Shed Hunting for Antlers is Like Easter Egg Hunting For Adults
If you’re a whitetail fanatic like me then you probably, love participating in the adult Easter egg hunt we call shed hunting. While I am no expert on shed hunting, finding 50 antlers a year between my dad and me is expected. Here are my best tips to increase your antler collection.
Keep walking (Stop Second guessing)
Most shed hunters like to take their sweet time. Guilty of moving at a slow pace because we don’t want to miss something. Taking your time isn’t a bad thing however; it is only going to lessen your total shed count. When I started shed hunting I would slowly pace, constantly looking over my shoulder. Now I am persistent about moving forward (rarely looking back), and my shed numbers have sky rocketed. The more you second-guess yourself, the less ground you cover. Most of us are worried about missing a big shed. But the majority of the big sheds are easy to see, if it’s in your line of sight. But when you are second-guessing yourself, you don’t get the opportunity to cover as much ground.
With the more ground you cover, the better your chances of finding sheds. I’m not saying to run through the woods, but stop over thinking and keep moving forward. There is nothing wrong with taking it slow especially if you aren’t doing a big property. However, the amount of sheds I find is directly correlated with the amount of ground I walk. So stop messing around and cover more ground.
Use Satellite GPS on your Phone
I always make sure my phone is fully charged before I search the woods. Despite having bad reception, various mapping apps are good at updating even when you don’t have much service. Knowing where you have walked and where you want to walk by checking your map periodically. This will optimize your time and efforts in the woods.
Your phones satellite map will make shed hunting a new property much more easy. Constantly checking the satellite/topographical map for south facing slopes, bedding areas, my phone makes the unknown area feel so familiar. Also if you are shed hunting a new property having your phone is a benefit. It allows you to constantly check property lines. That way you don’t end up on the neighbors ground and lose your shed hunting privileges.
Binoculars are a must
The greatest piece of equipment you can use shed hunting is binoculars. Binoculars allow you to quickly verify whether you see a shed in the distance. Without binoculars, I find myself walking out of my way to look at sticks/branches/grass/cornstalks that looked like sheds at a distance. Binoculars are also great for scanning fields. Being able to quickly verify objects at a distance will save you a lot of time and will help you find more sheds.
For example, last year I was shed hunting around a thick bedding area and noticed what looked like a tine through some brush, about 30 yards away. Having my binoculars, I was able to get a better look and verify that it very well could be an antler. Moving through the brush, I walked up on one of the coolest matched sets I have ever found despite the fact they were a few years old. If it weren’t for my binoculars, I would have missed one of my favorite matched sets. The only visible part of the set was the tip of its G2 but it looked like a stick from a distance through brush. So next time you head out to the woods, don’t forget your optics.
You aren’t doing it enough
When most of us go shed hunting, we go for two days on a weekend and find a few, but are baffled by the amount of sheds everyone else is finding. Many of my friends ask me how I find more sheds then them, and my answer is simple – I spent more time looking than you. The more you look, the better your chances are. So get out and do it more!
You aren’t looking at the right times
A main reason shed-hunters don’t find the quantity of sheds they’re after, is they aren’t looking at the right times. If you go too early, you take the chance of pushing bucks off the property and dropping their sheds somewhere else. If you go too late, you take the chance of other hunters or trespassers scooping up the sheds before you do. Ten years ago, you could wait until mid–March to start looking. However with the increased popularity of shed hunting now you have to worry about trespassers or others who hunt the property getting to the sheds before you. So what do you do? Go right in between.
The past two years, I have found most of my sheds between the 3rd and 4th week of February. In late January/early Feb, I find a few. However I find myself in much disappointment as majority of the bucks are still holding their antlers. These bucks are on their toes this time of year, so if you kick one up he’s probably not coming back before he drops his sheds. I also do a lot of shed hunting in March, however I don’t find the same quantity, due to the fact that other people have hit most of the properties. Majority of the time, I’m working with sloppy seconds at that point. However, when I go in between the 3rd and 4th week in February, I find the highest amount of sheds.
