Find Your Shed: The benefits of shed hunting

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Shed hunting is one of those scarce American hobbies that many have never heard about. It can be a challenging and rewarding pastime, and it seems like one of deer hunting’s mysteries. There is value in shed hunting other than actually finding antlers. First and foremost it can be a family occasion. Second, shed hunting also aids in late season scouting, which is my favorite part about shed hunting. Its also a great way to keep tabs on which deer made it through the season on your hunting grounds and the surrounding grounds when you find their sheds. Lastly shed hunting will ultimately help you understand your land better and help you to become a better deer hunter. Highly successful shed hunters find more bone because they spend more time in the woods, they cover more ground, and they have developed a routine of places to look. I can’t help you with the walking, but here are some tips and tricks that will help you find sheds and ultimately get you into shed hunting.

 

10368398_621902124591345_8595388280039438603_nValue of Shed Hunting:

Walking with friends or family for an entire day can provide a better perception of your hunting land and it can be a day of adventure. Its always fun watching family and friend’s faces light up with a smile when they find an antler. It’s also a great way to grow our sport and pass the tradition on by getting a youngster involved in the outdoors. Shed hunting provides an opportunity to teach kids about hunting, wildlife, the land and it’s FUN! Sheds are also worth money and sell for about seven to nine dollars a pound depending on the condition of the shed. Finding a shed is always priceless for me!

 

Aids in Late Season Scouting:

Late season scouting could be a whole other topic for an article with it being so vast. But since you will be deliberately and systematically covering ground shed hunting you can look for rubs, scrapes, trails, etc. to get a better understanding of what the deer are doing on your hunting grounds. I like to carry a GPS with me and mark every rub, bed, and new deer trail I find. When I get back home I mark it on my map. This will help you remember where the sign was late when you start to scout early before deer season.

 

 

10343484_10203605997895102_8890751720329402274_nScout for Antlers:

Scout for antlers just like you do deer before deer season. Some bucks live in the same territory from fall through early spring however, many other deer travel to wintering areas with good thermal cover, warm south-facing slopes, food sources, and heavily used trails. That’s where those bucks are going to drop their antlers. Hike, drive, and glass for these spots and I promise you, you will find sheds. Once you’ve figured out where some bucks are spending the winter, set up trail cameras near feeding areas, well-used trails, or even a mock scrape. Use a map before season and pick out spots you want to walk.

 

Utilize Trail Cameras:

Trail cameras are huge when it comes to finding bone! Utilize your trail cameras like you do before and during hunting season. It’s a great way to know where the deer are on the land you hunt and when they start to shed their antlers. Deer will most likely shed their antlers where they feel most secure. Look near cover that provides the deer with safety and where they don’t have to travel very far to find food. Usually when it is cold deer like to stay within 100 yards of a food source they are attending too regularly. I like to focus my searching on the edges of food plots and other food sources.11016729_10152713864612253_188277947490349076_n

 

Tabs on Deer:

Shed hunting provides you with evidence on which bucks made it through the hunting season and gives you an insight on new bucks that in your area. This and scouting, will help you formulate a plan or strategy for next years hunting season. It also helps you tell the health of the buck or herd on your hunting land by knowing when he dropped his antlers, and by the color of them. If he dropped his antlers considerably early or late then he may have had his health compromised in some way. If a shed is considerably lighter than others or all your sheds have been getting lighter over the years then it tells you that the deer are not getting the proper nutrition that they need.11018578_10152703995637253_5531271716939876153_n

 

Where to Look:

During the late season deer are never far from food. So the best place to start looking is around the food source that your hunting lands produce. Deer usually stay within 100 yards of their food source when it’s cold. In addition, check heavily used deer trails headed to those food sources. Check the thermal cover areas that those trails are coming from. Lastly, check the south facing slopes. Here is an example of where I would look on the land that I hunt. First I would walk to the southern edges right along a food plot. I would do this first because the deer have quick access to a prime food source and they can soak up direct sunlight at the same time. Next, I would walk the north side of the food plots because of the good cover, allowing the deer to bed in that cover. I would then check in my “secret spots,” the spots that are obvious areas that deer love, areas that have a dozen or more rubs, etc. I always check the southern areas of these secret spots because the deer bed along the thicket for the sun exposure and the thicket provides them cover. Thickets offer a good chance for a buck to snag up an antler and drop it there. After that I check every creek and fence crossing. I check these because of the deer usually jump to cross and that jumping sometimes jars antlers loose. You have to be a smart shed hunter and pick apart the cover, searching the best-looking places effectively and efficiently.

