Shed Hunting Basics
Deer hunters love finding sheds. For some, it’s even addicting. The pursuit of deer antler sheds has grown far beyond a game over the last decade or two. In fact, we’ve even gone so far as to label the months following the close of deer season as, “Shed Season.” And for many, the search for fallen bone is nearly as exciting as the hunt itself.
But what’s all the fuss about? Why is shed hunting such a big deal?
For starters, finding sheds from the bucks that eluded us throughout the hunting season helps us take inventory of what bucks are likely still hanging around close by. It also gives hunters the chance to put a tape on the antlers to track antler growth and monitor potential for the coming season.
Shed hunting is also a great opportunity to take your spouse, kids, or non-hunting friend or family member to the woods to discover the good stuff that goes on in the outdoors.
If you’re new to shed hunting, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you hit the fields and woods. Here’s a look at the basics when it comes to shed hunting this season.
What it’s Not
First off, you need to know, this is not like an Easter egg hunt with antlers hiding behind every log or brush pile.
Be realistic in your expectations.
There will be days, if not most often, that you go home empty handed. It’s part of the game. But when you do come across some sheds, it’s truly a rewarding feeling.
Key in on Food Sources
Yes, this sounds like the same tip you get on where to hunt deer during the season, but it’s one of the basics of shed hunting as well. You’ll find sheds where you find deer hanging out. And in late winter, that’ll often be food sources.
Taking a broader look, pay attention to how these food sources lay out in relation to the second shed hunting hotspot - bedding areas
Finding Bone in Their Bed
Much like the food sources, bedding areas are the other daily destinations that deer frequent through the late winter months. Find buck beds and you’ll find shed antlers. Granted, these bedding areas will often be tough due to their location in some of the thickest terrain on the farm, but if you’ll learn to look a little closer, and keep an eye out for the prize, you’ll be able to pick up more sheds from their beds.
How do you identify beds? Clues left behind come in the form of buck sign, rubs, and deer poop concentrated near beds
Look For Sheds in Cloudy / Low Light Conditions
Your eyes are the greatest tool you have when it comes to shed hunting. If you can’t see it, you’ll never find it. It’s just that simple. That’s why certain weather conditions will benefit your ability to find sheds once they’re on the ground. Cloudy days without a glaring sun tend to be optimal times for your eyes to pick out sheds on the landscape. The sun tends to blow things out. Everything is brighter. The bone-white antler won’t pop in the sun like it will in the contrast of a low-light day.
Keep the Wind at Your Back
No, we’re not talking about scent control here. We’re talking about the negative impact wind in your face can have on your ability to see. Late winter days tend to be windy days. This wind in your face will not allow for maximum visibility.
You’ll be squinting as the wind hits your eyes. Your eyes will dry out, as well as be watering. It’s just not very conducive for maximum visibility.
Keep the wind at your back and you’ll greatly boost your ability to see what lies ahead as you scan the ground for fallen sheds.
Use a Dog to Find More Bone
The use of shed dogs has exploded in recent years as hunters are putting their dogs to work helping them find more shed antlers. But even if your dog is not a trained shed dog, he or she can still be of benefit to your shed hunt as they put their nose to ground and turn things up that you may never notice otherwise. A dog is also the best tool to aid in finding dead heads and carcasses of deer that didn’t make it through the season. Better yet, time spent in the field with your dog helps pass the time and keeps things fun when the going gets slow.
Shed Hunting Basics - Conclusion
Shed hunting is a fun and exciting way to shake off the effects of cabin fever, take inventory on the hit list bucks that are still on their feet, and begin to line out your goals for the fall season. Hopefully the tips mentioned above help you find more sheds this season.