Top

Shed Hunting: A Sport unto Itself

February 13, 2014

antler shed, deer sheds

These eight tips will help you find more shed antlers this year. And this video on building a shed antler trap is guaranteed to be a real eye-opener! I found my first whitetail shed antler purely by accident. I was setting fox traps along a brushy fencerow and there was a shed antler which had been lying there for the better part of a year. I picked it up and brought it home. Despite the fact that it was somewhat chewed up, it was clear this antler came from a big 10-point buck. I became fascinated by the amazing phenomenon of antlers. Antlers are the fastest form of animal...

Read more »

The Basics and Benefits of Shed Hunting

April 1, 2013

The Basics and Benefits of Shed Hunting by Pat Reeve

The gently flowing creek was as cold as it was clear. I’ll never forget setting my eyes on that beautiful 3-point whitetail shed resting on the smooth gravel bar. I was touching something no human hand has ever touched before. I was six years old and my buddy and I were out searching for shed antlers. Looking back, I now realize we were shed hunting pioneers! I’m reminded of that day every time I pass my china cabinet in our home where the shed proudly rests.

Some people collect antiques, others garden–I shed hunt. Shed hunting is not just my hobby, it is my passion. I like the way I feel connected to the animal when I find its shed. I enjoy knowing that when I find a big shed I’m creating another chapter in a story that is still open; the story of that buck’s life.

Filming for our show, Driven TV, takes my wife Nicole and I around the world hunting and making new friends. For years, even before I was working in outdoor television, I would travel all over shed hunting. My old friends Tom Indrebo, Jim Hansen, Dennis Williams, and I would often go to Canada looking for big, chocolate-colored antlers and literally find between 200-300 sheds in one single week! One of the most unique sheds I have ever found was in Canada. It was both sides, fused in the middle with no hair in between, with a diameter of over 10 inches! I have also had the opportunity to travel the world in search of sheds from moose, caribou, elk, red stag, fallow deer, mule deer, and whitetails of course.

Location, location, location

I’m often asked about shed hunting and how others can successfully find sheds as well. The first and most important thing to keep in mind when shed hunting is location. The term “location” has a double meaning in this situation. First, I need property to shed hunt. I’m blessed with access to private and public property near my home. Many people don’t bother shed hunting on public land because they feel that they’ll all already be picked over. That is true in a sense, but doesn’t have to be the case. When shed hunting on public land, be sure to check back often. It’s the early bird who gets the worm in public land shed hunting. Also, look in secluded, out-of-reach places that a buck can hide and other hunters wouldn’t bother looking. Where legal and with permission, I also like to shed hunt parks, public areas, nature reserves, and so on–places that hold a lot of deer.

The other way I think about location is by asking myself: where will the bucks be during the “shedding period?” The shedding period is usually a two-month long window between mid-January through mid-March. There are other stress factors that could cause a buck to shed early such as a hunting season wound, a dry summer, extremely cold winter, and lack of food. For the most part, if a herd is healthy, the bucks should be dropping their antlers during this late winter shedding period. Many people make the mistake of looking for sheds in their favorite fall hunting sports. While they may have some luck, it’s best to start looking for sheds at preferred food sources during the shedding season. Find the food and the sheds won’t be too far away.

Once I’ve located the preferred food source, I start to do a bit of reconnaissance. I will glass fields, run trail cameras, and keep a close eye on my calendar. Without any external stress factors, the bucks will usually shed within a few days of when they did last year. My ideal shed hunting day would be an overcast, early spring day just after a rain has washed away the last traces of snow. With no snow and a high amount of moisture in the air, the sun-bleached antlers have their own unique “sheen” to them, allowing them to be easily found. When my trail cameras, physical scouting, weatherman, or calendar say it’s time to look, I pack up my gear and start shed hunting.

Before heading out on a shed hunt I make sure I have two things. I never leave the truck without my Nikon Monarch 7 10×42 binoculars. By carrying quality optics, I save a lot of time and energy. I use my high power Nikon’s to survey alfalfa fields, eliminating the need to pace back and forth in a field where there are no sheds. Sure, I’ll miss a few little ones here and there, but the majority of the time, if there’s a big shed in a hayfield, I’ll be able to spot it. I also use my Nikons in the timber. By standing in an open area, and slowly glassing the entire forest floor, I usually can pick out sheds among the leaves and twigs. I also never shed hunt without my ScentBlocker Boa waterproof knee boots. It goes without saying that cold, wet feet make for a long miserable day. It is important to keep my feet warm and dry. At one point I used a pedometer to log my shed hunting miles. On average I was walking between 15-20 miles per day!

