5 Deadly Diseases For Whitetail Deer

Whitetail populations are susceptible to a verity of diseases and parasites. Every year it seems that we have some type of outbreak that puts populations of deer around the country at risk. Although most diseases whitetails get are harmless to humans, knowing what these ailments look like could help you better manage your deer or avoid eating deer that you should not.

1) Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)

HD is the most common type of viral disease that affects whitetail and has multiple strains including Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), and Blue Tounge . This year, EHD has made a large outbreak and started a buzz, much like the CWD outbreak last year in 2018.

Hemorrhagic Disease is a viral infection spread to whitetail deer by small flys known as biting midges which are also called regional names such as sand gnats, sand flies, no-see-ums and punkies. These gnats are generally more abundant during droughts, or in areas with large amounts of mud. Once a deer is infected, it may or may not show symptoms. Some deer can carry the virus for months or years and not show symptoms, while others show symptoms within days.

Photo: Missouri University

These are the signs of HD according to Dr. Howarth of Iowa State University,

“In general, deer infected with EHD lose their appetite, lose their fear of people, grow weak, show excessive salivation, develop a rapid pulse, have a rapid respiration rate, show signs of a fever which include lying in bodies of water to reduce their body temperature, become unconscious, and have a blue tongue from the lack of oxygen in the blood”

For whitetails that survive HD, you can see signs of it on their hooves. While they have the disease, it interrupts their growth patterns and causes walls of there toes to slump off and grow irregularly. Photo: Virgina DNR

HD is not transferable to humans. So, the animal is safe to eat, but personally, I would not eat it if I did not have to. If you see an outbreak of HD on a property that you are managing the only choice you have is to let it run its course. As of 2019, there is not a cure for HD. Sadly, if your population of whitetail does contract the disease you can expect around 25%-30% death from the disease, although numbers as high as 50% have been reported.

Check out these 5 Whitetail Diseases that you could see this season!

2) Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects elk or Wapiti, red deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, Sika deer, reindeer, and moose. It has been found in some areas of North America, including Canada and the United States, Norway, and South Korea. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness, abnormal behavior, and loss of bodily functions. CWD can affect animals of all ages and some infected animals may die without ever developing the disease. CWD spread through the contact of bodily fluids and is 100% fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines. (Center for Disease Control)

“CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Within this family of diseases, there are several other variants that affect domestic animals: scrapie, which has been identified in domestic sheep and goats for more than 200 years, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle (also known as “mad cow disease”), and transmissible mink encephalopathy in farmed mink. ” (CWD-info.org)

As of 2019, there have not been any cases of Chronic Wasting Disease being transferred to humans. Although there have been other cases of CWD being transferred to primates that eat infected meat or come in contact with body fluids from the infected animal. Even though there have not been any reported cases in Humans, the World Health Organization has strongly suggested to not consume animals infected with Chronic Wasting Disease.

Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.

3) Bovine Tuberculosis

“Bovine tuberculosis (bovine Tb) is a disease found in mammals caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). In North America, bovine Tb is most commonly found in domestic cattle and captive and wild cervids (white-tailed deer, elk, etc.) and less commonly in other mammals such as raccoon, opossums, coyotes, and wild boars. ” (Perdue University)

Bovine Tb causes the animal to have issues with their respiratory system and can cause high fevers. The disease is spread through bodily secretions like urine, feces, blood, breast milk, or saliva. With the correct environment, the bacteria can live for months and infect mammals that come in direct contact with it. This is one reason that baiting deer in high-risk Tb locations has became illegal. The deer can feed at these piles and leave saliva on other bits of food which are then ingested by healthy whitetail.

Bovine Tuberculosis in a wild whitetail deer
Photo: Michigan DNR

While highly unlikely it is technically possible for humans to contract TB from Whitetails. If you harvest a whitetail in a TB prevalence zone, you should avoid eating organs and make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly with an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F. This will kill all bacteria if the deer happens to be infected.