Don’t Be Too Early…Go Right In Between
Unfortunately I do kick up a few bucks. However that sacrifice/risk is one worth taking, as majority of the bucks have dropped their antlers at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I would completely hold off until late March to start looking. However trespassers, and the popularity of shed hunting have killed that opportunity. So beat them to it, but don’t be too early… Go right in between. The times when bucks drop there antlers can vary based on a variety of factors, but in the Midwest this seems to be the pattern each year.
You aren’t looking in the right areas
I find the highest quantity of sheds in bedding areas. The areas where the deer feel safe and covered. Bedding areas with soft native grasses that include cedar patches are where I find the most sheds every year. Typically in the colder months deer like to lie on south facing slopes because they can soak in the sun for the good majority of the day. I have found sheds in random spots on multiple occasions, however sticking to bedding areas, south facing slopes, field edges, and food sources are the areas I always make sure I walk.
Stay Mentally Focused
Staying mentally focused when you are shed hunting is key to finding more sheds. When you aren’t finding sheds, it can drain you, leaving you in an unfocused state. When I started shed hunting, it seemed like I was finding the majority of my sheds the first part of the day. At the beginning of the day, my eyes were locked in, and I would move at a good pace. Towards the end of the day, I was more fatigued and less focused, with my eyes wandering and moving around more like a slug.
It’s no surprise that I wasn’t finding near as many sheds during the second part of the day. So to stay mentally focused, I make sure to pack energy bars, snacks and plenty of water in my backpack when I head out to the woods. Now I am focused all day long and find sheds at a consistent rate throughout the day.
Adjusting Your Eyes
Sheds can be extremely hard to see sometimes. Not only how they lay on the ground, similar looking sticks, to the blended in common colors of the outdoors. I can’t imagine how many sheds I have walked by in my years of shed hunting. But having my eyes adjusted has helped me catch some of those tricky sheds. One thing I like to do if I find a shed early in the day, is throw it out ahead of me to see various ways of how they lay and what they look like in the environment.
Getting More Ground to Shed Hunt on
If you’re looking to find more shed antlers, the answer is finding more ground to shed hunt on. There are various options to get more ground. Public ground, city owned property, wildlife refuges, and knocking on doors are all valid options. I always say the number of sheds you find is directly correlated to the amount of ground you walk/cover. More properties to shed hunt equals more ground to walk and that means more sheds.
You’d be surprised how many sheds are found on public ground every year. If you go at the right time and in the right place, finding a shed can be just as good as anywhere else. Every year I shed hunt public ground, but I’m not the only one. Knowing that, I try to beat the rush and go in early February. My hope is to find some of the sheds that were dropped early. By looking at satellite and topographical maps, I target bedding areas and south facing slopes that are secluded and far from any roads in public tracts.
Wildlife refuges are some of the best areas to shed hunt. Wildlife refuges don’t allow hunting, so the deer like to herd there for safety. Most wildlife refuges allow for people to walk it. Some even have certain rules on when people are allowed to walk it. Every year I find at least one shed off a wildlife refuge.
Do Not Overlook City Property
Another area to shed hunt that most people over-look is property owned by a city. City owned property unless specified otherwise, can be walked by anyone. City parks, trails, water plants, etc. all are valid properties to walk. To find out what tracts the city owns, use online GIS mapping systems (Online Plat books) and contact City officials to verify you are allowed to shed hunt.
Lastly, knocking on doors is a great way to increase the amount of properties you shed hunt on. Every year, I ask property owners for permission to “Look for Deer Antlers”, and never say “Shed Hunt”. The reason I don’t use the term ‘Shed Hunt’ is that some property owners immediately jump to a negative answer when you say the word hunt. So stating that you are just looking for deer antlers makes your chances much better. If you gain permission to ‘Look for Deer Antlers’ on a property, make sure to thank the property owner and do your part to give back to them. You will find that in most cases if you treat the property owner with respect and give back to them, you will most likely find yourself with permission to hunt the property at some point in the future.
While we are always learning, these are the things that have helped me increase my shed count over the years and I hope you find some of these tips useful. Good luck!
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