By Mark Kenyon
It’s February and antlers are dropping all around us. For most folks, February kicks off the annual shed season and we here at Wired To Hunt want to make sure that you are armed with all the information you need to find a boatload of bone this spring. That said, we’ve compiled our most comprehensive shed hunting resource to date. We’re covering the basics, the advanced tips, the science and the tools for shed hunting. So read on for everything you need to know about shed hunting!
What Is Shed Hunting and How Can I Get Into It?
For most of us here on Wired To Hunt, shed hunting is a regular part of our year round deer hunting season. But for those that maybe haven’t quite jumped off the deep end yet, I wanted to provide a short introduction.
Simply enough, shed hunting is the search for antlers. Deer lose their antlers every winter, and antler obsessed hunters hit the woods every spring to find those sheds before squirrels and other critters them up. To get started, all you need is a good pair of boots, a set of binoculars and a few properties to walk. That said, if you’re really dedicated to finding bone – there’s a lot more to it. And that’s what today’s post is all about. Below we’ve got an incredibly comprehensive set of resources devoted to all things shed hunting. We’ve got excerpts from a number of shed hunting articles we’ve posted on Wired To Hunt, links to other great expert resources and a few new tips of my own. If you want to learn everythng there is to know about shed hunting, this is the place to start. So study up and then hit the woods!
Why Shed Hunt?
So why shed hunt you ask? I’d argue there are two basic reasons, those being to collect antlers for personal reasons, and then to collect antlers for educational reasons.
Many of us whitetail hunters have a strange fascination with antlers, to put it simply, they’re just cool! 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 to adorn my home! Other folks enjoy antlers for other reasons, such as using them in building projects or decorations.
On top of these personal reasons, there is also much that can be learned by a shed antler. Most obviously, if you find a shed off a buck, you have strong proof that said buck made it through the hunting season. If you’re shed hunting a property you also deer hunt, this gives you an opportunity to determine what bucks will be available to hunt in the coming fall. Finding sheds can also help you learn about a certain bucks whereabouts and patterns of movement. If you find one shed in a bean field, and the matching side of the shed in a nearby cedar thicket – you’ve now uncovered two of his winter bedding and feeding areas. Thats valuable information that can translate to putting together the puzzle that can lead to hunting success.
Taking on shed hunting as a late winter 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!
My Top 3 Tips for Shed Hunting Success
There are a million different tips and tricks out there for finding sheds, but if I had to drill down to the three most crucial concepts – they would be the three below.
1. You Can’t Find Sheds If They’re Not There: This reality applies in a number of ways. First, lets consider actual geographic location. If you’re shed hunting on public land in Michigan, 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 artic winter months, so it only makes sense that this is where the most sheds are found.
2. Miles = Piles: Very rarely is shed hunting easy. Even in the best states and the best farms, it’s still going to require a lot of work and effort to come across what sheds there are. That said, if you want to find a lot of sheds, you need to walk a lot of ground. I mean a lot.
3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize: 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 peoples treestands. But if you’re doing this while shed hunting, you’re going to miss a lot of sheds. If you really want to find sheds, you need to stay incredibly focused. Don’t take your eyes off the ground, and constantly scan back and forth, forward and backward.
Expert Shed Hunting Tips
The above three tips are core to shed hunting success, but there are a lot more good ideas and tips out there to help you find more sheds. Luckily we’ve got plenty more of those to share! Below you’ll find links to several of our most comprehensive shed hunting articles, filled to the brim with information that will help you find more sheds. Specifically, in The Ultimate Shed Hunting Resource, we have compiled shed hunting tips from some of the top whitetail experts such as Bill Winke, The Drury’s, Kandy Kisky, Whitetail Properties and many more!
The Ultimate Shed Hunting Resource – Expert Shed Hunting Tips, Strategies and Suggestions : Expert tips from top whitetail hunters and shed hunters, as well as links to all of our previous shed hunting articles! Below are a few samples …
“A very experienced shed hunter told me that you find the sheds in the places where the deer spend the most time during the winter. In winter, it is sometimes hard to tell fresh sign from old sign, especially right after snow melt. He recommended looking for fresh droppings and lots of them. A deer can’t hide droppings and the melting snow won’t wash them away. He really slows down and spends a lot of time in areas with lots of fresh droppings.” – Bill Winke
““Shed hunting is definitely a numbers game. The more eyes the better chance you have, the more ground you cover the better. We’d also recommend you use Reconyx cameras to establish when the deer have shed. The worst thing you could do is hunt too early and push them on to your neighbors where they drop their antlers.” – Mark & Terry Drury
“The biggest mistake people make is to wander around, looking too far out front and all around. Mark off small grids of land, walk slowly over each grid and look straight down at the ground for sheds.” – Mike Hanback
Shed Hunting Tips from Expert Shed Hunter and Author Joe Shead : Joe Shead is an expert shed hunter and the author of the authoritative shed hunting book. This article details some of his top strategies for finding antlers! Below are a few samples …
“Check under scattered evergreens. Whether it’s a lone cedar in the middle of a fallow field or a handful of scattered pines in a hardwood forest, check under every one, particularly under the south side. Deer are drawn to these odd features on a landscape the same way a fish is drawn to weeds, rocks or logs in an otherwise featureless lake.” – Joe Shead
“Walk slower than you think you need to. There are a lot of things on the ground that look like sheds and many other things that can cover up sheds. Sheds look a lot like sticks, brush and cornstalks so your eyes need time to separate the grain from the chaff. Your pace should be dictated by how fast your eyes can thoroughly scan the ground, not how fast you can walk.” – Joe Shead
Shed Hunting: Expert Tips On Where To Look – Deer & Deer Hunting: More great advice from Joe Shead!
Six Shed-Hunting Tips – QDMA.com: Quality Deer Management Association experts provide helpful ideas for finding more bone.
World Record Sheds
According to the record books kept by the North American Shed Hunters Club, the antlers listed below are the world record single sheds in the Typical and Non-Typical categories.
Typical – Illinois – 104.75″
Non-typical – Saskatchewan – 156.625″
Science Behind Sheds
Antlers are fascinating, and the science of how they eventually fall off every year is a topic that is pretty interesting on top of that. Below are three articles that detail the how and why of sheds!
Training A Shed Hunting Dog
Shed hunting is a blast, but having a trained dog to help you makes it even more fun, and you’ll find more bone to boot! Below are two articles I’ve written detailing the training of my own shed dog, as well as several other articles from outside sources sharing best practices.
So there you have it! If you’ve read through all the information above, and all the articles linked – I’d say you’ve digested just about everything you need to know about shed hnting! Good luck out there this spring, and if you find some nice antlers be sure to post pictures and details of where you found them on the Wired To Hunt Facebook Page!