4) Cutaneous Fibroma / Deer Warts

Cutaneous Fibroma is a viral infection spread by insects that typically infects 0.4% – 2.4% of deer around the age of 2 years old (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association). They are brown/black lumps that grow on the deer but rarely grow beneath the skin.

Extreme Case of Deer Warts

Deer warts are a common occurrence throughout the country. Seemingly every population has seen them to some degree. Cutaneous Fibromas are harmless tumors that can grow on all parts of the body. The only way these become dangerous is if they begin to inhibit sight, breathing, eating or the ability to walk. Otherwise, these warts are harmless to the deer and can eventually go away.

Fibromas are the most reported deer illness and are seen all around the United States of America every year. Under normal circumstances, a hunter probably will not even see warts until further inspection after the kill. Not to worry, these Cutaneous Fibromas do not affect the edibility of the deer and are 100% harmless to humans, other than the gross aesthetic nature.

5) Brain Abscesses

A brain abscess is a bacterial infection that gets into a wound close to the head and makes its way to the brain, where it then begins to make pockets of puss that have nowhere to go. Many bacteria can cause this but typically this infection is caused by an Arcanobacterium Pyogenes. This type of bacteria is not uncommon and can live on the skin or gums of cervids. The bacteria enters through an open wound, which for whitetail bucks could be a scrape on a velvet antler, or through the pedicle (base of the antler) of a shed or damaged antler.

Photo: Missouri University

“Nearly 90 percent of all documented cases of brain abscesses have been from bucks, especially mature bucks greater than 3.5 years old,” (Chas Moore, Wildlife Biologist, with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries). When a whitetail gets a brain abscess, it is normally fatal. These abscesses are thought to be one of the main reasons for non-Human death among older bucks. Some symptoms of a brain abscess are: abnormal activity, loss of appetite, blindness, and fearlessness of humans or predators. They are basically just a pocked of puss endlessly growing in the deer’s brain, which causes immense pressure and can be very painful.

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The Whitetail Rut | What, Why, and When is it?

The whitetail rut, also known as the best time of year. We wait all year to be able to get into the woods during this prime time, so we can get those big bucks and make stories that we can tell a thousand times over again. But do you know the specifics of the rut? What exactly is the rut? Why is there a rut and what triggers it? When is the rut, or how long is it? We will explore these questions and see how we can use them to your advantage in order to make you a better hunter.

Photo: Deer & Deer Hunting

The rut is known as the mating season for mammals. Unlike humans, all animals cannot mate year round so they have a strategic season, normally during fall, so offspring can be born during springtime when food is plentiful. The rut is triggered by the photoperiod, which is the ratio of daylight hours to darkness hours throughout the day. For whitetail deer, the rut starts in late October and ends in early December, but it can vary by a few days between populations. We can also break the rut down into different phases: pre-rut, early rut, full rut, post-rut, and the second rut.

What is The Rut

According to biologists, the rut is a broad term for the mating period of mammals. We mostly only hear of the term “rut” when we are talking about members of the Cervidae family, such as deer, elk, or moose. The rut causes males of the species to increase testosterone levels, this increases their aggression and interest in females. During the rut, males perform many displays or actions in order to entice females. This causes males to become more active and reckless, putting themselves in situations they normally would not.

In whitetails we see that they will fight each other, make a scrape or rub in order to spread their sent and unconsciously start to swell their necks throughout the rut in order to look bigger and more intimidating. They will also start to heavily urinate on their tarsal glands causing staining and a strong scent.


Photo: Bowhunter.com

It turns out that there is much more to the rut than just the time of year! Check out this total guide to the whitetail rut from Omega Outdoors.

Why is There a Rut

Most every species has a rut, but why? Humans mate year round and produce offspring year round as well. What keeps other animals from doing the same thing? My theory, the seasons and temperatures. If a species gave birth during fall or winter, odds are it will be very difficult for that baby to survive the winter. Especially in deer where fawns move around, but also hide in one spot for hours. This behavior could lead to many offspring freezing to death. Not to mention the availability of food throughout the winter is significantly less that it is in the spring. So because of those factors, the odds of survival are much higher if a species give birth during a warm and fruitful season, also known as spring. So The rut is timed perfectly to accommodate the gestation period of a whitetail doe, which is about 7 1/2 months long.

Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.

When is The Rut

Generally the entire rut will go from October to December. There are also a few different phases to the rut as well, and we see different behavior in each phase. This means we need to hunt each of them different and study our deer to see how they are behaving. What are these phases and how can you use them to your advantage?

Phases of The Rut


This period is around the second week of October, to the third week of October. During this period bucks start to roam into their fall ranges and patterns. they start to change their behaviors slightly and will cover more ground. Bucks are still in bachelor groups, and does are still in family groups. The two groups will often mix together at food sources. Buck testosterone levels are slightly increasing.

Bucks are not chasing quite yet. These bucks are laying down a lot of sign through rubs and scrapes. Hunting pressure has likely pushed these bucks back into more wooded areas that are safe and have plenty of food.

It is important when you are scouting to find an area that will fit this bill. It will likely be a secluded area with a few trails and acorn trees. They love the thick areas, so if you can find one with a good about of acorns and general deer sign then that is a good spot for pre-rut hunting.

Early Rut

This period is the last week of October and maybe the first day or so of November. Some does are starting their estrus cycles, and bucks are breaking up from their bachelor groups and are becoming more reckless. They are experiencing high levels of testosterone .

There is a heavy amount of buck sign now. Bucks are starting to move much more but they are still not chasing quite yet. You may see a young buck chasing but not any bruisers. Bedding areas are probably your best bet for a good hunting spot during this week.

Full Rut

The best two weeks of the year, The first two weeks of November. Bucks are going crazy, and chasing does hard. Buck testosterone is at its peak, most does are in or coming into estrus. Bucks increase their ranges even further and are moving at all hours of the day.

A good strategy during this period is to hunt tree lines and trails, doe bedding areas are also an effective strategy. Now your rattles and grunt calls will be really effective. This is the best time to be in the woods and is your best chance of getting a nice buck.

Post Rut

This period occurs during the last week of November. The rut as a whole is slowing down and most does are already bred, but some does will come into estrus during this week. The deer are feeling a lot of pressure from hunters around this time, they are trying to stay in the safest places possible.

Buck activity is slowing down and they will not come out as much in the daylight. Bucks will be harder to hunt than the last two weeks, but bedding areas that are in thick secluded areas are a good place to look, but your normal rut stands will still be really effective.

Second Rut

Hunting is much tougher after the post-rut, the second rut occurs during the first two weeks of December. Mature does that were not bred are now cycling back into estrus, as well as young does that are now big enough to be bred. You may get a few days that will remind you of the full rut, many of the same tactics will work once more.


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Why Do Bucks Rub Trees?

When roaming through your neck of the woods, you have probably seen a tree with the bark rubbed off of one side. Depending on where you live, this is likely to be a type of deer. Have you ever stopped to think why deer make these, or how you could use rubs to your advantage as a hunter? While this post will focus on whitetail deer, many members of the deer family Cervidae also make rubs in a similar fashion.

Why Would Deer Make Rubs?

Whitetails rub trees for two main reasons, during the pre-rut bucks do this to remove the velvet from their antlers around early september. The second reason is to secret their scent in the area. This is a act of dominance showing other bucks what he is capable of. Because of this, frequency of rubs sharply increases during the rut, and studies show that dominate bucks make three times more rubs that younger bucks.

Photo: Deer & Deer Hunting

Do you know exactly why whitetails rub trees? Check out this post about rubs from Omega Outdoors.

What is a “Rub”?

A rub is when a male whitetail uses his antlers to scratch the bark of a tree. This is an intentional act from the deer. They are very thorough and may scratch all the way around the tree or just one side. During September or pre-rut the purpose of this is to get the velvet off the deer’s antlers once they start to harden. During the Rut the purpose is to secret their scent on the tree and surrounding area, they are basically saying ” Hey ladies I am here!”. While simultaneously saying “Hey other bucks look how much I can tear this tree up, that could be you”.

