Shed hunting doesn’t usually align with the nicest weather of the year. Also throwing a wrench in the works is the fact that finding sheds often requires a lot of walking. But it seems interesting. If you want to catch the deer quickly,you must know some hunting details!
“The first step to finding a lot of antlers is to locate where the deer are feeding during shedding season.” Pat Reeve’s logic makes a lot of sense, yet many overlook it. Each winter lots of well meaning shed hunters continue their fruitless searches in bedding and feeding areas that were popular during the fall. Unless the preferred winter food source is also the fall hunting area, the chances of the deer still being there are slim. We recommend starting to look right where the deer were feeding. Fresh sign, droppings, and of course trail camera evidence will confirm what the deer were eating. Possible food sources could be grain fields,oak flats, hay fields, fruit orchards.
Once the preferred winter food source has been located, the next step is to find where the deer are bedding. By “backtracking” the trails to their recent bedding areas, many sheds can be found along the trail. Often the path to the food isn’t an easy one, with possible fence jumps, creek crossings, or steep hills to maneuver. Whenever the bucks have to jump, duck, or run they might jostle an antler off as well. When looking for sheds on trails, pay particular attention to obstacles that might jar the animals head or bang the antlers on something.
Lastly, we recommend scouring the bedding areas for antlers. Although the trail may be obstructed, most winter bedding areas will not be far from the food. A decent winter bedding area needs to offer enough cover to protect the animals from the weather. In the winter months deer like to use as much of the sun’s warmth as possible. Look for winter beds on south facing slopes as well as in thermal cover such as spruces and cedars. Pat Reeve said it best, “My ideal winter bedding area would be a southern slope with cedars. If you can find that, there will be sheds nearby.”
Often the buck will drop an antler while he’s laying down, entering, or exiting the bedding area. Be sure to check all the trails, not just the major ones. Every decent bedding area has a number of escape routes. If a buck is startled and has to use the backdoor to quickly evacuate his bedding area, he may also move just quick enough to knock off an antler.
We all know in deer hunting there are no absolutes. These are just a few areas we recommend to begin the search for shed antlers. We’ve also found them in our yards, on the road, in creeks, on frozen lakes, near barnyards, at corn cribs, compost piles, gardens, and several other places.
Shed hunting is a lot of fun and can be incredibly addictive! It’s also a great way to start scouting for the next season. Take the whole family, and maybe even the dog.