Find out more about some of the strategies and tips that professional hunters use in this article if you’ve had difficulty finding sheds in previous seasons or if this is your first time going shed hunting. Some of the suggestions are not widely known, but they can make a significant difference, so take the time to read through this article if you have the opportunity.
What is shed hunting and how does it work?
When antler-bearing mammals, such as deer, elk, caribou, and moose shed their antlers naturally, shed hunting is the activity of going out into the woods and looking for them. Because no two antlers are ever alike, people prefer to use them as ornaments rather than for hunting.
There are a variety of reasons why people go shed hunting. Some people simply enjoy the activity and the satisfaction that comes from admiring and displaying a freshly shed antler in their home, without any ulterior motives. Some hunters even go out hunting in order to sell their antlers to collectors, furniture artisans, craftsmen, and health professionals.
The majority of shed hunters, on the other hand, are deer and big game hunters who use the locations of shed antlers to gather valuable information about the behavior of their prey. Using the information gathered from shed antlers, it is possible to put together a solid hunting strategy for the upcoming hunting season.
Regardless of your motivation for going shed hunting, we will provide you with all of the strategies and tips that you will need to keep in mind if you want to bring a fresh antler home with you on your next expedition in the sections below.
When is the best time to search for deer sheds?
Deer and the majority of other antler-bearing mammals will typically begin to shed their antlers between the middle of January and the middle of March. The amount of time required varies significantly depending on factors such as the deer’s geographic range, age, and environmental conditions.
When it comes to antler-bearing mammals in a specific geographic range, the majority of them will typically shed their antlers during the same time period each year. A harsh winter can stress the deer, causing the bucks to give birth earlier than usual.
Nonetheless, with only a few notable exceptions, most antler-bearing mammals should have shed their antlers by early April, with only a few notable exceptions. As a result, the months of March and April are the best months to plan a shed hunting trip.
In order to avoid pushing the bucks out of their refuge and having them drop their antlers on private property where you will not have permission to hike, it is preferable to start a little later rather than too early in the morning or evening. Ensure that you are aware of the laws in your state regarding the collection of sheds and that you comply with them.
Where to find deer antlers that have been shed
There are three main areas where shed antlers can be found: bedding areas, feeding locations, and travel corridors. Bedding areas are the most common location for shed antlers. You should begin your search near feeding areas because, during the winter months, bucks are more likely to seek out concentrated sources of food sources. Food plots, orchards, agricultural fields, and oak ridges are examples of what is meant by this.
These are the places where animals spend the majority of their time hiding from predators and resting during the course of their daily lives. Because they have a thick cover, they are easy to distinguish from others. Depressions, the heads of ravines, edges with depressions, and low spots shielded from the wind near feeding locations are all good places to look for sheds, and they can be found in a variety of places.
Tall grasses, densely wooded pockets of timber, and brushy thickets are all good places to look for bedding opportunities. During the winter, antler-bearing animals tend to prefer south-facing slopes so that they can get more exposure to the sun than they would otherwise.
Deer are constantly on the move, and travel corridors are the trails that take them away from their bedding areas and to feeding and watering areas further away. Due to the fact that antlers are more likely to come loose during the jump and landing of fence crossings, extra caution should be exercised when crossing fences.
When should you conduct your search?
In the absence of a landownership or management arrangement, you will be competing with other hunters for sheds. You’ll also have to contend with mice, squirrels, and other critters that prey on sheds for their calcium content. When hunting on public lands, you should make frequent trips to ensure that you are always one step ahead of other hunters in your area.
You can put off your search for squirrels until April if you’re on private property where there aren’t many of them. However, if you are on private property and there are a lot of squirrels, you should get out of your house frequently. Although it may seem surprising, a single squirrel can consume an entire shed in less than a week, which is quite remarkable.
Make use of your eyes.
It will be extremely difficult to locate antlers on the ground if you are a beginner because antlers have a tendency to blend in with their surroundings very well. As a result, it is extremely important to keep your eyes in good condition. There are two options for accomplishing this. In the woods, you can carry an antler with you and then throw it over your shoulder as you begin your search for the animal.
It may seem strange, but it is effective, and it is one of the most effective ways to train your eyes if you are not naturally gifted at identifying shed antlers. Another option is to join a message board or online community, as most hunters are eager to share their discoveries in the same condition as they were discovered in the field.
When you look at photos of antlers taken in a variety of terrains, situations, and weather conditions, you can train your eyes to recognize them more easily the next time you’re out hunting for them.
Don’t give up on your search.
In the spring, it is true that there are many critters who will try to get to the antlers before you do, but this is not always the case. Even very old antlers can be found on the ground, and there will always be a plentiful supply of new antlers to be discovered.
As a result, even during the off-season, you should keep your eyes peeled for antlers on the ground because you never know when you might come across one. Maintaining your ability to scan the trails during a summer hike or early-season scouting in the fall can help you maintain your eye-training year after year, and you may even come across antlers in unexpected places.
Take it easy and gradually increase your speed.
While some hunters prefer to use ATVs to cover more ground, this can result in a significant loss of antlers, not to mention the fact that it will spook the wildlife, and vehicles are not permitted on all hunting grounds in the United States.
Finding antlers is most successful when done slowly, and your primary focus should not be on how much ground you can cover, but rather on how thoroughly you can examine each inch of the ground you cover. If you are not meticulous, it is very easy to miss antlers that are only a few feet away from you. It may take longer, but the results will be more satisfying.
You should also try to keep your eyes on the ground because many first-time shed hunters have a tendency to focus a little too high while looking at rubs and branches, making it easier to overlook antlers.
Prepare to take on the world
A full day of shed hunting may be required due to the fact that the more ground you are able to cover, the greater the likelihood that you will come across antlers. Because of this, it’s critical to dress in the appropriate boots for the occasion. In order to be comfortable, waterproof, and breathable while hiking in early spring conditions, you should invest in a pair of hiking boots.
Because you do not want to end a long day of hunting with blisters on your feet, it is also important to remember the importance of wearing good quality socks.
If you don’t want to waste time scanning for feeding and bedding areas in far-off open spaces, you should also consider investing in a good pair of hunting binoculars.
Pick a day when it is cloudy or raining.
Because of the glare from the sun, it can be difficult to distinguish between antlers and other objects in bright sunlight. You should try to plan your hunt on cloudy days if at all possible because they provide better contrast, which makes it easier to spot the antlers.
Rainy days are preferred by many hunters because the rain helps to mat down the vegetation and leaves, allowing antlers to stand out more clearly against the background. Another advantage of rain is that a wet antler emits a sheen that makes it very easy to distinguish it from others.
Bring your family along with you.
Shed hunting is not a dangerous activity, and as a result, you can bring your entire family, including children, along with you on your hunt. Not only will your children have a good time, but their keen eyes and seemingly limitless supply of energy may be exactly what you need to clean up a messes around the house.
Children enjoy a good treasure hunt, and as long as you remember to pack plenty of water and snacks, you can accomplish two goals in one day. Have a great time with your entire family and come home with a hefty load of antlers.
Charles Reynolds is an engineer from New York University with a passion for fishing. His earliest memories of fishing go back to the days spent on the lake with his grandfather who taught him the sport. Reynolds spends a large part of his holidays fishing with his son and passing on the skills to the little one.