Becoming a Better Shed Hunter | Shed Hunting 101


8 minute reading time

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 have fun and become a better hunter.

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 days start 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 room for new antlers to grow in the coming months.

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.

4 Questions From New Shed Hunters

1 | When Do I Start Hunting?

Well, obviously this doesn’t have a defined season like the 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. If you are still seeing the majority of bucks holding thier antlers then you’re thinking about sheds a little too 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 always a planned event. However, if you could pick the perfect day, it would actually be gloomy, dark, and slightly rainy. 

Think about it, most of these sheds are a brown-white color. During a beautiful sunny day, they are going to blend in with everything. If the leaves are flat and the woods are a little darker then they will stand out much better. Leveraging the weather will make sheds easier to see and make you 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! If you do not have any, I suggest the Bushnell® 10×42 All-Purpose Binoculars from Cabelas.com for $49.99.

RELATED POST: WHY SHED TRAPS ARE A BAD IDEAOpens in a new tab.

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 has cornfields, by shed season they will be cut but stalks. Unfortunately, sheds look a lot like corn stalks 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. You could get a height advantage and glass a 50-yard area around you. After glassing, that area for 5-10 minutes moves farther down the plot.

Whitetail deer in velvet
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

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

Fences

Similar reasoning as above, when bucks jump fences that obviously jars the deer to an extent. This leads to 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 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. So much so that they will probably find the majority of sheds.

RELATED POST: HUNTING WITH DOGSOpens in a new tab.

Dog with Whitetail shed
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.

If you are thinking about which breed of dog you want to get, 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.


Sister Post – 10 Essential Items for Shed HuntingOpens in a new tab.

Now that you know what shed hunting is all about, you should get ready to get out there and find some sheds! But what should you take with you? Check out my other post ” 10 Essential Items For Shed Hunting” to find out. Here is an example of the articleOpens in a new tab.,

Be Prepared With the Right Shed Hunting Gear

Regardless of what you are doing in the woods, you should always be well prepared. Not only so you can get the most out of your trips but also to keep you and others safe. A lot of gear is not a requirement to get be outdoors, and the gear you get certainly does not have to be expensive. Although, if you use the right shed hunting gear, you can improve your success at the sport.

10 Ideal Pieces of Shed Hunting Gear

1| Backpack – Carrying Your Shed Hunting Gear

Bringing a good backpack may be the most important item on this list. Hopefully, you find a lot of sheds, but you need to be able to carry them! Several different kinds of backpacks will work, so… Keep ReadingOpens in a new tab.

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5| Hiking Boots – Miles Make Piles

Another one of the most important pieces of your shed hunting gear is a pair of good hiking boots. In shed hunting, miles make piles, so the best way to find a lot of sheds is to cover a lot of ground. Hiking boots can make or break this experience. Comfort is not the only important metric though… Keep ReadingOpens in a new tab.


Thank you for reading my article about shed hunting. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something you didn’t already know. If you like my content, subscribe to my weekly update. If you have any other questions about shed hunting tips or just want to connect, feel free to email me at Patrick.Long@omegaoutdoors.net.

The content created by Omega Outdoors is strictly the opinion of the author and is for entertainment purposes only.

Other Resources for Shed Hunting

Patrick Long

I am a college student and avid outdoorsmen in the great state of Georgia. I killed my first deer at the young age of 5 with a .243. Since then i have hunted nearly every year. I love hunting whitetail, ducks, and turkey, but most of all I love to learn. My goal is to teach every single one of my readers something new in every piece of content I make. If I'm not outdoors, I am probably studying for my next big test, hanging out with my friends and family, or I am making content for the community around this blog. If you have any questions or would just like to strike up a conversation feel free to shoot me an email at Patrick.long@omegaoutdoors.net

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