By Mark Kenyon
A few hot spots and a small blister or two on my feet. A stiff back. Aching calves. Great memories and a tailgate stacked with antlers.
These were the results of my impromptu trip to Southern Iowa this past weekend to catch up and shed hunt with my buddy Dan Johnson, otherwise known as Dallas Fort Worth of White Knuckle Productions/Whitetails Inc. I had originally planned on shed hunting in Northern Iowa with Ross & Pete from our team here at Wired To Hunt, but deep snow forced us to postpone that trip. Luckily though, Dan came through with a last second invite down south, and so I headed down for my first shed hunt in the famed southern tier of Iowa.
By the end of our day and a half in the woods, I had much more than just antlers to show for it though. I also learned a few important lessons. Below I’ve shared a few of these lessons learned, as well as a few stories from the trip. Enjoy!
1. Use Your Trail Cameras: I arrived in Iowa Friday afternoon, and immediately DFW and I hit the woods. We walked for hours and unfortunately, with darkness approaching, we had yet to find a single antler. That is until we visited Dan’s trail camera location where he had left corn out a few weeks back. Just a few yards away, there were two sheds.
That said, if legal in your area, it’s definitely a good idea to keep a trail camera running on your property/s after the season and keep it baited with corn or another attractant. This will help you keep track of what bucks made it through the season, will allow you to see how the antler drop is going, and also can help keep bucks and their antlers nearby!
2. Never Give Up Hope On “Those Spots”: After walking miles on Friday and Saturday morning, I was starting to get a little disheartened. Every time we’d come into a good bedding area or a grassy patch on the edge of a food source, I thought to myself “this is one of those spots that HAS to have an antler”. But every time, I was met with disappointment as another of “those spots” was empty. Late Saturday morning, that finally changed, when I walked up on a brushy point with no snow left, that extended into a cut bean field. This was definitely one of “those spots” that should have an antler, and it finally did! A nice little four point side was my reward.
No matter how many times you come up empty handed, keep giving “those spots” a good look. Eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for, and you’ll be reminded why “those spots” got their reputation.
3. Always Check The End Of Timbered Points/Ridges: Speaking of “those spots”, one of these types of shed hot-spots is a timbered ridge or point. Often times bucks will bed out on the end of these, which of course makes them great spots to find sheds. Saturday afternoon, as I walked down one of these points, I looked down and saw a rising spire of white standing out against the backdrop of a big old tree. Immediately, I knew it was a shed, and a big one! It ended up being my best shed ever, with two stickers off the G2, a split brow tine, and a sticker off the base. As seen in the above picture, it was an incredible antler, and measured out at 65 4/8″!
Don’t forget to check these timbered ridges and points in your area, especially if near a food source. Bucks will inevitably be bedded there and so will their antlers.
4. Look For The Crown: This past weekend a good amount of snow was still present where we were shed hunting, especially in the timber and on north facing slopes. This made our search for antlers pretty tough. Still though, DFW found two antlers half buried in the snow. The key to his success? I imagine part of it was looking for the “Crown”, that being the half circle of tines sticking out of the snow. This unique arrangement of sharp tipped points is rarely found in the wild, except for in the form of an antler. So keeping an eye out for this arrangement, as seen in the photo above, can help you find sheds even when buried in snow.
5. Don’t Forget The Crossings: Speaking of antlers DFW found, he also found one next to a fence crossing. Anything that forces a buck to jump can easily cause an antler to drop. For this reason creek crossings, ditches, and fence crossings are all great spots to look for sheds. I’ve always known this, but never found one myself. This weekend it finally panned out.
6. It’s Good To Have A Friend: While shed hunting can be a nice opportunity for solitude and a quiet walk in the woods, its also a great time to enjoy camaraderie with a good buddy or two. I was definitely reminded of this over the weekend, as Dallas and I shared a lot of laughs, good times and even a few falls. A buddy also comes in handy for taking photos too, as you can see in the pic above, I couldn’t have got this great shot without a pal!
7. Never Cross The Narrow Section Of A Frozen River: Speaking of laughs and falls. On Friday, we came across a river that we’d need to cross to continue our shed hunt. It looked to be relatively shallow, and Dallas took a first try across, only falling through to the tops of his boots a few times. It looked pretty safe, so I decided to give it a go.
For some reason I decided to cross a little further up, where the river narrowed and the ice seemed more solid. Just before I began my crossing, a thought passed through my head…Typically where a river narrows a deeper channel is cut, resulting in much deeper portions of the river…But despite this thought, I kept walking. Bad idea. In the picture below, you can see a hole in the ice to the right of me. This is the hole created by me falling through the ice and into the shoulder deep freezing cold river below. Luckily, I was able to crawl out of the hole and back to shore, but it was definitely a scary moment, and a cold walk the rest of the day! Lesson learned.