Velvet Coming off the Antlers, Photo: Bruce MacQueen

When do Bucks Make Rubs?

When deer antlers start to harden, it does not take very long for them to get rid of the velvet, maybe a few days at most. This process could start around late August and will probably be over for your local population by mid September. So you will start seeing rubs around this time frame, with an increased frequency during the rut.

Which deer make rubs?

While all bucks will rub to remove their velvet, during the rut, the majority of rubs will be made by more mature bucks rather than yearlings. In a population with a good amount of mature bucks, young bucks aging 1-2 may not get as many opportunities to mate and will likely get bullied around by older and bigger bucks. That being said, rubbing trees is an act of dominance around a certain area. So, it only makes sense that studies show mature (dominate) bucks are three times as likely to make rubs than younger bucks.


How to tell the difference between new and old rubs?

A common mistake for novice hunters is to mistake a year old rub for a new one. While it could prove useful to see old rubs, we are generally interested in the recent ones that tell us where the deer are this year. Older rubs will be darker and greyed out while new rubs will be light brown or whitish with a bit of moisture to it.

New Rub, Photo: Realtree.com

What Makes a Good Rub?

As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the better. Smaller rubs can be on one side of the tree, but the holy grail of rubs is one that is rubbed all the way around, a rub like this says there is a buck coming back to this spot often. Some rubs can be on trees that are up to a foot around. Most of the rubs like this are communal. So this is a regularly visited rub by different bucks and could be a good place to do some extra scouting. Many times you will know a good rub when you see it just by sheer size, but another variable to think about is quantity. If there is a area around ten yards with multiple rubs, there is a good chance that is a high traffic area that you should definitely consider.

How Big is a Deer From The Rub?

As we discussed, all bucks rub trees to remove velvet; however, most of them can tear up the middle of a tree and look like a giant buck to the untrained eye. The majority of the damage done is going to be from the two browtines the buck has. These tines are the closest together and are around the same size as the tree that they would be rubbing. So just keep it in the back of your mind that a 2-1/2-year old deer can tear a tree apart as well as a bigger buck.

Do not give up, there is one difference between the two. While the middle is likely torn up in both cases, a mature deer rack has one advantage here that can help us differentiate between trophy and small racks. HEIGHT. Look at the very top of the rub, and the branches close to the ground. These can have small nicks or cuts, they will not be very large but only deer with taller racks can reach these spots, so the taller the nicks the taller (and bigger) the buck.

Around three feet is a normal height for a rub, if you are using this method try to look around four or four and a half feet tall.

Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.

When Should I Hunt a Rub?

If you have identified a large rub and it is close to a few trails or a major trail, that is probably a good spot to hunt. Throw some corn out 10 yards away and see what happens (if your state allows it).

Better yet if you have found a cluster of rubs, close to a food source or major trail, I would mark that down as a stand location. Some hunters prefer to hunt in one spot for their entire season, but if you like to move around, Going from rub location to rub location can be a viable option for you.

What about the tree?

There is no doubt that the tree gets the short end of the *stick here. If it is only a small rub then the tree will likely recover but with a nasty scar and probably will lean to one side. If the rub is all the way around the tree has a really good chance of dying.

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Can Whitetail Be Totally Black?

Melanistic whitetails are the absolute rarest form of whitetail known; Although, a few hunters in parts of Texas have actually had the chance to harvest these animals. Truth be told, not very much is known about melanistic whitetails, while experts believe the genetic mutations that cause albinoism actually reduces the survival rate of the animal due to predators, melanistic deer are believed to be the opposite.

What is Melanism?

Melanism is the complete opposite of albinism. In albinism the pigment melanin is completely absent, in this circumstance, there is an excess of melanin. According to Biology-online.org, “Melanism is a condition in which a bodily part is morphologically dark due to the unusually high deposition of melanin. Melanin is a dark pigment produced by the specialized cells called melanocytes. This pigment attributes to the dark coloration of the hair, eyes, skin, plumage, pelage, and other bodily parts of a living organism”. The word melanism is derived from the Greek word μελανός.

Have you ever seen a totally black whitetail?! Me either, check this out!

