Shed Hunting: a Springtime Outdoor Activity for the Whole Family

By Cody Larrimore

Shed hunting is one of those unusual hobbies many folks hear nothing about. It’s like hunting for arrowheads without the prideful moment of believing you could be an archaeologist when you find one.

Across frozen farmlands and within the chilly shade of winter’s woods, men, women and children fan out from January to May to find and retrieve the elusive shed. These treasures are left behind by wild animals such as elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer.

Deer lose their antlers every winter, and antler obsessed hunters hit the woods every spring to find those sheds before the squirrels and other critters. To get started, all you need is a good pair of boots, a set of binoculars and a few properties to walk.

Why Shed Hunt?

I believe there are two primary reasons: those being to collect antlers for personal reasons and extending the whitetail “hunting” season, and then to collect antlers for educational reasons.

Many of us hunters have a strange obsession with antlers, to put it simply, they’re just awesome! And for that reason, I myself love shed hunting just to see, touch and hold antlers. Not to mention being able to bring those antlers home and using them to decorate.

Other than these personal reasons, there is also much information that can be gained by a shed antler. Obviously, if you find a shed off a buck, you have strong proof that he made it through the hunting season. If you’re shed hunting a property you also hunt, this gives you an opportunity to determine what bucks will be available to hunt in the coming season. Finding sheds can also help you learn about a certain bucks whereabouts and patterns of movement. If you find one shed in a corn field and the matching side of the shed in a nearby pine thicket; you’ve now uncovered two of his winter bedding and feeding areas. That’s valuable information that can translate to putting together the puzzle that can lead to hunting success.

Taking on shed hunting as a late winter/early spring task is both fun, and informative. If you haven’t given it a try yet, I’d highly recommend it. You’ll soon find the rush of spotting that shiny white antler to be pretty addicting!

Tips for Shed Hunting Success

There are a million different ways to begin looking for finding sheds, but if I had to drill down to the most crucial tips, they would be those below.

You can’t find sheds if they’re not there. This reality applies in a number of ways. First, let’s consider actual geographic location. If you’re shed hunting on state or public land in Minnesota, you need to have different expectations than if you were shed hunting on a private farm in Iowa.

Once you have proper expectations though, it’s time to start making the most of whatever shed hunting property you have access to. So where do you find sheds?

If I had to drill down to two core areas to search, it would be bedding areas and feeding areas. If you know where the top late winter bedding and feeding areas are, dedicate the majority of your time searching these zones. Deer spend the majority of their time bedding or feeding during the winter months, so it only makes sense that this is where the most sheds are found. Find the food, find the sheds.

Very seldom is shed hunting easy. Even in the best states and the best properties, it’s still going to require a lot of work and effort to come across what sheds there are. With that said, if you want to find a lot of sheds, you will have to walk a lot. I don’t mean an hour or two, I mean all day if that’s what it takes.

Let’s say you don’t have access to tons of private property. That’s OK. Most people don’t. But public lands such as parks, state forests, national forests and wildlife-management areas are yours to search (contacting local authority to check any restrictions is encouraged before removing items from federal or state land. If it’s not legal in your area, you can still learn all the information outlined above about the whitetail by its sheds). Many people don’t waste their time searching state land because they feel it’s picked over. That’s true in a way, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. The two keys with public land shed hunting is to check back often and while there, don’t always search the most common places – get off the map. Find areas where others hunters wouldn’t venture, bring waders or hip boots to cross a stream, find an island or secluded area, these are likely where the mature whitetails have held up during the hunting season.

When we as hunters walk through the woods, it’s typical that we are looking everywhere. We are looking up in front of us for deer, we’re looking at trees for rubs, and we’re looking into the canopy for other people’s tree stands. But if you’re doing this while shed hunting, you’re going to miss a lot. If you really want to find them, you need to stay incredibly focused. Don’t take your eyes off the ground, and constantly scan back and forth, forward and backward.

A lot of this stuff is common sense if you relate to the animal rather than trying to think like it. Say you walk 300 yards on a line and cross only one fence. When will your car keys most likely slip from your pocket? When you hurdle the fence, right? Same goes for a big buck or bull elk. Scout crossings where wildlife has to shake a leg: fence crossings, creek crossings, steep ravines and ridge lines, for instance.

The moment will come when you find an antler. But after you celebrate with a fist pump, chill out. Every antler has a partner. You need to find its other half, and it’s often nearby. Walk semi-circles around each shed you find to systematically cover high-potential ground. After all, if you lost a shoe, would you go far before ditching the other? Mature bucks grow annoyed by the disproportioned weight on their heads. When one shed drops, the buck usually does what it can to lose the other.

There you have it, plenty of tips and tactics to get you started. Before the temperature gets too hot, take yourself or your entire family out in the woods searching for sheds. It’s a great family activity! Good luck!

Via: All Outdoor

Category: Hunting, Shed Hunting

Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.