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For some hunters, shed hunting season may seem like no more than a consolation prize for those who didn’t find success during the actual hunting months. After all, the goal of the hunt here is to find antlers of the bucks that you didn’t kill.
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However, since most of us won’t have the opportunity to go after any real life bucks for months now, shed hunting can be a nice excuse to get outside – and a nice practice for our tracking skills – in the early parts of the year. It can also yield its own bountiful rewards, with antlers that you can use for everything from deer season rattle calls to ornate, handcrafted tools. If you want to maximize your shed-hunting success this year, be sure to make the 10 key strategies listed here a part of your plan.
View the slideshow for the 10 shed hunting tips.
Establish appropriate expectations
One of the biggest reasons for failure and disappointment in shed hunting is a failure to establish appropriate expectations for the task at hand. A lot of different factors can impact how many sheds – if any – you find on any given hunt, and considering those factors beforehand will help you to tailor your expectations and will pave the way for a more enjoyable outing. For instance, if you are shed hunting on your own personal deer property, your expectations will justifiably be higher than if you are hunting a public plot where a dozen other hunters have the same goals you do.
Get your eyes acquainted to what you are looking for
Shed hunting outsiders figure that it will be easy to spot shed antlers on the ground, but that’s not always the case. Sheds can look like sticks or other common forest and field debris, or can get buried or obscured by deep snow or long grass.
Before you head out on a shed hunt, it’s worth it to take out a few old antlers that are already in your possession and toss them on the ground to internalize what you are looking for. Place some in snow, some in tall grass, and some in the open, taking time to note exactly what each looks like. This simple step will help you to spot a lot more sheds than you might think.
Look in the right spots
This step may sound basic and obvious, but knowing where bucks commonly shed their antlers can help you to smartly plan out your hunt. Bedding areas, feeding spots, and water sources are great places to check for sheds because they are the biggest hotspots for deer activity.
Also look in and around patches of evergreen trees – since bucks will often seek refuge from the cold there and may drop an antler or two in the process – and especially pay attention to fallen trees, fences, creeks, and other obstacles that might block a buck’s path through the woods. When a buck tries to leap over an obstacle, the movement may be just jarring and forceful enough to knock off his antlers.
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Be willing to travel far and wide for the prize
While sheds will often be found concentrated around a few key areas, the fact is that there are also plenty of outliers. If you want to truly build up an impressive shed count, you are going to need to take your time and comb your property from one end to another.
The more time you put into this hunt and the more miles you cover, the better chance you will have of finding every shed on your property.
Don’t take your eyes off the ground
Being willing to expend a lot of time and travel many miles in pursuit of sheds will help to increase your chances of finding them. However, without focus, you can walk across your property 50 times without finding anything. When you are shed hunting, you need to be practicing utmost concentration, never taking your eyes off the ground and inspecting each square foot of ground. Sure, you can look up every once in awhile to make sure you don’t run into a tree or anything, but for the most part, your eyes need to be where the sheds might be.
Bring a team
Keeping your eyes on the ground for hours at a time and scanning every solitary inch of ground can be a daunting and exhausting experience. It can also make covering your entire property take forever, so if you want to expedite the process a bit and take the pressure off yourself, you can bring a team.
Of course, you will probably have to share the sheds that you find, but with five or six sets of eyes, you are bound to find sheds that you would have missed on your own. It’s a fair trade-off.
Bring a dog
If you want the help of a partner in crime, but don’t want to have to share the spoils of your victory, consider bringing your dog. He/she can help you by sniffing out sheds and uncovering them from places you wouldn’t catch with the naked eye, like from underneath a layer of snow or from a particularly thick patch of grass. Look around on the web for tips about training your dog for shed hunting.
Research your trail camera shots
There’s nothing worse than jumping the gun and going shed hunting before most of the sheds have actually happened. By watching your trail cameras and keeping an eye on your property’s population of bucks, you can better determine when most of them have shed their antlers.
This way, you will know when it is the best time to go shed hunting and will be able to find the maximum number of antlers on the smallest number of hunts.
Keep a record of where you have found sheds in the past
Want some insight on where your bucks are shedding their antlers? Keep a journal where you notate the location of every shed you have ever recovered. You can use this data to draw up a map of your findings and to formulate a more efficient plan of attack for your shed hunting adventure. Jot down the location and date on a map, and you’ll be able to see a visual representation with great insight as to where antlers may be, and how deer move during this time of year.
Search in the rain
This might not sound at all appealing, just because trudging around in a muddy, rainy, post-winter hunting property is bound to be a messy experience. However, many shed hunters claim that they find the most antlers in the rain, with the water giving the sheds the extra glisten they need to stand out from the drab landscape.