Knee boots on and binoculars in hand, I start looking for sheds at food sources. Deer feed so aggressively in the winter that the chances of them jarring an antler loose are highest at the dinner table. Deer will spar, compete, thrash at the snow, and dig for a chance to eat a high-calorie meal. Once I have checked the feeding areas, I’ll backtrack on the well-used trails to bedding areas. During the shedding period, deer are in survival mode and do not expel any more precious energy than necessary. If the deer aren’t lying down, they are walking to the food. The sheds should be nearby!

Other places to look for sheds are near crossings where a big buck might have to jump or scramble a bit. I like to focus on fence jumps, creek crossings, steep ravines, and ridges. Sometimes the sudden jump or scramble up a hill will cause an antler to pop off. When looking in big timber, I focus on south facing ridges. Deer love to sunbathe and will warm up in the winter by soaking up the south sun when given a chance. Many big timbers with no crop fields or creek crossings will collect sheds on their southern ridge slopes.

When I do find a big shed, I know the other matching side won’t be too far off. I’ll do a series of semi circles around a big shed until I find its partner. Mature bucks don’t appreciate such a discrepancy in the weight on their head when one shed drops so they will soon get annoyed and do what they can to get the other one to fall. I’ve completed matching sets by looking in bushes, near logs, on fences, and anywhere else a big buck can relieve himself of the annoyance of only one antler. The younger bucks with lighter antlers don’t seem to be bothered as much by this and they will sometimes take weeks to drop both sides of their headgear.

The benefits of shed hunting

There’s a lot to benefit from shed hunting. First and foremost, it is a wonderful way to get exercise and spend time with loved ones. Nicole, the kids, and I love to be together in Mother Nature’s spring woods. After months of being cooped up inside hiding from the bitter cold, our bodies and minds are ready to reconnect with nature and get some fresh air. Second, shed hunting is a great way to do a bit of post-season scouting. Any pressure that we give the deer will be long forgotten come fall hunting season. This is a perfect time to look for old rubs and scrapes, scout a few new potential stand locations, and start to create a game plan for fall. Finding a mature buck’s shed gets me fired up for the next season. Often I’ve killed “residential” bucks within a few hundred yards of where I have found their sheds the spring before. I really like to analyze each shed that I find. In fact, more often than not I can recall the exact location and conditions of each and every shed I have found. If you were to ask Nicole, I’m not so good at remembering household chores, but I remember each shed vividly.

It’s pretty easy to analyze the age of bucks younger than 4-½ by gauging their pedicle size. Once they have hit maturity it gets a bit more difficult, but also comes with unique rewards. Mature bucks really have a lot of unique character traits such as kickers, stickers, drop tines, and crazy twists. I really appreciate how unique and individual each shed is. They truly are one of a kind.

Showing the beginner the ropes of shed hunting is a lot like taking a kid hunting or fishing for the first time. It is important to set them up to be successful and make sure the experience is a positive one. I like to watch the weather and make sure we are going to be out when it is pleasant. I don’t take rookies to sparse places, but rather bring them into areas where I know there were plenty of deer during the shedding period. When I do find a shed, I leave it alone and call everyone over to get a good look at how it looks. I have a trained eye to look for antler and tips and bleached contrast, and want other shed hunters to train their eyes to be keen shed hunters as well. By showing someone what a naturally fallen shed looks like, I’m helping to show them visual cues to look for in the future.

Shed hunting with dogs is becoming very popular. A good retriever of other breed of dog can learn to hunt sheds and really help a hunter cover more ground, saving precious time and energy. There are several successful shed dog breeders across the nation. Nicole and I have really enjoyed watching our kids train their dog to shed hunt! The kids and dog have gotten so good that it’s at the point where we arrive at a shed hunting location and won’t see them at all until the evening, with tired kids, an exhausted dog, and a pile of fresh sheds!

