Sometimes shed antlers can be found in strange locations.
Spring is nearly here and so too, is one of my favorite times of year, shed hunting season. Most aspiring antler hunters head back to spots frequented by the deer during the breeding season of the rut. However, the places where bucks were found when testosterone levels were the highest are not necessarily the same places to hike in early spring.
Most shed hunters place their bets on the usual places, bedding areas, feeding areas, and the trails that connect them. Male deer do frequent these areas once the off-season starts. However, you may be leaving lots of white gold laying about to serve as a calcium source for the rodents without even realizing it. You may be driving by antlers every day on your way to work that you never knew were there.
That's because deer shed their antlers in strange locations sometimes and the only way to find them is by looking in some outside-the-box spots for deer sheds. Today we have some suggestions on more unusual places to expand your antler hunting exploits this season.
It may seem a little morbid but both mule and whitetail bucks like to go to where there is no pressure once the season is over. Some cemeteries, especially in urban areas, offer a little bit of everything that deer need. There's browse on the bushes and trees, cover for bedding in the shrubbery, and few human visitors in the late winter months. I've seen both whitetails and mule deer hanging out in cemeteries many times. If they're using it as a wintering area, odds are there may be a set of antlers or two to find there too. The great thing about cemeteries is because they are landscaped, it makes it easy to spot a row of tines from a distance. You can search them more quickly than traditional shed hunting spots. Don't discount rural cemeteries either. Sometimes, when the hunting pressure is on, bucks get creative when finding new places to hide.
These locations tend to get overlooked by many shed hunters because they do get a lot of human traffic. And not every park is going to produce sheds, but some parks can produce new antlers season after season, sometimes even in the same areas. The trick is, figuring out the right time to hit these spots. Go too early and you risk bumping the deer out. Go too late and you risk missing out due to the competition. I've had a lot of luck in the larger county parks and getting off the beaten path. I have one close to home with numerous stands of machine-planted pines that the bucks love to bed in every winter. Keep a close eye out for parks in largely urban areas with dense areas of brush away from the trails. These can be prime bedding areas and a safe space for deer that spend the majority of their time in backyards. Also, never assume the place has been picked over. In the photo above, you'll see a nice 4-point side I found hanging a foot off the ground in a bush only 20 yards from the main trail in a nature area. I didn't find this antler until late May. How no one else spotted that antler in that time is a mystery to me.
Searching a golf course for shed antlers hinges on permission of course. If you can secure it, the links can be a prime spot to look for antlers. Golf courses often have a bevy of terrain features and food sources that deer find attractive. Hillier courses can provide windbreaks for the deer during the harshest parts of the winter. Many courses also have plenty of shrubs and other plants that deer love to browse on when there's snow on the ground. Golf courses attract both male and female deer simply because there's not likely to be anyone there in the winter months. It's a place where they can go through the shedding process and conserve energy for a fresh cycle of antler growth come springtime.
Two-tracks and utility access roads
The latest in the year that I have ever found a shed was in early September. That find came in an extremely unexpected place. A utility access road sandwiched between a major highway and the perimeter fence of an army base. The distance between these two obstructions was only about 100 yards. The road was mostly meant for maintenance of the highway-side billboards. Because it received so little traffic, it was a bit overgrown with dense cover on all sides and a total deer sanctuary. The deer used the road for easy travel and the antler was laying right in the middle of the two-track. If you can find a seldom-used road or path that also provides access to food and a place to bed, you may have a hidden hotspot on your hands. I suspect the road I found serves as a white-tailed deer sanctuary during hunting seasons.
Wooded Areas around businesses
We know that most hunters don't want to spend a lot of time hanging around in urban sprawl. However, areas littered with Wal-Marts, Home Depots, and other big box stores can hold deer in the wooded lots and areas behind them. These spots effectively allow bucks to hide in plain sight. They can safely spend their summers growing antlers and chasing does during the rut in a place that hunters cannot touch them. Last year, I explored a small woodlot behind a movie theater that had a bike trail running adjacent. To my shock, I found the 62-inch, 4-point side shown above. This antler was less than 50 yards from a road and only 20 yards from a paved bike path. The shed had a nine-inch G2 and mass measurements of nearly six inches. Big bucks don't grow to massive sizes without being smart and one of the best places to hide from humans is closest to them. Take a peek at the surrounding areas the next time you're at Wal-Mart. You might be surprised at the deer sign you find. Likewise, look for those urban bike or hiking trails that run past the backyards of homes. Bucks will often use the trail as a travel corridor at night and will stop to browse in people's yards and on their trees.