What Causes Melanism?

Melanism is a random mutation that can occur in many types of animals. It is believed to be a mutation of the melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R). Just like albinism, Melanism is a recessive gene, so the gene will likely not be passed down, but it is not impossible.

Photo: mapmyranch.com

Survival Impact

Mutations happen all the time in all organisms. They are a large part of natural selection and evolution. When animals have a mutation that is beneficial to their survival rate, and therefore their breeding rate, it tends to stick around. Being melanistic is not a giant game changer for whitetails from a survival standpoint, if it was, they would all be melanistic. It is possible that being melanistic could give whitetails a slight advantage but this would be negligible. Whitetails are already fairly well camouflaged for their environments so we do not see large populations of black whitetails across the United States.


While everyone has heard of albino whitetails, different reports claim that their rarity is between 1 in 20,000-100,000. While chances of a piebald whitetail being born are believed to be 1 in 1000.

Brooke Bateman 2016

That being said, the chances of a deer being born melanistic are considerably less than that of an albino. So small in fact I could not even find a general stat for their numbers. Melanistic deer are not harvested every year; however, in 2016 a young girl named Brooke Bateman harvested a wide melanistic buck off their 1,800-acre lease deer lease in Stephens Texas, one of the few ever recorded. That year, Texas harvested 600,000 whitetails, while according to the QDMA The United States as a whole recorded over 6,000,000 whitetails harvested.

Melanistic Deer Distribution

Texas January 3rd, 2004

Melanistic deer have been sighted across the United States. Some of the documented states include Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and South Carolina. The largest population seems to be in Texas. A 1999 study by Texas Tech University professors Dr. John T. Baccus and John C. Posey found that in a southwest region close to the Edwards Plateau Ecological Region, melanism had an incidence rate of 8.5%. The reasoning behind this concentration is still unknown. It is possible that the dark color helps them better camouflage themselves against predators, aiding natural selection.

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Can Whitetail Does Have Antlers?

Are antlered does real?

It seems that every year we get a few reports across the country of so-called “antlered does”. According to science, it is more likely that these deer being reported are actually hermaphrodites. They are two types of hermaphrodites,

  1. True hermaphrodite. This deer would have both male and female organs, but the male organs are faint and/or not outwardly identifiable.
  2. Pseudohermaphrodite (also know as cryptorchid). This deer would have internal male organs that would not be easily identifiable.

A true antlered doe will exhibit this kind of antler growth. The condition is extremely rare. Most reports of antlered does are more likely cases of hermaphrodism. Photo courtesy of Larry's Taxidermy of Ogdensburg, NY.
A true antlered doe will exhibit this kind of antler growth. The condition is extremely rare. (Photo: Larry’s Taxidermy of Ogdensburg, NY.)

Yes, they exist!

While actual antlered does are possible, they only grow small antlers and do not produce the testosterone needed to harden their antlers so they stay in velvet year round. The chance of a true antlered doe happening is a small 0.01%.

What does science say?

A group of scientists in Pennsylvania did a study on the 160,000 bucks registered between 1958 and 1961. While this population was only bucks hunters had killed and reported the percentage of antlered does is considerably less than recently said, I am sure this is because most antlered does are considerably smaller than actual bucks which makes them less attractive to hunters.

Here is the abstract of the study:

Forty-seven antlered female deer (Odocoileus virginianus borealis) were reported among 162,000 bucks killed during four hunting seasons in Pennsylvania, 1958-61. Their distribution in the state was not uniform. The viscera of 31 antlered does, so-called, were examined. Of these, 17 were functional females, 4 were males with undescended testes in the intra-abdominal fat, 1 was a hermaphrodite, 1 bore an adrenal-type tumor, and 8 others could not be classified with the material available. The antlers of 25 were in the velvet, while only 6 had polished antlers, normal among males at that season. The condition of the antlers when related to that of the internal organs correlated very well with the theory of antler growth as developed by the late George B. Wislocki and his associates, and now under investigation by R. J. Goss. The adrenal glands showed no consistent abnormalities.

