Shed hunting is a great off-season activity. Not only does it help you keep your fitness level up but provides information about bucks that survived the hunting season. Of course it can also help keep you from going stir-crazy waiting on the next hunting season. I am no expert on shed hunting but have developed a few strategies that have helped me. If any of these can help you find more sheds then I am happy to share.
Use Your Mapping Software
Just as you can save time and improve your deer hunting success by using virtual scouting techniques so too can you for shed hunting. Conditioned by nature as “edge animals” deer tend to live in places on the edge of food, water and security cover. Look where these elements come together and you’ll probably find a deer’s core area. Start looking for sheds in these areas.
Don’t Go Too Early
Do not attempt to go shed hunting in area where your bucks are until you are sure they’ve dropped their antlers. If you bump them too early, they may leave this core area. And worse yet, onto another property in which you may not have access to shed hunt. Patience is they key here.
Shed hunting can be a strenuous and athletic activity. It involves a lot of hiking and walking. Prepare yourself as you would for any other athletic activity. Eat a good, nutritious meal before you hit the field. In addition, carry a small backpack with water and some snacks. Granola bars, nuts, raisins, jerky and energy bars are good options when you’ll be burning through the calories. And believe me, you will be!
Do not forget to dress in layers. Make sure to bring along a hat and gloves. Moisture wicking fabrics like fleece are best. These will help keep you from getting damp and cold should you get lost or injured. The ability to add or shed layers is always important. Consequently it can help prevent dehydration, frost bite and fatigue.
Mark places where you find sheds with your GPS. Keeping track of this information will help you hone in on a buck’s core area. Thus improving your odds of hunting success in the coming season.
Binoculars are a useful tool that can be very helpful. They allow you stay in your gridline and verify that object you see out there. Before you walk 100 yards out of the way it is nice to know if the bright, antler shaped object you see in the distance really is bone. How disappointing and tiring is it to walk over and find it is a piece of bleached wood or stone.
Stop and Scan
Stop about every 50 yards or so and do a slow turn around. The idea is to scan the ground behind you. Often, antlers are obscured from one angle but may visually “pop” out at you from another. Keep your head on a swivel. You are so eager to find shed bone that sometimes you forget to look down. Antlers may be right under you and you don’t even know it.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
If you have the time and access to a property where you are the only one shed hunting, the number one thing you can do to improve your success is to SLOW down and be methodical and patient in your search. Some hunters use as speedier approach to help cover more ground. That technique can work best when you have limited time and access or significant competitive pressure from other shed hunters. But if you are the only one looking, take your time, scan the ground methodically, and you will be more successful.
Key Areas to Look for Sheds
Since deer spend a lot of time in bedding and feeding areas it is an obvious place to look. The second place to look is along travel routes. Fresh snow or damp ground can sometimes be the gateway. Follow these deer tracks to great shed hunting locations. Not to mention, deer may drop antlers along these routes. Either way, following travel routes can be very effective.
Another terrific area to check are crossings. Whether it is a stream crossing or fence crossing so keep your eyes peeled. These areas cause deer to have to jump up or down to cross. The momentum changes created by the jump can shake antlers loose. Finally, if you have planted food plots or have other supplemental feed sites then make sure you check these too.
Once you’ve found a shed, walk a grid pattern 75-100 yards in each direction. Often times a buck will lose both antlers within a fairly short distance of one another.
Most Importantly – HAVE FUN!
The most important thing to remember when shed hunting is to have fun. Bring others along to share the experience. Not to mention you can cover more ground. On top of that it is a great way to get others interested in hunting. It builds natural curiosity and the desire to learn more. Even if you find a few sheds along the way, sharing the experience is the icing on the cake to an already enjoyable activity and great day in the woods.
Do you have any tips or tricks you think would be helpful? Please leave them in the comment section below.
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