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.
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.
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.
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.
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.