. In the future, he hopes to be able to share his collections with his own family, and retell the stories and adventures behind each antler.