White Gold

Hunt­ing shed may lead to a big tro­phy next sea­son.

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - by Randy Tem­ple­ton

Hunt­ing shed may lead to a big tro­phy next sea­son.

Climb­ing over the eroded ditch, an ivory white bone shim­mer­ing in the sun­light caught my eye. A closer look re­vealed an antler from a 10 pointer that had re­mained vir­tu­ally a ghost all sea­son. To some it may have been just an­other antler, but to me, it was white gold. It was late Fe­bru­ary and there was just enough snow for track­ing. The tracks led to a briar thicket where a large bed was found. From that I could only con­clude it was the buck’s day­time haunt. While glass­ing one morn­ing in Septem­ber, I spot­ted a nice buck leav­ing a soy­bean field and pre­sum­ably head­ing to his day­time haunt. Based on the antler con­fig­u­ra­tion, it ap­peared to be the pre­vi­ous owner of the shed found that spring. The buck en­tered the tim­ber on a trail marked with an old rub. I did a bit of scout­ing and dis­cov­ered an old rub line that even­tu­ally led to the spot where the shed was found. That af­ter­noon I hung a stand along the rub line maybe 150 yards from the bed­ding area. In early Oc­to­ber, I watched the 10 pointer and two other bucks come out of a creek bot­tom and me­an­der over the ridge. I moved two more times to close the dis­tance, and I ar­rowed the buck one af­ter­noon just 50 yards from where the shed was found. Every year white­tail fa­nat­ics across the coun­try take to their fa­vorite hunt­ing spots during the post sea­son to search for the trea­sured bones of the sea­son past. If you're lucky and find one or both sides of a par­tic­u­lar deer of in­ter­est and shoot the buck the next sea­son, the mo­ment is all that much sweeter. The things you learn from sheds will give you an edge when the sea­son rolls around. And you will soon find there are many ad­van­tages of hunt­ing shed antlers.

Ben­e­fits

Although peo­ple in gen­eral hunt sheds for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, hunters use this post-sea­son ac­tiv­ity as a means to iden­tify the bucks that sur­vived the hunt­ing sea­sons. Through sheds, they not only learn about late sea­son be­hav­ioral pat­terns of deer on their prop­erty, but the sur­round­ing lands too. The shed you find might be from a deer you’ve been hunt­ing, or from a deer you didn't know ex­isted. Like with the 10 point, sheds can lead the way to the lo­ca­tion where tag­ging that deer be­comes re­al­ity. If your pas­sion for deer hunt­ing is any­thing like mine, then you're al­ready think­ing about next sea­son. Antler hunt­ing is a good way to kick off the next sea­son, plus you’ll get a lit­tle ex­er­cise and ward off any cabin fever that may have set in. You won't need to look far to find some­one who shares the same pas­sion. I’m sure you know oth­ers who get ex­cited about find­ing a fresh shed. For my fam­ily, shed hunt­ing has be­come an an­nual out­ing. It’s a great way to spend qual­ity time to­gether, and good ex­er­cise to burn off those ex­tra pounds put on over the hol­i­days. Although sell­ing antlers may not be my forte, some sell their

antlers to sup­ple­ment their in­come. A cou­ple of years ago antlers were sell­ing for $8 to $10 a pound. In a cou­ple of states, I've seen antler auc­tions. At the auc­tions, the big antlers tend to go for more money. Size and qual­ity play a big role in how much they bring. What­ever the case, be sure to check the state laws on buy­ing and sell­ing antlers first. Over re­cent years the pop­u­lar­ity of shed hunt­ing has grown. Some deer clas­sics have added a sep­a­rate shed cat­e­gory for com­pe­ti­tion, such as the Iowa Deer Clas­sic. Ad­di­tion­ally, in 1991, a group of Wis­con­sin antler ad­dicts and mea­sur­ers started the North Amer­i­can Shed Hunters Club (NASHC) and de­vel­oped a record book for shed antlers for many big game species in North Amer­ica. To learn more about en­ter­ing sheds into the record book, go to: Shedantlers.org. More hunters and landown­ers are prac­tic­ing Qual­ity Deer Man­age­ment (QDM) today than ever be­fore. Shed hunt­ing is a great way to take in­ven­tory of the qual­ity and quan­tity of ma­ture deer on your prop­erty. Col­lect­ing, mea­sur­ing, and doc­u­ment­ing the sheds can help de­ter­mine the gain in antler growth from one year to the next. It's an­other tool to mon­i­tor the progress of your QDM pro­gram. At a large pub­lic hunt­ing area that I’ve been go­ing to for over thirty years, the res­i­dent bi­ol­o­gist holds a shed hunt each year in Fe­bru­ary and an­other in March. All the antlers are mea­sured and the lo­ca­tion where they were found is recorded. The sheds are then given back to the par­tic­i­pants to take home.

Best Time of Year

In the Mid­west, very few bucks drop their antlers be­fore late De­cem­ber. To make the best of your time, re­frain from search­ing much for the ivory col­ored bones be­fore late Jan­uary. Focus your

ef­forts during early Fe­bru­ary and hit it hard when the last snow melts off, then con­tinue through­out March. Some states in lower lat­i­tudes may even en­joy shed hunt­ing into April and May. Af­ter spring green up, antlers are tougher to spot. You may find a few, but the field mice, squir­rels and other cal­cium eat­ing ro­dents will have taken a toll on them. Most bone col­lec­tors I know hoard ev­ery­thing they find. How­ever, if you own a piece of land and want to find the max­i­mum num­ber of sheds in the least amount of time, in­vite a few friends over for a lit­tle friendly com­pe­ti­tion right af­ter the snow melts off. Give each per­son a por­tion of the ground and cover it in a grid or criss­cross for­ma­tion, much like you would when try­ing to find a lost blood trail. Start by sweep­ing across smaller sec­tions, first in one di­rec­tion and then the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Do this un­til every square foot has been cov­ered on that por­tion of the prop­erty. Re­po­si­tion your­selves and re­peat the same process un­til the en­tire prop­erty has been combed. You’ll want to pick and choose the best days for shed hunt­ing. Sunny days are typ­i­cally the best, mainly be­cause the ivory white tines glisten in the sun­light and are eas­ier to spot. My next fa­vorite

“. . . nearly half of the gi­ant deer killed each year were first dis­cov­ered through their sheds.”

Past ex­pe­ri­ence has proven the more time a deer spends in an area, the bet­ter the chances of find­ing his sheds in that gen­eral vicin­ity. time is just af­ter it rains; a wet antler sticks out like a sore thumb. Cloudy over­cast days are prob­a­bly my least fa­vorite. An antler that would be oth­er­wise ob­vi­ous might not catch your at­ten­tion under low light con­di­tions.

Lo­ca­tion

There are many places to look for sheds, but a few hold bet­ter than av­er­age odds. Past ex­pe­ri­ence has proven the more time a deer spends in an area, the bet­ter the chances of find­ing his sheds in that gen­eral vicin­ity. That’s why food plots and agri­cul­tural fields like soy­bean stub­ble and al­falfa are my top choices. In fact, my brother Tracy found nearly 125 antlers one spring, and more than half were found in and around his food plots. The next choice is bed­ding ar­eas com­prised of thick se­cu­rity cover. On cold days, deer of­ten bed on the south fac­ing slopes to ab­sorb the warmth of the mid­day sun—a good place to look for antlers. My friends and I have found one and some­times both sheds in or near a buck’s bed.

The things you learn from sheds will give you an edge when the sea­son rolls around.

Col­lect­ing, mea­sur­ing, and doc­u­ment­ing the sheds can help de­ter­mine the gain in antler growth from one year to the next.

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