Let’s break down “Shed Hunting” for a minute. Shed – The antler, the headgear, the bone, the gold, the ultimate goal. Hunting – The activity of looking for something. Winter is winding down and that means more antlers are dropping. An antler connoisseur gets that feeling inside that a kid has on the last day of school for the year. Anticipation is boiling. But, any seasoned shed hunter knows to follow some guidelines to ensure that they have the most productive and efficient walks possible. Here are five things that may help you find more antlers this year.
Yes, scout. I believe the number one mistake people make when shed hunting is forgetting to scout. Know where the bucks are wintering and most importantly, know when the bucks you are watching are dropping their antlers. You can do this by walking the edges of areas, driving around, or even using Google Earth from your home computer! A shed hunter can spend a lot of wasted days and miles looking in places that the deer never frequented in the winter. Even worse, you can pressure the deer before they drop their cargo and force them into other territory. Shed hunting highly pressured areas early is sometimes a must if you hope to find antlers before the competition, especially on public land. But even so, do your best to know the land and be patient if it makes sense.
If you are truly an antler nut you probably hunt deer in the fall, and more than likely you scout to make sure you put yourself in the best location for the best chance at achieving your goal. This is no different.
2. Keep pressure low – in other words, SCOUT MORE!
I really can’t stress this enough! Hold your horses. Don’t go blazing in to your favorite honey hole too early especially if you know you are the only one, or one of the only ones, that hits that property. Remember, you are looking for fallen antlers, not antlers running away! Why go pick up an antler or two now and risk bumping antler-toting deer out when you could just hold off until late March or early April and go in and have one, maybe even two or three, great days when the bucks have dropped and the snow is gone! Use common sense. Be aggressive on the properties that warrant it (i.e. highly pressured public land), but be smart and HUNT the antlers.
3. Be respectful
Nowadays it seems like everyone is trying to scoop some bone. Believe me, as a long time shed hunter, I know it can be frustrating that access to properties you once had free reign on is now locked up. But, we are all on the same team. If you know someone else shed hunts a property you like to go to, ask them to team up with you, ESPECIALLY if you consider them a friend (and believe me, you don’t want to be an enemy to anyone that hunts the same property you hunt). I know shed hunting can be very secretive, which is fine to an extent, but why not create friendships and trust from someone hunting your area?
As an important note, we all know trespassing is a no no. Just like you wouldn’t want someone walking around on your land picking up antlers or hunting without your permission, most people don’t want you doing it on their land. ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION! You might be surprised how well it works.
4. Go Back
I think a lot of people will walk a property in February, come out empty handed, and then decide not to go back in the spring. If the deer sign is there, the deer were there! Not only can snow be an issue for those of us up north, but a lot of bucks hold their racks well in to April in some areas. Don’t be discouraged if you come out empty handed on a property that looks like there should have been something. Remember this spot and GO BACK!
5. Take your time
Covering as much property as you can as fast as you can will only hurt you in the long run. You may find some gently placed antlers in the open, but you will more than likely overlook many more. You tend to get lazy when you walk fast. Cutting corners short, looking only in the open field, and looking too far ahead are all caused by rushing and if you do these things, you will miss (if not literally step over) a significant number of antlers! Take your time. Stop and look around every once in a while. Look behind you. Scan all around you. I’m not saying you have to crawl on your hands and knees but antlers don’t always fall in convenient, easy to spot places.
Shed hunting is a skill that cannot be perfectly mastered, but by using these tips, you will find more antler-gold and your collection will begin to stack up!