Get Out and Walk!
There is something special about laying your hands on an antler from a whitetail buck. Just think of the journey that deer has been on since he started growing his antlers in early May. In early September he was shedding velvet and tearing up trees. It got a front row show to that arrow that flew over the bucks back in late October. In the end, the antler fell off, and was left on the ground in one spot out of all the places that buck traveled. This is the spot you hope to come across as you put on the hundreds of miles hiking through snow, up steep hills, across open fields and even crawling through the thickest spots you can find. When you finally do see that bone laying there or those tines sticking up out of the snow, that feeling is what keeps you going step after step, mile after mile. Being the first human to lay your hands on an antler can be as satisfying as shooting a buck during the season. Sometimes even more satisfying knowing a buck you passed made it through another season. If you find the right antler, it is proof that buck is still out there and you finally get to see and hold his rack. Shed hunting can be as easy as just going for a walk and stumbling across an antler. Or it can be as hard as setting up grid patterns to cover every foot of a property you are on, walking mile after mile to do so. Here are some Tips to help you find more antlers or to get motivated to get out and find your first!
One thing that helps me a lot is to find the deer before going to look for the antlers. Every winter I run trail cameras on properties where I want to shed hunt. Knowing those buck are around is the best motivation you can have to go shed hunting. If you are walking a patch of woods that since rifle season doesn’t even have deer in it, then you are probably wasting your time. Go out and scout, run cameras, and find where the deer have moved too for the winter. This will increase your odds greatly at finding more antlers.
Waiting for the right time to go in after shed antlers could be the key in having more success this year. If you go in too early, you risk bumping those buck off the property you can shed hunt. If you know the area and the bucks that are around, waiting till you know they have dropped their antlers is key. Remember they aren’t going to disappear, if a shed is there, it is most likely going to be there 2-3 weeks from now. However on heavily shed hunted property waiting too long could mean someone else will beat you too it. Make sure you pay attention to when the buck are dropping their antlers, and get in after them.
Where to look
I still believe that a shed antler could be in any location on any property. That makes it difficult to find every shed out there, but when you are out make sure you are focusing on the best spots for the longest amount of time. The first two obvious spots are bedding and feeding areas. I like to start with feeding areas. If you know where the deer are feeding start here and focus a good part of your time grid searching these areas. Then follow trails away from the feeding areas till you get to obvious bedding areas. Spending a lot of time in the bedding areas before going out and doing what I call “trail walking” will definitely help you find some of the easier shed antlers. From there I do trail walking, using the heaviest trails I follow them until they either end or they meet another trail. Always make sure you are stopping often and looking ahead of you, left and right, and even looking back behind you. Deer don’t follow trails all the time. You have to always be looking off the beaten path as well. More often in the winter deer will bed on high spots, and south facing slopes. So be sure to check these spots for bedding areas and heavily used trails. Fence crossings and water crossings are two more great spots to check, these are a few of the spots I get really excited when I come across. Often times I find sheds at water and swampy areas. These spots always catch my attention when I’m out and might lead you to find a few more antlers if you zone in on these spots.
Put on the Miles
When you see people who find 30, 40, or even 100 sheds a year there is one thing for sure, they have worn out their boots walking. Every shed hunter that has good success puts in a lot of time, walking a lot of miles, covering a lot of ground. Get out and start walking, you will see and come across some really cool stuff along the way. If you think it’s too early to go after specific buck you know about, try hitting new ground that you don’t know anything about. This way you find new places to look in the future, and you don’t risk pushing deer around in places you know you will shed hunt later on. Bottom line here is get out and Walk, walk and walk some more!
You don’t have to go out shed hunting alone, get together with friends and family. Take kids out, take your dog with, and have fun! I like to bring a shed antler with me when I go out with a friend and we take turns throwing it ahead of the other guy and see if they find it. You would be amazed how many times these antlers blend in perfectly and are hard to see even when you know they are there! Shed hunting dogs are becoming more and more popular as well so that’s a great time to get your dog out and introduce them to antlers! Don’t get discouraged if you struggle to find some at first just enjoy the great outdoors, good company, and make memories out there.
The antlers will eventually come if you put yourself in the right place and are out there looking. I have probably walked by more antlers then I have found. I believe every shed hunter has done this. Some are easier to find then others even though I find myself picking up more spike sheds in Pennsylvania then nice ones. The good news is, they are out there and it has become a growing sport to get out and find them year after year. Best of Luck this shed season! Make it a point to get out in the next few weeks looking for some shed antlers, and post your pictures up on Cervicide!