Are you the world's worst shed hunter? This might help you make a change.
I have been intrigued by whitetail hunting for a long time. With that comes the love of shed antlers. It adds another piece to the story, and passes the time in between seasons where you can also gain some important scouting knowledge.
About three years ago, if someone asked me about shed hunting, my reply was always "I couldn't find a shed if I stepped on it and ran it through my foot." I liked the thought of shed hunting, but no results meant no fun.
Three years later, I look forward to it almost as much as I do the hunting season itself. By no means am I claiming I am an incredible shed hunter, but now I find enough sheds to keep me intrigued and coming back for more. There are a ton of factors, and you will find a million articles on "Shed Hunting Tips", but these three things are what personally helped increase my success and ultimately fall in love with the sport of shed hunting.
Go With People Who Find Sheds
Monkey See, Monkey Do... right? This may sound silly or just dumb, but above all else, this is what changed my shed hunting success more than anything. For years, I would walk the woods just to walk the woods, thinking that eventually, I would just stumble upon shed antlers. After a few empty handed walks, confidence would disappear and my shed hunting endeavors were over for that year.
A couple buddies I knew were always finding sheds. Up to 40 a year at times, and it blew my mind. What could they be doing that I wasn't? With most things in life, you need a mentor or a trainer, or at least some way of gaining knowledge.
I simply asked them if I could tag along to see how they went about the sport and they were happy to bring me.
Go and watch them. Watch the speed at which they walk, how they stop and look, the terrains in which they focus on, and ask as many questions as possible. You can gain ton of insight from a one day trip, and it can do wonders for your success.
Take an Antler with You
I know this is a point you have probably seen in other articles, but if you haven't you need too. I began taking a small shed with me when shed hunting. Every now and then I would chuck it in a direction I wasn't looking and then begin searching for it.
This allows you to start training your eye. When you first walk out into the woods, everything starts to run together, and your eyes have a hard time sorting things out and remembering what you are looking for. When you have this small shed close by, it helps your eye register what you are looking for and keeps the visual fresh in your mind.
Sounds ridiculous, but being focused while shed hunting is key and this keeps the sight of a tine stay fresh in your mind. As you walk, in your head state what you see to yourself. That way you can help your mind register what your eyes are seeing and it helps focus on certain objects instead of blindly scanning the area. "Stick, stick, leaf, rock, stick, turkey feather, stick, creek, SHED!"
I also stress the idea of taking a small shed with you. When shed hunting, it's important to think small. Antlers will often fall in brush, get covered by leaves, or fall in crevices to where only one tine is visible. If you aren't thinking small and always looking for a rib cage-looking object, you will miss out on 80% of the sheds.
Walk and toss the shed in front of you numerous times throughout your hunt, and keep those eyes honed in on what they are looking for. It will only help and improve your chances of finding sheds.
Think Like a Buck (Walk Smarter, Not Harder)
There are many factors that come into this section. But what it all boils down to is think like a buck. Common sense says sheds are only going to be where bucks have been. So why waste time in places where you don't think a buck has spent time?
Think like a buck would in the late winter months. Food to bedding, bedding to food. I am no rocket scientist, but if there are no sheds in the area, you simply won't find sheds.
Your starting point should always be food. Find out where deer are feeding based of off past years late season encounters, previous scouting, and also available food. Then from there determine where you think the main bedding area is. Within that area, find the thickest places, especially on hills. Deer will often find high ground where the sunshine is touching for the longest period of time in the day as it sets to stay warm.
After you hit those spots, make sure to also check little secluded areas like the ends of fingers, points, and small clumps of trees in open areas where a buck may bed periodically between feeding breaks.
All in all, walk smarter, not harder. Of course you MUST put in many many miles and hours, but the importance of walking in the correct places instead of just covering every inch of field and timber cannot be emphasized enough.
Once you start to find enough sheds, your memory bank and knowledge builds and your eye begin to notice areas that make your mind scream...there might be a shed in there!
Once again, I do not claim to be an outstanding shed hunter. But I know my results from the past years have increased tremendously and I chalk it up to these three things the most. From finding three sheds in the previous six years to finding over 60 in the past two years, there is proof in the pudding.
Obviously there are many other things that come into play and help your chances. Overcast days to make the surroundings more dull so the tines pop visually, not pressuring a spot and pushing bucks out before they are dropped, having permission to places that hold deer late season but still getting there before others, and multiple hours on foot.
Focus on the three main points I elaborated on, and there is a good chance you will find more bone.
Shed hunting is a blast. Finding sheds to deer you have on trail camera is rewarding and exciting. This year I was lucky enough to harvest a buck I had found a shed off of the year before and it just adds to the story behind the hunt itself.
But most of all above anything else, enjoy the fresh air and have fun out there.