Here are a few things to avoid while shed hunting.
If this sounds like you, you're not alone. I know people who have hunted for years who have never found a single antler. Still others have only found a handful by mistake while tending trail cameras or turkey hunting.
So, why do so many people struggle to find shed antlers? There are a variety of reasons, most of which are nothing more than bad habits. By eliminating these, you'll increase your odds finding more sheds significantly.
Walking too fast
I see this one all the time and it's a common mistake. You want to cover a lot of ground as quickly as you can, but speed and shed hunting often don't mix. In my experience, it often leads to missed antlers. It amazes me every year how many antlers I find on a second or even a third pass through a spot.
If you never find anything, it may be time to re-evaluate how fast you're walking and slow things down significantly. Every person is different, so you just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to find a speed that works for you.
This is something I struggled with for years and still do from time to time. It's a bad habit that's especially easy to pick up in open areas and that's looking too far ahead of where you're walking. While you can spot antlers from quite a ways off, especially in more western and open states, you can also miss antlers sitting at your feet.
It's always amazing how many antlers I don't see until I'm standing right on top of them. My second antler this year was a 4-point side I didn't see until I nearly stepped on it. In my experience, this is how I find the majority of my antlers--within a 10-15 foot circle of where I'm standing.
One thing I did that helped me stop looking too far ahead was deciding to leave my binoculars at home until I developed a little more discipline. It forced me to search the area immediately at my feet instead of constantly glassing 40-50 yards out.
Also, don't forget to stop and look behind you as often as possible. Sometimes it just takes a different angle or lighting to reveal a well-hidden antler.
Going out in poor conditions
Sure, hiking on a bright, sunny spring day is more fun, but this is the absolute worst time to shed hunt. The sun provides too much contrast and produces shadows that can fool the eye. I compare it to trying to lace up a pair of white tennis shoes on a sunny day. It's a bit blinding. I'm not saying you can't find antlers on a sunny day; I've done it. However, it's significantly harder and you're putting yourself at a disadvantage if these are the only times you go out.
My success rate has gone up since I started focusing on cloudy or overcast days that cut down the contrast. Even better is a rainy day because it mats down the vegetation and leaf litter and makes the antlers stand out better. Wet antlers also have a sheen to them that's like nothing else in the woods.
Not looking in the right place
Your shed hunting and deer hunting approaches are going to be different. Those rub lines and scrapes the deer were all over during the season aren't necessarily where the sheds are going to be.
A buck is concerned with two things after the rut: food sources and recovering from the stress of breeding season. Your main focus should be feeding areas, bedding areas and the trails that connect the two.
In a way, you have to scout the deer all over again for sheds. The easiest way to do that is by utilizing your trail cameras to determine where the bucks are hanging out in the late season when the rut is over and then focus your search there.
Not having a plan
This is what dooms the majority of shed hunters. They go out and try to cover every square inch of their hunting property in a single hike while making many of the mistakes I've outlined above. But you can't just walk through the woods at random and hope to fill your pickup bed with monster antlers. You have to have a plan and then you must stick to it.
You have to know what areas you're searching and you have to make the effort to search them methodically and thoroughly. I've spent hours searching just one field before. Figure out the spot you want to search before you head out and then take the time to grid-search it properly.
Not putting in the time and effort
This last one is big. You can't just go for one or two hikes a year and hope to be a master shed hunter. It's a lot like hunting the deer itself, you have to put in the time and effort. That means countless hours and miles of hiking. It means wearing out your boots and being incredibly patient.
I'll admit, though, some people are just born naturals. But for most of us, it's usually a long, difficult learning process.
Shed hunting is a fun and rewarding way to spend each spring in the outdoors. Hopefully these tips on things to avoid will help you have more success this spring. Happy hiking!