Hey shed heads, want to find more antlers this year? It’s time to start thinking about where to look and how to find the antlers bucks have cast. Shed hunting is a super way to learn more about the property where you hunt along with enjoying the outdoors.
“Honestly, I can’t think of a better cure for cabin fever than getting out in the woods to hunt for shed antlers,” says Gordy Krahn, editor of Deer & Deer Hunting. “But to wander around willy-nilly hoping to happen onto the headgear of that 10-pointer that ducked your shot last fall will lead to nothing but frustration. You need to have a plan. Fortunately, Joe Shed (yes, that’s his real name) is here to help. His book, “Shed Hunting: A Guide to Finding White-tailed Deer Antlers,” is chock-full of all the information you need to successfully and consistently find antlers.”
Here are some tips from one of the World’s foremost experts on shed antlers, and D&DH contributor Joe Shead.
1. Scout: Just like deer hunting, scouting is essential to shed hunting. In winter, deer often shift from the areas they frequented in the fall to take advantage of changing food availability and winter cover. Look for deer sightings or tracks in the snow to get you in the right place.
2. Find Buck Areas: Bucks, particularly mature bucks, separate from does and fawns in winter. (The exception would be at a hot food source.) Bucks might reform old bachelor groups from the previous summer. When you find one shed, you will often find sheds from other bucks in the same area.
3. Find Areas With Low Hunting Pressure: Shed hunting won’t be very good on heavily hunted areas because few bucks survive to drop antlers. Obviously you want to search your hunting area to find out which bucks survived hunting season, but if your goal is simply to find a shed, areas where hunting is not allowed can be even better choices.
4. Find the Food: In winter, finding food can be more challenging after crops are harvested and after snowfall covers the ground. Find areas where deer concentrate to feed. Often one field will draw all the deer while other fields are left untouched. In wooded areas, learn to identify which plants deer prefer to browse on in winter.
5. Check Beds: Deer spend a large amount of time in their beds to conserve energy in winter. Coniferous forests are prime bedding spots because the dense cover blocks the wind and the branches catch the snow before it hits the ground, making travel easier.
6. Check Southern Exposures: Deer soak up the winter sun like a cat sitting in a windowsill. In winter, the southern exposure receives the most direct sunlight, so check the south face of a hill or the south edge of a forest.
7. Look Where Deer Jump: Sudden movements caused by jumping or running can knock an antler loose. Check deer trails where they cross fences, ditches or other obstacles.
8. Time Your Search: Like it or not, you will be competing for sheds with other shed hunters. More people are looking for sheds, so you may be competing with them. But you will also almost certainly be competing with squirrels, mice and porcupines, which eat sheds for their calcium. On public ground, get out early and often if you are dealing with two-legged shed hunters. On private ground, wait until March when most bucks have shed. However, in forests with lots of squirrels, such as oak forests, get out frequently. A squirrel can devour an entire shed in less than a week. In areas where squirrels are not present, such as in farm fields, you can delay your search.
9. Walk Slowly: You’re trying to spot an object on the ground that looks a lot like a cornstalk or a stick. Walk slowly and give your eyes time to process what you’re seeing.
10. Keep Your Eyes on the Ground: As elementary as this sounds, first-time shed hunters often focus too high, looking at rubs, licking branches or actual deer. Focus on the ground.