By Clark Schmitz
Many avid deer hunters enjoy shed hunting nearly as much as deer hunting. Some even have dogs trained to find shed antlers. Getting back in the timber in late winter/early spring and finding an antler from the “deer that got away” is a real thrill. These sheds are also exciting as you can take an inventory of what deer will be around (and be even bigger) next deer season.
When to start shed hunting will vary from year to year as weather and snow conditions vary. Deer lose their antlers over a fairly wide time range (late Dec. to April) and depending on how often you are comfortable bumping deer around as you shed hunt. Some will only enter “deer sanctuaries” this one time of year. Trail cameras can help determine when the bulk of the deer have shed their antlers. Some will start hunting when most of the snow has melted, while others wait for a more early spring type day. Hunting sheds where deer are still “yarded up” in a winter range should be avoided. As rodents chew on shed antlers the hunt should begin as soon as conditions allow.
Binoculars can be a big help in finding sheds. The entire antler may not be visible and binoculars can more easily confirm what you’re looking at.
Target areas to shed hunt would include: winter food sources, bedding areas, deer trails that cross fences, creeks or other obstructions that cause the deer to jump, thick cover that may bump an antler and cause it to fall off, south facing slopes where deer gather sun , water sources, and evergreen trees as deer like to bed under them.
Some shed hunters feel cloudy days make finding sheds easier. As you start your hunt remember to move slowly and avoid looking too far ahead. As hunters we tend to look in the distance which can make walking past a shed easy to do. A grid search may be helpful in areas where there is a lot of deer sign. When a shed is found, take a little time to look for the other half as it’s often times nearby. Bring a friend or child along to shed hunt and introduce them to the great outdoors!
Good luck on your next shed antler hunt!