Memories made

I’m often asked, “What is your biggest shed?” I don’t necessarily have a “biggest” shed. In fact, many of my biggest sheds I have found end up being given away. It’s proper etiquette to give the landowner all sheds collected on their properties, so many of my biggest now belong to others. Also, if I have a shed and know a hunter has killed that particular buck, I’ll give them the shed to help tell that buck’s story. I do have a lot of “shelvers,” which means they are big enough to be displayed on a shelf at home. While I may not have a “biggest” shed, one of my favorites is a giant shed I found with my good friend Tom Indrebo. This mature buck had tines that flared back and looked like a “flyer” of sorts. We had seen this buck wintering on Tom’s property and it was a race to see who could find it first. I won by driving by a field one day and seeing the shed laying in the grass from the road! Quickly I slammed the truck into gear and sprinted to my prize. That’s still a really special shed to me.

The smallest shed I have found is a nub from a button buck. I was in an area that looked absolutely perfect, and was wondering why I hadn’t found any sheds yet. I just happened to look straight down and noticed the tiny shed at my feet! That is a shed I’ll always remember, too.

I don’t just shed hunt to scout next year’s buck, I shed hunt to be outside, to breathe fresh air, to spend time with loved ones, to see the sun again after a long cold winter. I shed hunt to feel connected to nature. Try to get out shed hunting this spring. There are too many benefits to not give it a shot. Also remember, shed hunting is just like any other type of hunting, and sometimes we return home empty handed. When we do get blanked, it’s okay, Nicole and I remind the kids that the real trophy is the memories we created together, and the time we spent outdoors. When you are lucky enough to find a shed, appreciate it for what it is: a unique, one-of-a-kind trophy than no human has ever held before.

Read and join the discussion on The Basics and Benefits of Shed Hunting at OutdoorHub.com.

Shed Hunting: Be a Year-Round Hunter

April 24, 2012

Shed Hunting: Be a Year-Round Hunter

For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.

Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.

The outdoorsman who wants to become a trophy hunter and consistently take big deer must learn to hunt all year long and carry his gun into the woods only during hunting season. Not enough time is available during hunting season in most states for a trophy hunter to unravel the mysteries of the big bucks. Even if the sportsman does determine what the deer in his area are doing, the season may be over before he has a chance to intercept a buck in the woods. Although deer are not that smart, they have learned to avoid hunters.

Most always on any given piece of land, a few bucks will continuously escape hunters. These deer seem to have a sixth sense about how to avoid hunters. Unless a hunter is willing to hunt trophy bucks all year long, he not only never may find a trophy buck to hunt, but also he’ll never develop a strategy for taking that deer. If you truly want to hunt a trophy, the odds of bagging that trophy buck are best for the hunter who makes the commitment to hunt deer all year long. Shed hunting is an integral part of trophy buck hunting for outdoorsmen who understand what sheds mean, where to look for the sheds, and what to do after they find them.

Click here to read more of Zaiglin’s tips for shed hunting.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Shed Hunting: Be a Year-Round Hunter

Shed Hunting and Finding Locked Horns

April 16, 2012

Shed Hunting and Finding Locked Horns

For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.

Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.

Shed hunters also may find one of the most discouraging sights in all of nature – two bucks with antlers locked in combat, and both deer dead. When a hunter discovers two locked racks, the first thing he knows is that the sex ratio of the deer herd is probably approximately one buck for each doe, because bucks fight more and therefore lock horns more often when there are fewer does. Finding two bucks locked in combat was thought to be very uncommon in past years. However, one time, the ranch I managed had 15 bucks radio-collared. Out of those 15 bucks on the 100,000-acre ranch, one of those radio-collared bucks locked up with another deer. One year we found two sets or four bucks that locked antlers – one pair in December and the other in February. These bucks were a tremendous size. Two of these deer had racks that scored close to 170 points on Boone and Crockett. When you’re out hunting sheds, you may discover bucks with locked antlers.

Read more from Bob Zaiglin on using shed antlers to study deer by clicking here. To read the final part of this series on shed hunting with Bob Zaiglin, click here.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Shed Hunting and Finding Locked Horns

The Truth About Shed Antler Hunting in Michigan: Laws and Regulations

April 13, 2012

The Truth About Shed Antler Hunting in Michigan: Laws and Regulations

In late February, I began researching the best places to go shed antler hunting in Michigan and how to acquire the permits (if necessary) to do so. I called up the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in order to get some information. In response, I was told that the DNR could not recommend any locations as the activity is illegal. I wondered how that could be possible, given that I had seen so many hunting shows with segments on shed antler hunting in Michigan. Were they all unwittingly taking part in an illegal activity? I thought that couldn’t be the case and so I inquired further.

