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.
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4 Questions From 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 bucks with 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 a planned event. But 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 can 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!
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 an area around 50 yards around you. After glassing, that area for 5-10 minutes move farther down the plot.
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. 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. To be thorough make sure to go all through those trails weekly.
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.
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 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.
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