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10 Reasons You Aren’t Good at Shed Hunting

Identify these hindrances, and then diagnose them

Throw an antler over your shoulder in the middle of a brush-covered forest and see how long it takes to find it. Go on. Give it a good chuck. Then set that timer. You might get lucky and spot it right away. Or you might not (even with the hint of knowing it’s there). More times than not, it’ll take a bit to rediscover it. So, needless to say, shed hunting is not easy.

All said, if you have a hard time finding sheds for real, you’re probably making some of these mistakes. Correct them, and get that white gold.

1. You Choose The Wrong Time

Timing is a crucial component of shed hunting. Move in too early before deer shed and you won’t find any. Move in too late and run the risk of predators, scavengers, rodents, and other shed hunters getting to them first. It’s a delicate balance.

The best way to move in at the right time is by monitoring the antler drop. Do this by scouting from afar and using trail cameras. Once you no longer see deer with antlers or don’t see many, you can feel confident most of them have dropped.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Glass from afar
  2. Monitor trail cameras
  3. Consult with other hunters
The author poses with a bouquet of antlers. Want to find a big pile of bone? It takes work. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

2. You Look In The Wrong Places

It’s important to not only look at the right time but also at the right places. You can’t find something that isn’t there. You have to shed hunt where the deer spend the late and postseasons. Do that and you’ll be in the thick of it. Don’t and you’ll have long days ahead as a shed hunter.

I like to focus first on where deer spend the most time — bedding areas. That’s where I find the most shed antlers. Find thick, unpressured areas where deer felt safe during the late season. That’s likely still where they are now, too.

The next best places to look are food sources and trails that connect bedding areas to them. Cover both major and minor trail systems in order to find antlers dropped by bucks of all ages. Younger bucks will generally use major trails more and mature bucks tend to use those smaller, secondary trails, most of the time. Walk the edges of major food sources and glass the interiors of the openings.

Lastly, don’t forget water sources. These are great locations to find antlers. Deer are naturally spooky around water sources — that means increased chances of running, jumping, jerking, etc. — which means sudden movements capable of losing an antler (or two).

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Focus on late-season deer hunting hotspots
  2. Hit the bedding areas
  3. Walk the food sources
  4. Check the water sources
Not using a shed dog? You should be. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

3. You Don’t Use Your Eyes

You have to train the eye to find shed antlers. It’s like anything else in the fact that it takes practice. You won’t immediately become a great shed hunter.

For starters, think small. Don’t look for a whole antler. Look for the tip of a tine, the pearly glisten of a beam, etc.

Also, change your perspective. Crouch down. Stand up. Get up high on a vantage point. Doing these things can make a difference. Things block your view. Move around to overcome that obstacle.

It’s important to know when conditions are best for your vision. Cloudy days are better than sunny ones. Just after heavy rain is better than shed hunting in dry conditions. Have your eyes accustomed to the light outside? On sunny days, wear lightly-tinted sunglasses. On cloudy days, don’t wear them at all.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Think small
  2. Change perspective
  3. Recognize good shed hunting conditions

4. You Aren’t Glassing

Most antlers aren’t sticking up and obvious like this one was. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

Optics are important for shed hunting. They’ll save you a lot of time and energy. Sometimes things can look like a shed at a distance, only to be sticks or brambles. Pulling your binos up and confirming one way or another will sometimes save you from having to walk over and see.

Optics are also necessary for checking food sources for antlers. Walking an entire ag field can be a significant waste of time. Instead, driving around and glassing them in sections can be easier and yield better (quicker) results.

When choosing a pair of binos, don’t use some that are really high-powered. Choose a pair in the low- to mid-power range for optimum performance.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Choose a pair of binos
  2. Glass food sources in sections
  3. Use optics to confirm the antler-like material you see from a distance

5. You Don’t Walk Far Or Long Enough

Shed hunting demands time. You must invest it to find sheds. It’s that simple. More time means more antlers. But don’t rush it. Move slow. Stop and look. Ease along at a slow pace. Move too fast and you’ll miss a lot of bone.

While time is important, so is distance. The more territory you cover, the higher your odds of finding success. Be smart, though. Don’t search randomly. Look in high-odds areas first. Then check spots that are less likely to have antlers in them.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Spend more time afield
  2. Be willing to put more miles on your boots
  3. Scout high-odds areas first

6. You Don’t Stay Focused

antlers-holdingFocus is key. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t start looking at the sky, treetops, and tweety birds. Keep your eyes on the ground. That’s where you’ll find antlers. If you find antlers in the treetops, you might want to pack a sidearm. There’s a kitty cat on the loose.

Staying mentally tough can be hard. It isn’t easy. Doing so will result in more shed antlers for your collection. There are ways to help with this. First, listen to some music while out there. I stay focused better that way. Next, grid out the area so you have a plan and you’re not just aimlessly bumbling around. Set goals. Tell yourself five, 10, 15 (or whatever the number) is your goal for the day. Setting that goal will push you to achieve it.

And know when to quit. You won’t shed hunt everything in a day. Once you get to that point where you need to stop, do so. Then, start fresh another day.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Listen to music
  2. Set goals
  3. Go in with a plan
  4. Know when to quit

7. You Aren’t Enlisting Help

One of the best things you can do is invite others along. It’s a great way to introduce someone to the outdoors. Plus, it’s another set of eyes. Have your buddy come help you. Then return the favor and help them shed hunting their property(ies).

You might even learn something from them. They might use a tip or tactic you haven’t heard of or tried. They might even have some advice you need to hear. I learn tips and pointers from my friends. They learn from me. That’s how it works.

And not to mention that you can cover amounts of ground exponentially faster this way. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Seriously.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Invite friends along
  2. They help you
  3. You help them
  4. Cover ground faster
  5. Everyone learns from everyone

8. You Haven’t Deployed A Dog

Dogs are extremely helpful in finding sheds. And the fact that I still don’t own one is my No. 1 shed hunting mistake. (I plan to change that within the next year or so.) That said, a friend of mine does have one, and I commission the help from time to time. I return the favor by sniffing some out for him with my nose, too. Not a very fair trade, eh? Oh well.

Dogs have an incredible ability to find shed antlers. And while it isn’t easy to train a dog to do it, the rewards are certainly worth the time and effort. Or, have someone else train your new pup and enjoy the fruits of their labor instead.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Borrow a dog
  2. Train a dog
  3. Or pay someone to train one
Finding a match set is rare, but possible. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

9. You Don’t Shed Hunt Like You Hunt

Your shed hunting mentality should be no different than your hunting mentality. The goal is the same — find the deer. Except, in this case, it’s finding where the deer was, so you can find the antler it left behind.

This is an easy task, really. Just implement your late-season game plan for hunting. Then tweak it a bit to take into account shed hunting rules and concepts. Before you know it, you’ll be finding all sorts of sheds.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Think like a late-season deer hunter
  2. Look in places where deer spend the late season
  3. Add a few shed-hunting-rule twists to your game plan

10. You Don’t Have A Plan

Shed hunt with a purpose. Go in with a plan. Use maps to grid off your search area. Mark off where you’ve been. Plot points for sheds you find. Focus on areas with the highest odds. These are all little things you can do to increase your success. Each will help you get the most out of the shed-hunting experience.

Fast Track to Sensei Status:
  1. Carry an aerial map
  2. Mark off areas you’ve searched
  3. Plot points for located sheds

 By Josh Honeycutt



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