Article by Jason Ashe
Shed hunting has exploded in popularity among Whitetail hunters across the country in recent years. The annual ritual is not only good for some outdoor exercise and scouting, but it is also a good opportunity to see which bucks have made it through to the next season, then come home with some pieces to the puzzle.
Whitetail deer typically lose their antlers between late December and late March, depending on many variables. We normally take to the woods in mid-March when the snow has dispersed. Scouting the areas, you are going to shed either via trail camera survey or long- range observation before you actually set foot into the woods. This step can save you countless hours of walking aimlessly. Also, be sure to scout these areas when there is snow for travel corridors and winter- feeding patterns. That will help you come up with a perfect game plan to allow you to come home with a bigger haul of shed antlers.
Springtime woods are often wet and muddy, so a great pair of boots is critical to keep your feet dry, warm, and comfortable. We also find that our Burris Binoculars are invaluable by allowing us to check out objects from a distance without having to walk 300 yards to check them out from a closer distance, as well.
Desirable Browse/Bedding Areas
Desirable browse species are the most stable key food source in the winter Whitetail’s diet. Year in and year out, I have found countless numbers of sheds in or around these browse species. Apple or pear orchards, red and grey dogwood stands, stands of sumac, raspberry patches, overhanging grapevines, and white cedar stands are the top browse species where we have found sheds in every season.
Dirt mounds located in or around big fields are great locations, and spots where bucks will frequently bed while feeding during the night and watching for predators.
Bedding areas with soft native grasses that include thermal cover is where I find the most sheds every year. Typically, in the colder months, deer like to lie on south- facing slopes because they can soak in the sun for a majority of the day and then move to a close food source to save energy.
I also have found sheds in random spots on multiple occasions, such as in cornfields, bean fields, and food plots. However, I’ve found that sticking to bedding areas, south-facing slopes, field edges, and food sources are the areas for producing the best numbers.
Pick The Right Days
Sheds can be extremely hard to see sometimes, from how they lay on the ground, to their appearance as similarlooking sticks, to the blended and common colors of the outdoors. I can’t imagine how many sheds I have walked by in my years of shed hunting. Having my eyes adjusted has helped me catch some of those tricky sheds. One thing that I like to do, if I find a shed early in the day, is to throw it out ahead of me to see the various ways they lay, and what they look like naturally in the environment. Also, I find that on rainy days, shed antlers pop out like unmelted snow in a drab brown world.
Timing Is Everything
One main reason shed hunters don’t find the number of sheds they’re after is that they aren’t looking for sheds at the right times.
If you go searching too early, you take the chance of pushing bucks off the property and having them drop their sheds somewhere else. If you go too late, you take the chance that other hunters or trespassers scoop up the sheds before you do.
Ten years ago, you could wait until mid–March to start looking. Nowadays, you need to get on the sheds as soon as you believe they are down. The great part about shed hunting is that it gets you into the woods and spending quality time learning the ways of the Whitetail. Once you have found your first shed, you’ll begin to recognize quality deer habitat.
Article by Jason Ashe