After making a few contacts, it turned out that the the language of statute 324.4010 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (P.A. 451) was not clearly written, leading to some misinterpretation of the law. The department will be correcting an ambiguity in the text to make sure everybody at the DNR and across the state is on the same page. And so I’m writing this for you dear reader, so that you are an informed citizen out in the field.

Definition

Shed antler hunting is the scavenging for antlers that have naturally fallen off a deer. This happens naturally as early as February until about March or April, depending upon the animal and altitude of its habitat. Antlers then grow back over the course of the spring, summer and into fall.

A close-up example of antlers that demonstrates that they were naturally shed

The language of the statute

After some time and by following up on my calls and emails, the Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler called me back with an answer to my question.

He informed me that it is not the DNR’s intent to prohibit shed antler hunting, but that the regulations as they are currently written could unintentionally lead people to believe it is not legal. To be absolutely clear, the State of Michigan currently has no law prohibiting the collection of naturally shed antlers. Furthermore, there is no permit necessary to do so.

Below is the current language of Part 401 (the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act) section 324. As you can see, it may be misleading at first glance. (Click for larger image)

The statute above says it is illegal to possess parts and pieces of an animal. The statute is meant to prohibit the possession of unlawfully acquired animal parts, not antlers that become detached through a natural biological process. If it is evident that the antlers have fallen off naturally, and were not sawed off, for example, then the DNR does not have a problem with that.

In an email, Hagler said “at this time, Part 401 is silent on the issue of collecting shed antlers… by letter of the law the practice is thus deemed to be illegal… the prohibition of the collection of cast antlers was not specifically intended when Section 324.40106 was written… the natural separation of the hardened antler from the pedicel does not represent a law enforcement concern and does not pose a risk to the health or welfare of the resource.”

Hagler said he and his department will be working with the Natural Resources Commission in the coming months to correct the language and make it clear to everyone at the DNR what the intent of the law is on this issue.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - The Truth About Shed Antler Hunting in Michigan: Laws and Regulations

Studying Sheds for Deer Management

April 9, 2012

Studying Sheds for Deer Management

For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.

Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.

The best time to lease land or to look for a place to hunt is after the rut. If a hunter is considering leasing a particular piece of property and wants to know the condition of the deer on the land, he should be able to walk over the lease and find sheds. If he doesn’t discover any sheds, then he must question how many deer are on the lease. The same is true of public lands. If public lands are available where you plan to hunt this season, but you aren’t sure what the condition of the deer herd is on those lands, then walk the land after the season, and search for sheds. Sheds will also tell sportsmen how well they’re doing with their deer management program. For instance, if your hunting club is attempting to produce numbers of bucks, and your members don’t find very many sheds, then realize something is wrong in your deer management program. Also sheds will tell you the size of bucks you have on the property and the general condition of those bucks.

On some of the ranches I’ve managed, we collect all the sheds we can discover every year. Then we measure every shed. Although the data doesn’t give us any age criteria, it does give us a bio mass of antlers. We can tell by the sheer volume of antlers we pick up, whether we have a number of bucks or a few bucks, and whether we have little or big bucks. I’ve personally been collecting and weighing sheds for years. I’m attempting to evaluate from the sheds whether we’ve had a good year, a great year or an average year for antler development on the properties we manage. Something else we’re able to determine from sheds is that we can better predict for the hunter what size bucks he’ll have to hunt the upcoming year. If we find numbers of small, scrappy antlers, then we can project that hunters may not bag very many large trophies the coming year. But if we locate some quality racks, we’ll know our hunters the following year can expect to harvest some trophy bucks. So, collecting sheds helps the sportsman keep his expectations of the upcoming buck harvest within more reasonable bounds. Bass fishermen have learned that bass usually are in only 10 percent of a lake’s area. Deer follow much the same pattern in the woods. Shed hunters quickly will learn where their chances are best on any piece of property to find a deer.

