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Shed hunting is a great way to extend your deer season. Most deer hunters, especially in the North, are suffering from a severe case of cabin fever by the time late February and early March roll around. Shed hunting is a lot of fun, helps you learn more about the property you hunt, and is a good way to inventory bucks that survived the season and the winter. Here are ten great tips for finding more sheds the next time you're in the field.
1. Check Your Trail Cameras
Trail Cameras are a great help during deer season. They allow you to keep tabs on deer using your property. Trail cameras tell you where travel routes are and where deer are feeding and bedding. Most importantly, trail camera photos can provide evidence of bucks shedding antlers. The last thing you want to do is start shed hunting before antlers have started shedding. Walking through the woods will push deer onto neighboring properties. They will come back but time spent on neighboring property is time they could be dropping their antlers. Don't start shed hunting until bucks start showing up on your trail cameras photos without antlers.
2. Pack Your Bag
Most hunters in whitetail states spend hunting days on their butt. Shed hunting is a walking sport. You're going to need something to drink and perhaps a few snacks. Bring along a backpack to carry your refreshments and more importantly, your sheds. Most people don't realize how awkward it is to carry antlers until they have three or four in their hands.
3. Take Your Time
Unlike deer, sheds won't run away. Shed hunters often walk right past sheds in the woods and fields. Bucks spend a lot of time in thick cover. These thick areas take time to work through and antlers can be hard to find. When looking for deer in the stand, many hunters say to look for deer parts. A flicking tail or the flash of an antler is all a hunter may initially see. Shed hunt the same way. Stop and look around for things that resemble antlers.
4. Look For The Sun
The first question someone getting started in shed hunting will ask is where to start. My answer is, it depends. Start in open areas on sunny days. Picked crop fields and meadows are the places to go. Antlers will glisten in the sun and will be easier to spot from a distance. On overcast days, sheds tend to blend in with corn or soybean stubble. On the other hand, sunny days lead to a lot of shadows in the woods. It is easier to spot sheds when there are no shadows in the woods. Don't avoid one or the other based on the sun but focus your efforts where a successful hunt is most likely.
5. Head South
Deer have been here for thousands of years because they know how to survive. They will spend much of the winter on south facing slopes or the southern edge of a forest. These spots receive more sunlight and provide radiant heat. Sheds are more likely to be where deer are concentrated. Southern slopes and edges are the spot to look.
6. Walk The Line
One of my favorite tactics for shed hunting is walking a fence line. Bucks can lose their antlers on a fence in two ways, bumping the fence or jumping over. If a buck jumps over the fence, the shock of landing will often knock an antler off. He can also lose an antler if he ducks under a fence. In most cases, you can also hunt a field as you walk the fence line.
7. Find The Food
Shed hunting food plots and other deer feeding areas is a good idea for two reasons. First off, deer spend a lot of time feeding during the winter and early spring. Secondly, bucks will move their heads up and down frequently while feeding. This motion is often enough to shake an antler loose.
8. Go To Bed
Deer survive the winter going from bedding area to feeding area. If they're not feeding, they are conserving energy. Obviously, you don't want to spend a lot of time in deer bedding areas. Checking for sheds once a year is acceptable but do your scouting while you're there. Keep visits in bedding areas to a minimum.
9. Get A Pair
If you find one shed, there is a good chance the other is close by. When trailing a wounded deer, a hunter should work in concentric circles from the last blood spotted. Do the same thing after finding a shed. I'll often find a matching antler within 75 to 100 yards of the first.
10. Take A Kid
As a hunter, passing on your knowledge and traditions to the younger generation should be a priority. Shed hunting is a great way to introduce a kid to the outdoors. Gun safety isn't an issue and it usually takes a while to get cold or bored. Most kids really like walking through the woods. Point out droppings, rubs, and anything else that shows evidence of wildlife in the woods.