You might be a little early if you head out shed antler hunting now, but you also might be the bird who gets the worm. Bucks, male deer, shed their antlers each year. This typically happens from December to May, but the majority of bucks drop their antlers between late January and early March. Meaning right now is the prime time.
Some call shed antler hunting the second deer season. It can be even more addicting. Like hunting, trying to find these trophies can be as tough as finding a needle in a haystack, or as simple as glassing a picked bean field and spotting a number of them at once. You take the easy ones in stride and relish in the success of a hard earned piece of bone.
Hunting for sheds is just another way for hunters to enjoy learning about their quarry and the landscape on which they live. When you go out shed hunting, you’re not just looking for sheds. You’re also studying the available sign to help you formulate a plan for next season. Now is when you want to bust through the deepest darkest areas of the places you hunt, because it really doesn’t matter if you spoke deer. They have six months or more to forget you were ever there.
Of course one does not need be a deer hunter to enjoy time spent outdoors looking for shed antlers. This is an activity anyone can participate in. Finding shed antlers is a lot like looking for mushrooms. There is an entire culture of folks who enjoy the challenge of finding a natural treasure.
To be more successful and time efficient, don’t just walk aimlessly. Instead, focus on certain areas and types of terrain. Bedding areas, feeding areas, fence lines and trails connecting these areas are the key places to focus your search. Bedding and feeding areas are prime because this is where deer spend the majority of their time. Fencerows are key because when bucks jump a fence, the jarring effect of hitting the ground often knocks their antlers off.
Antlers could just as easily fall off while a buck is traveling to or from these areas. Walking major trails on the property you’re shed hunting may turn up some antlers. Keep in mind, mature bucks are a lot like old men, they don’t mind a little time alone. Sometimes big sheds are found on the road less traveled.
South-facing slopes warm up faster, so they attract deer during day light hours looking to take advantage of the sun’s warmth during cold months. If you can locate a bench – a level shelf of land running along a hillside – on a south-facing slope, you’ve located a high probability shed hunting location. Finding sheds is exciting and educational. They open a window to the possibility of next season. An impressive shed let’s you know a big buck should be in the area come autumn.
This time of year, just getting out and stretching your legs is worth the trip, but it’s also a valuable part of the complete deer hunting picture. Look for old rubs and scrapes. Figure out the trail system. Put the information together for a more successful deer season next fall.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Hunting for shed antlers is a great way to stretch your legs and learn about the deer.