Read the full report here

Hunters who shoot an 'antlered doe' likely have killed a hermaphrodite, which has ovaries and testes, neither of which would be noticeable to an untrained eye. The deer may appear to be female, but the branched (and sometimes hardened) antlers are an indication that it most likely not a true antlered doe.
Hunters who shoot an ‘antlered doe’ likely have killed a hermaphrodite, which has ovaries and testes, neither of which would be noticeable to an untrained eye.  (Credit: DDH)

Every now and again we will get a report of a rather large “antlered doe” such as this 220 lbs as we know this is not a true antlered doe but these false deer can be classified in these 5 categories.

  1. True hermaphrodite
  2. Pseudohermaphrodite
  3. Does with degenerated ovaries
  4. Does with diseased ovaries
  5. Deer with no recognizable pathology(extremely rare)


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Top 5 Deer Hunting Myths

 There are many misconceptions about deer and deer hunting throughout the country. Everyone believes that one crazy thing that an uncle or granddad told them, and you probably never thought twice to question it. Don’t worry, after some research I sadly realized I was also one of these gullible young hunters. Here are 5 quite popular deer hunting myths

1. Peeing in the woods

If you’re like me, you probably thought that peeing in the wood was a giant cardinal sin in the woods! However, peeing in the woods is absolutely fine and has zero negative effects. All urine turns in to ammonia within 20 minutes and the deer can’t even tell the difference between deer and human urine. Some hunters even admit to peeing in their own mock scrapes. This sounded crazy to me but hey now I don’t need to carry a pee bottle or hold it during all day hunts.

Did you know that peeing in the woods does not matter? Check out this and other debunked myths from Omega Outdoors.

2. Dry Does

Many people define a dry doe as a doe that hasn’t produced fawns this year. So many management hunts choose to take out these does not think about why she doesn’t have does. According to wildlife biologists a doe will always have fawns unless she is very unhealthy and dying. Although some does may have had fawns still, but they got lost or eaten. There are many reasons why a doe doesn’t have fawns around her so next time try not to judge your does so quickly.

3. Buck Always Bed Downwind of Does

There is a big misconception about bucks bedding downwind from does. While this may happen on the off chance bucks do not outgoingly try to do this. Imagine you’re a buck and you bed down and the wind changes every little while. are you really going to get up just to be behind the does? No you wouldnt, Neither will the bucks. If anything they will get up and move along.

4. Dew Claws In Tracks

So many nieve hunters say that when you can see the dew claws in a track that it is automatically a huge buck. Any deer can leave dew claw prints depending on how it stands, how fast they are going, or if they are scraping. There are many ways to tell the story of a track but remeber all deer have dew claws not just the giants!

Muddy Deer Track

5. Scent is not That Complicated

While dressing in scent free clothes and making sure you wash in scent free soap is important, many hunters are very paranoid about their scent. Placing your stand in the right spot and be virtually undetectable. Try to secluded, the higher ground you can get the better so try hunting a valley if your having trouble with scent.

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Becoming a Good Shed Hunter

Whitetail season is a month past us now. For those of us that already want to be out back in the woods, now we have an excuse! Shed hunting is a popular pastime for the hunters during the postseason. For some it is just a hobby or fun experience, others use it as a management strategy to keep up with certain bucks. Whichever you do, hopefully, these tips can help you out.

What is Shed Hunting?

If you don’t know what shed hunting is, it’s when you go out looking for bucks antlers that have been “shed” hence the name. After the rut, the day starts to shorten and this sends signals to specialized cells to start eating away at the base of the antlers. After a while, they will fall off to make way for new growth. Whitetail bucks can begin to shed their antlers in January, with most bucks shedding by late April. Depending on what type of land you are on or how your deer are behaving can determine when exactly you should start shed hunting. Do some reconnaissance, place cameras and scout your deer. When the majority of bucks have lost their antlers it is about time to get in the woods after them. If you are on public land you might want to go in a little earlier because those sheds are going to go like hotcakes.

