James Phillips, from Three Forks, Montana, has been collecting shed antlers for over half a century now. The 66-year-old takes long hikes in the foothills of the mountains, looking for antlers to take home. Over the last six decades, he has collected over 16,000 individual pieces that now cover virtually every inch of a specially constructed 30 x 64 foot building known as Antlerman’s Shed.
Antlerman recalls that his passion for collecting sheds began in 1958. “I, as a ten year old, took a short walk from my parents’ homemade trailer up a creek into the timber,” he wrote on his website, Antlerman.com. “I stumbled onto an old set of elk antlers and packed them back to camp. A few days later I hiked a little further and brought home a couple old white elk antlers. To this day, when I find a shed I get the same rush as I did then. Antler hunting is in my blood.”
Phillips, who used to be an employee of the Montana Talcum Company, would spend all his free time hunting for shed antlers of various species of the deer family, including mule deer, whitetails, and of course, elks. “Over the years, I have traded antlers for antlers,” he wrote. “During the ’80s I sold 600 brown elk and 1500 deer sheds to help put three daughters through college.” But he’s never bought a set himself – everything he owns is something he found himself. “Pound for pound, I have packed every antler you are going to see.”
“I have put up a 30 by 64 building to house my collection and spent two and a half years setting up the inside the way I wanted the display,” he added. “I have over 16,000 antlers displayed in it now.” Inside the building, Phillips has organized several ‘Table Tops’ and ‘Side Tables’ that are completely filled with various sheds, ranging from large mule deer antlers and antlers with several points on Table Top 1 to some of his largest “shed sets” on Table Top 12. Entire skulls are displayed along poles, and every inch of the walls and ceiling are covered with antlers as well.
The building pretty much looks like a jungle of antlers, but Phillips has no plans to stop collecting them any time soon. He’s rightfully earned himself the title of ‘Antlerman’ and is considered a cult hero among a growing number of shed collectors who have recently discovered his lifetime’s work. He keeps a detailed diary of every single shed-hunting trip he’s taken since 1969, and he never gets tired of looking at his vast collection. “I go out into the horn shed a couple of times every week,” he said. “And each time I always see something new.”