If you found this article on shed hunting informative, check out parts one and two of this series. Part four explains the implications for the state of a deer herd after finding locked horns.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Studying Sheds for Deer Management

Bob Zaiglin on Finding Dead Deer while Shed Hunting

March 28, 2012

Bob Zaiglin on Finding Dead Deer while Shed Hunting

For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.

Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.

I also discovered some dead trophy deer while hunting sheds. One time, I picked up both sides of a 14-point buck that scored 176 points non-typical on Boone and Crockett. A shed hunter will find these dead deer will include not only deer that may have been wounded during hunting season but also some deer that have died of natural causes. Remember you’re hunting sheds after the rut. During the rut in regions with big deer, the trophy bucks generally will be beaten-up badly during mating season. They may have to fight on a daily or a bi-weekly basis, and the bigger, dominant buck must fight more often to prove his dominance. These big old bucks are not invincible. They may develop an infection after being pierced by the antler of a rival. In this weakened condition, they can be attacked and killed by predators like coyotes. A buck can lose as much as 25 percent of his body weight during the rut, which is also the time of the year in many areas of the country when the snowfalls are the heaviest. After deer season in inclement weather, deer will concentrate heavily around food sources. In many regions of the country, farmers and landowners must feed deer so they can survive. In the brush country of South Texas after the rut, the land tends to get dry.

Also some deer, especially trophy deer, simply die of old age, because they have escaped hunting pressure through the years and eventually die of natural causes just like humans do. Deer are also accident-prone. Sometimes the deer will run into trees and kill themselves or become hung-up on fences and die. Heat and drought both affect deer adversely, and whitetails are susceptible to various parasites and diseases. The main reason you find these dead deer when hunting sheds is because you are in the woods at the time the deer generally die-off.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out part one of this series with Bob Zaiglin on shed hunting. Part three goes through more information on how shed hunting can help sportsmen more effectively manage and understand a deer herd or wildlife area.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Bob Zaiglin on Finding Dead Deer while Shed Hunting

Better Deer Hunting Through Shed Hunting

March 20, 2012

Better Deer Hunting Through Shed Hunting

As I slid along a small ditch that cut through a thick travel corridor full of cover I couldn’t help but notice all the sign in the area.  The deer runs were sunk into the earth from years of heavy use and several trees, including a few pretty good sized ones, showed scars from buck rubs past and present.  It was obvious that this is a major travel corridor and the thick cover that surrounds the creek probably offers good protection and encourages daytime movement.  At the south end of the ditch is a large bedding area that I know deer bed in because I bumped them out on my way in.  I can easily envision deer coming out of that bedding area and funneling through this corridor.

A large maple on the southeast corner of an intersection where two heavily used runs come together would be a great set up for a west or northwest wind.  Access through the open woods east of the tree should make for a quick and quiet entry through an area where deer aren’t likely to be hanging out.  It’s a spot that would surely provide great hunting but it’s also a spot that I would never, ever, hunt.

Why would I never hunt a slam dunk spot such as this?  Because it’s within a local college’s nature center, is located right in the heart of the concrete jungle and is 100% closed to hunting.  So why am I in this area trying to figure out deer patterns and worrying about travel corridors, bedding areas and feeding areas?  Because it is an area that I recently added to my list of shed hunting spots around home.

There are many reasons that I enjoy Shed Hunting.  I think the obvious reasons revolve around the opportunity to get outside at a time of year when we tend to spend a lot of time inside.  Getting out of the house a bit during the winter and getting some fresh air is always a great feeling.  Also the thought that I could be just moments away from finding the antler of a big mature buck makes it exciting and gives me good motivation to keep looking.  It’s as close to deer hunting as I can get this time of year and helps me to scratch the itch a bit and bridge the gap between the old season and the upcoming new season.

One of the less obvious reasons that I enjoy shed hunting is that it is really a great way to keep your scouting skills sharp and often helps to improve your knowledge base as well.  As a deer hunter there are certain types of deer sign that you look for while scouting as well as certain types of terrain or land features that you try to key in on.  Shed hunting offers you an opportunity to get out and search for that sign and habitat just as you would while scouting.  As a matter of fact, shed hunting in areas that you hunt in the fall is a great way to do some pretty aggressive scouting without risking messing up your hunting areas by pressuring them later in the year.