I’m excited about shed hunting this year! Check out these tips I found from Omega Outdoors. #shedhunting #outdoors #hunting

4 Questions From Shed Hunters

1. When do I start hunting?

Well, obviously this doesn’t have a defined season like the a actual whitetail. So timing is very important. this could vary depending on if your hunting private or public land, and also what your weather is like.

If you’re on Public land then you should be wary of other hunters getting out and finding sheds first. So, in this case, you might want to get out a bit earlier. Make sure to check the local deer population either by cameras or in person, because if you’re still seeing bucks with antlers then you’re thinking about sheds a little to early.

The weather also has more input then you might think. If you are farther north then you probably still have snow on the ground through January and into February. Finding sheds in snow can be super difficult and is going to hinder your success greatly. That being said if you are on private property and can afford to wait a month or two extra for the weather to clear and for all the antlers to drop, you will likely be much more successful.

2. What type of day is right for shed hunting?

Honestly, most of us shed hunt whenever we have time, and it is not a planned event. But if you could pick the perfect day, it would actually be gloomy, dark, and lightly rainy. 

Think about it, most of these sheds are a brown-white color and during a beautiful sunny day, they are going to blend in with everything. but if the leaves are flat and the woods are a little darker then they will stand out much better and you should be more successful.

3. Where Do I Find Sheds?

Sheds mainly come from three places: food sources, bedding areas, and the trails in-between. If you decide to go shed hunting early then you might want to stick to tree lines or food plots or else you will be rooting around in the woods turning deer. One great tip for hunting sheds in a food plot is to always bring binoculars. Shed hunting is a lot of walking and if you can see farther that means you have to walk less!

Food Sources

Coming out of the winter months deer are packing on the pounds and will spend a sizeable amount of time around food sources. If your property is corn fields, by shed season they will be cut but stalks and sheds look a lot alike over a big field. The key to hunting sheds is to cover as much ground as possible, so when out at your food plots try to see as much of it as you can. Covering ground does not necessarily mean walking, get a height advantage and glass a area around 50 yards around you and then move farther down the plot.

Food Plot, Photo: Advancedhunter.com

Bedding Areas

When deer are ready to bed down, the simple act of laying down and getting up throughout the night, which they do about every 30 mins, can be enough to shake those antlers off. The bad part is that deer love to bed down in the thickest areas they can find. In the middle of a brier thicket or if you are lucky maybe it is just a secluded grassy patch. But if you can find these areas of high traffic, check them weekly.


Trails are probably the easiest way to find sheds. The trails themself are easy to find compared to the bedding locations, and chances are you already know where a good bit of trails are on your property. A good place to check is around hills or a drop down into a creek. these areas can cause the buck to produce a lot of movement which could be enough for a weak antler. Some times limbs or brush can knock sheds off, or just the act of walking is enough, but make sure to go all through those trails and do it weekly.


Similar reasoning to looking at hills or creek beds, when bucks jump fences that obviously jars the deer to an extent and makes a high possibility that their antlers will shed. Not many hunters think of this but I have found a good amount of sheds around fences.

At the end of the day, the more ground you cover, the bigger and better your chances are to find sheds.

4. Do I Need a Shed Dog?

You do not NEED anything to shed hunt, except permission. But does it hurt? No way! Shed hunting dogs can be very useful. Even if you haven’t trained your dog to find sheds, just bringing them along can be a ton of fun. Actual shed dogs can be much better than you at shed hunting and they will probably find the majority of sheds.

Photo: Field & Stream

Training a dog to find sheds does not take all that long, just in 4-6 weeks you can have your dog ready to go. Labrador retrievers are a great dog for hunting in general, they love to please and love to be in the outdoors right by your side. Do not worry about messing up your duck dog either, other hunters that trained their duck dogs to find sheds said that it did not interfere with their performance during duck season.

Thanks for reading my article I hoped you enjoyed it and learned something you didn’t already know. If you like my content subscribe for my weekly update. If you have any questions about shed hunting that I did not talk about here, feel free to comment or shoot me a email at Patrick.long@omegaoutdoors.net and I will be more than happy to answer it for you.