Hunting shed may lead to a big trophy next season.
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.
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.
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.