Learn how to shed hunt, a fun “season after the season” that still gets you outdoors and interacting with nature.
While “shed hunting,” to a hunting outsider, may sound like the mundane search for some impossible-to-find object in the backyard garden shed, to hunters, it’s an interesting and unique opportunity that can help ease the transition from hunting season into off-season.
Every year, in late January or early February, those huge bucks you were hunting back in the fall start shedding their antlers and dropping them haphazardly on trails, near bedding areas, and by feeding plots. If you want to get your hands on some impressive antler displays, simply grab a pair of binoculars, strap on a pair of winter boots, bundle yourself up, and head out to one of your favorite deer hunting properties.
Some hunters aren’t so sure about shed hunting, merely because they believe that any antler trophies they obtain should be achieved through the successful hunting of the deer that owned them. However, antlers have a wide range of uses that go well beyond just trophy wall mounts. Whether you want to find some antlers to use for baiting next fall or a piece of bone that you can carve into a homemade handle for your next hunting knife, there are plenty of reasons to partake in the shed hunting season.
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Even if you don’t want to collect antler pieces, you can still benefit from a shed hunting expedition. Treat it as a scouting trip, using dropped antlers to notate 1) how many bucks may still be on your property following the hunting months, and 2) where those bucks are moving, eating, bedding and shedding. All of this information can help you start planning next fall’s hunt way in advance.
Before you head out the door to partake in some good old-fashioned shed hunting, there are a few things you should know. First of all, know that you aren’t just going to find antlers scattered everywhere the second you walk onto your favorite deer hunting property. It’s called shed “hunting” for a reason. There’s a good deal of searching involved to find what you are looking for, and just like with searching out late season bucks, you will stand a much greater chance at success if you know where to look.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when shed hunting is that whitetails don’t move around much in the winter. Right now, bucks are hiding out in somewhat of a virtual hibernation mode, working to stay warm and stay alive on little more than the fat reserves they built up in the pre-rut months.
Since this winter has been particularly frigid, bucks in many areas – particularly throughout the Midwest – may actually be moving less than usual. If you are hoping to find antler sheds, you are going to have to play the areas where a buck conserving his energy would be most likely to spend his time: bedding areas and feeding spots.
Even once you find the prime deer spots though, you aren’t just going to find a gold mine of sheds, piled up and ready for the taking. If you want to build an impressive collection, you are going to need to wander every inch of several different properties, never taking your eyes off the ground. Shed hunting in groups, when various pairs of eyes can be focused on the ground all at once, is often the best method for success. However, if you want to hunt for sheds alone and keep the spoils for yourself, consider taking your dog with you. The dog’s sharp nose might help with honing in on shed locations, and is especially helpful for uncovering sheds that have been buried or obscured by snowfall.