Get The Most Out of Shed Hunting | Find Shed Antlers
By: Andrew Muntz
“Something is always in season” said most hunting wives at some point in their relationships with a hunter. This might be a bit of a stretch, but then again, it’s kind of true.
As whitetail deer seasons wrap up across the Midwest, we are entering the winter lull. Dreary days of drastic temperature fluctuations, random precipitation, and nothingness is upon us. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you take to the woods in search of that white gold.
Finding Shed Antlers
As many hunters know, whitetail deer shed their antlers annually, leaving little treasures scattered about the country side. Finding one of these treasures really can be a thrill if you think about the chances of finding such an item. You need to be in the right place at the right time. Your eyes need to catch the glimpse of that tine in the snow, or the bright white object amongst the dull colors of dead plant material and the like. You need to find that bone, before your competitors do, both humans and rodents. Although the time to find sheds can vary greatly, it’s most often something seen throughout the months of January through March.
Finding sheds isn’t an exact science, and in reality, they can fall off just about anywhere. I’m no expert, but over the years I've learned some things you may consider when looking for sheds that I’ve found marginally successful:
- You want to look in areas where deer will spend most of their time. The sheds can fall anywhere, but if they spend 70% of their day in one area, it would only make sense that there is a 70% chance they lose them there.
- You want to spend 80% of your time on 20% of the area you are searching. If you have 100 acres, but only 20 of them are south facing, bedding areas with good cover, then you probably want to spend most of your time in those areas.
- Look for south facing hillsides- During the cold winter months deer will find those south facing areas to absorb as much heat from the sun as possible. The more time they spend there, the more likely they drop the antlers in those areas.
- Bring a dog. If you have a 4 legged friend that needs to burn some of that built up winter energy, this might be a great time to get them out of the house. Some dogs can be trained to specifically find antlers, but I’ve found that even with an untrained dog, they have a knack for finding a treat in the woods.
- Finding a pair- One of those added challenges, that honestly, I’m not very good at. In a perfect world the two antlers drop side by side and you have the ultimate prize, but nature doesn’t always work that way. It’s been said that if you find one antler, start walking circles working your way out from that first antler until you find it’s match. It really makes perfect sense, but I hope this proves more successful for you than it has for me over the years!
What to Do With Sheds After You Find Them
Of course, finding the antlers is the challenge, but then using what you find can be a piece of the puzzle to next year’s success. Taking inventory of the guys who made it through the season can be very valuable as you plan for next year’s targets. Finding that bedding area that you might have missed during the season, could be valuable for setting next year’s stand locations. Snow cover can often coincide with this time of the year, and nothing tells you more about how deer are moving through an area like a blanket of snow. Take notes. Log it in your favorite mapping program. Start that plan for next season!
One final thought, and potentially can throw all of this out of whack, but something to consider. In a recent discussion with a very successful guide in Pennsylvania, we discussed a deer he followed for many years. He had the deer on camera during the late summer and through the fall in one location. In late winter, during shed season, he had that same deer on camera 7 MILES AWAY!!! I equate this to the human version of the snow birds that leave their homes up north and travel south for the warmer climates during the winter months. So, just because you find the sheds, and beds, and all the sign in the world in an area now, there is still a chance that buck spends his time during hunting season in a different county! Good luck!