When you are shed hunting you are effectively looking for a needle in a pretty big haystack.  Since the odds aren’t in your favor to start with you definitely want to focus as much as possible on areas that deer are actually using with regularity and not waste your time looking through deer-less areas.

Habitat and terrain features such as bedding areas, feeding areas, funnels or pinch’s between those bedding and feeding areas, south facing slopes and well used fence jumps are a few of the spots that I like to look for while shed hunting.

If you are a deer hunter you should look at that list and realize that most of those features are things that you will also be scouting for when trying to decide where to hang your tree stand or set up your ground blind.

Since the vast majority of my shed hunting is done in areas that I will never be able to hunt in they tend to be areas that I haven’t really scouted in the past.  In the past few years, as I have expanded my shed hunting efforts, I have found myself walking into new woodlots blind quite a bit.  Going in blind, without any knowledge of the area other than what I’m able to gain from aerial maps, can be fun and exciting but is also challenging.  Shed hunting is going to involve a lot of walking regardless of how well you know the area and I really don’t want to add any extra miles by spending time in areas where I have a very low likelihood of finding any sheds.

Using the aerial maps I can usually target a few areas to start my investigating at.  Once I get into that area I try to find a habitat or terrain feature that will influence the way deer use the area.  Once you find that influencing factor you can usually tell pretty quickly if your thoughts are on the mark or not.  This time of year the undergrowth in the woods is all laid down and runs and/or tracks that may have been hard to locate in the summer or fall are now quite visible.  If my theory is right, and the habitat or terrain that I have located is working as I suspect, it is usually pretty easy to find tracks and/or a run that confirms my thoughts.

Once I find a well used run I will start following it and the search is on at that point.  Most of those heavily used runs are going to lead straight to bedding area’s or feeding areas and usually will feed you onto several other runs and good area’s.  Just as with scouting for stand locations you want to go slowly and take note of all the details around you.  While you are shed hunting your focus will be more on the ground than it may be while scouting for stand sites but the principles are the same.  Find a good area of deer activity and begin breaking it down.

While it is true that deer patterns change somewhat during the winter compared to the fall the fact is that the techniques and eye for detail that I use while shed hunting in the winter/spring is going improve my scouting ability and help me set better stand positions in the fall.

Hopefully, if I’m really lucky, I may even manage to stumble my way across a nice shed while I’m out there too.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Better Deer Hunting Through Shed Hunting

Shed Hunting After Deer Season

March 19, 2012

Shed Hunting After Deer Season

For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.

Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.

By hunting sheds, a sportsman may find a rack that will score very high on Boone and Crockett, and that buck never even may have been seen during hunting season. Once the hunter locates that trophy shed and decides to hunt that deer the next season, he must realize he will have to let numbers of small bucks walk past him – if he’s going to try and take that trophy buck. But by knowing a trophy buck is in an area, a hunter can concentrate his hunting time the next season in the general region where he’s found the trophy’s shed antler.

In the West, I find many sheds around watering holes and along fence lines. Often when deer are jumping fences, they’ll knock their antlers off. Then a hunter can try to find travel trails between feeding and bedding areas along fences where he locates drops. Although each of these places are easy spots to discover sheds, if you really want to locate the shed antlers of trophy bucks, you must go into the thicker spots to look for them. One of the problems with locating big sheds in heavy cover is that rodents are more abundant in thick areas and will consume those antlers at a rapid rate after the deer have shed them.

Finding a Matched Pair of Sheds:

Although the dream of most shed hunters is to find a matched pair of trophy antlers, very rarely do deer shed both antlers at the same time and in the same place. But one year I actually located five sets of matched antlers. I’m not sure why finding both antlers off the same deer is uncommon, but my best guess is that antler shedding and the casting of antlers is definitely related to nutrition. A deer on a good nutrition level holds his antlers longer than a deer that is nutritionally deprived of good food. Last year our ranch provided good nutrition. But after hunting season, the lands I managed went into a drought. Since the deer were somewhat deprived nutritionally, the deer shed their antlers more quickly. At least this guess was the best I had as to why I found more sets of antlers together then.

If you enjoyed this article on shed hunting, you may also like to read part two of this series on shed hunting with Bob Zaiglin.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Shed Hunting After Deer Season


Bottom