 

Shed hunting can be a fun and rewarding time in the woods with friends and family. It can also allow you to get insight on how to hunt a particular deer for the upcoming season. So get out there and find some BONE!

-Cass Via Jr.

EvoOutdoors Prostaff

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I ♥ Deer Heart

 grilled venison heart recipe photo by holly heiser

In the pursuit of big game a lot of hunters aim for the heart however, I try to avoid making a direct heart shot if possible. “Why?” you might ask. Many people are familiar with using deer quarters, the loins, the backstrap, etc., but have you ever tried the heart?  Yes, the good ol’ pump station! Now do not be quick to blame my Louisiana roots on this craziness. The crazy Cajuns down here have been known to eat just about any part of any critter. Even here in Louisiana not many people have been brave enough to try the heart, but those few brave souls that have are delightfully rewarded with a beautiful cut of meat.

 

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Tips on Preparing the Heart (think back to your old anatomy classes):

  • Remove all of the blood and blood clots by rinsing thoroughly. Be sure to get deep down into the chambers of the heart and even submerging it in cold water while giving it a few squeezes will help flush any remaining blood out.
  • Cut away the “crown” of the heart leaving behind the main muscle. Cut away excess fat and connective tissue from the outer part of the heart, then butterfly and trim the remainder of the main artery, valves, and the fibrous tissue. What you are left with is gorgeous, filet-like meat that lacks the grainy, fibrous texture of the more traditional cuts of venison. The overall misconception is that it has a liver-like flavor when infact it does not.
  • Need step by step instructions? Click here!

 

 

 

“The Instant Grill”: Because what better way to enjoy your fresh wild game then on an open fire after skinning and quartering it?

IMG_5666Simply prepare the heart as previously mentioned, then season it as you would your favorite steak. I like to use garlic powder, season all, salt, pepper, and olive oil ( I also sometimes marinate it in beer, but its not required).

Light up the fire pit and sit back and relax until the embers and coals are nice and evenly hot. Throw the meat on the grill and cook to a medium rare and then remove from heat.  Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing to ensure that the juices do not run out. Enjoy! Best served with some awesome garlic mashed potatoes!

“I ♥ Fajitas”: Bring your typical boring fajitas to a new level with all fresh ingredients and a little venison love. 

Fajitas can be as extravagant or as plain as you like but this is my favorite way to eat them! After preparing your deer heart, slice into strips and season with your favorite fajita/taco seasoning mix and a little bit of garlic and cilantro. While that is resting, slice up some green onions, purple onions, yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, garlic, and more cilantro. Toss the mixture in lime juice and sear the veggies in a screaming hot skillet and cook until they are barely limp, then remove from the skillet. After the veggies are done, toss in the heart slices and cook until medium rare. Best served on a corn tortilla with the heart, veggies, avocado/guacamole , fresh cilantro (yes, I use a lot of am obsessed with cilantro), pico de gallo, and a drizzle of sriracha sauce on top.

Over the years I have had venison heart prepared in a few different ways, so be adventurous. Above are a few of my favorite ways to prepare the heart. In addition, a couple other good ways to prepare the heart include smothering it with onions, stuffing it with sausage or another stuffing of choice, and this awesome looking bruschetta recipe.

To those that have never tried it or were afraid to try it, would you be open to the idea of keeping and cooking your next big game heart? If so, which recipe would you indulge in first?

 

Sarah Fromenthal
EvoOutdoors Prostaff