Hunting for sheds is an exciting activity for deer hunters after the regular season has closed. During the months after deer season, up until April, whitetail bucks start to shed their antlers from the previous year. To find these sheds most hunters walk many miles over different properties, but some others have thought of a better way to harvest sheds. Shed traps have gained increasing popularity online, while some think it is the best way to go, others warn that it could have devastating effects.
Shed traps can be one way that hunters gather sheds, but if you are doing it wrong, it can have devastating effects on your bucks. Many homemade shed traps can be harmful. Traps made out of metal, like chicken wire or anything rigid that doesn’t bend, can damage the pedicle of a whitetails skull. Not to mention you could be harming your success for next season. Getting out and looking for sheds can be a great opportunity for early scouting. Knowing this, you can design a safer option or pick to use other methods of collecting sheds as discussed below.
What is Shed Hunting?
As a quick rundown of what shed hunting is, when the photoperiod (amount of sunlight in a day) reaches the right amount, it signals whitetail deer to drop their testosterone levels. This then causes specialized cells to begin to eat away at the base of the pedicles causing their antlers to eventually fall off or shed. This takes place after the rut, and some bucks start to drop their antlers as early as January. Around late April most bucks have shed their antlers. This is an exciting time for whitetail hunters because not only is it fun to go out and find sheds, but it offers management opportunities that can help better manage whitetail populations.
If you would like a more in-depth analysis of what shed hunting is and a few tips from the pros, you should check out my other blog post Becoming A Good Shed Hunter
What is a Shed Trap?
A shed trap is normally a homemade system for baiting deer in hopes that a buck will knock off their loose antlers on strategically placed obstacles. Hunters will begin to use these after deer season, when whiteail bucks begin to shed thier antlers. Most companies do not support shed traps because they can be harmful to deer and it could become a liability. So, you will not find many professional shed traps for sell but there are some. Most of the time it does not take much more than a quick $20 run to the hardware store to build one of the common designs you will see online. However, building one of these shed traps is not your best option. Thier are also major benefits in just going out and finding them the old fashion way.
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How Shed Traps Can Be Dangerous
What is a Pedicle?
The pedicle is at the base of the antler. It is the bone that connects the antler to the skull. When hunters use shed traps, they risk damaging the buck’s pedicle. If you damage a pedicle, it is literally like ripping away part of the buck’s skull. When a pedicle is damaged, the best-case scenario is a deformed antler for a few years. The worst case is a brain abscess, which can be deadly. Bucks can damage their pedicles naturally through fighting and this can be one of the most common non-human causes of death among older bucks.
The Risks of a Damaged Pedicle
For example A above, you can see how it is clean and smooth. This is what we would expect from a normal shed. Although, in example B you can see how much a portion of the pedicle was broke off with the antler. This injury can have lasting effects. A small pedicle injury may not be deadly; although, an injury as large as example B will have a lasting effect for years to come and has a high chance of leading to a brain abscess. The deformity that this will cause will affect not only the looks of the buck but also his ability to fight other bucks during the rut. So even if you use an antler trap and managed to get the sheds from your number one buck that you just missed this year, congratulations, you just messed up his rack for life. Not to mention, his chances of breeding are significantly decreased.
Other Reasons Why You May Not Want to Use Shed Traps
When hunters use antler shed traps it puts all the importance on getting the shed. Half of the value you get from shed hunting is getting out on the property. Not only is scouting much more fun, but it also provides the opportunity to find new trails, bedding areas, possible feeding areas, scrapes, rubs and dead deer from the year before. Finding dead skulls is a major success in shed hunting, and lets you know which bucks you should not expect the next season. Scouting is arguably the most important step of a successful whitetail harvest. If you are just baiting bucks to a corn pile, you will not discover these things and will put yourself at a large disadvantage.
You may also want to stay away from shed traps because they include a form of baiting/feeding deer. I tried my best to make a list of states where it is illegal to do this, though some states allow the baiting/feeding of deer, you are not allowed to hunt over the bait. Those states were omitted from the list because hunters do not hunt over shed traps. So, in my research, using a shed trap is illegal in the following states:
- Parts of Michigan
- New York
- Rhode Island
- Parts of West Virginia
- Parts of Wisconsin
Though I made this list, I ALWAYS suggest you check with your local DNR to confirm for yourself. Never trust a non-government website with legal matters.
Other Shed Hunting Methods
The Old-Fashioned Way
Walking through your property is a great way to find sheds. It gives you a bonus of scouting, which can make you more successful the next year. Shed hunting this way is also an amazing opportunity to get your kids introduced to the outdoors and hunting. You can use shed hunting to show them the ins and outs of scouting, and what goes into whitetail hunting. Some of the best memories with my father are when we were out in the woods scouting. So if you have little ones, do not pass up the opportunity to take them with you. Always remember “miles make piles”.
If you choose this method, the best places to find deer sheds are places where deer spend most of their time or places where they can jar themselves The first place I look is around feeding areas, bedding areas, and the trails between. I make sure to search especially well in the fields because deer sheds do a really good job of blending in with the ground. After those areas, check areas that would cause the buck to jump or strain, like the edges of steep creek beds, or near fences.
Bringing a Shed Hunting Dog
Many hunters have trained their dogs to help them shed hunt. Dogs are way better at shed hunting than humans. With their noses and keen eyesight, they are very well equipped for the task. Training a shed dog is not that hard either. Many hunters use their duck dogs as shed dogs during this time of the year.
Taking a Ride
Another strategy is to ride around your property on a side by side, four-wheeler, or even a horse. Hunters that do this normally ride around tree lines and fields quickly looking for sheds. You can also ride to a vantage point and glass the surrounding area with binoculars. This strategy may not be as thorough as the first two, but it does get results.
I would advise staying away from shed antler traps altogether. The risk does not outweigh the reward. Getting out on your property and scouting while finding sheds can get you better prepared for the next season. If you have a shed dog or are thinking about training one, I would highly suggest that you do. Some dogs have found over 100 sheds in a single season.
Thanks for reading my article about whitetail antler shed traps. 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 other questions about whitetail antler shed traps or just want to connect, feel free to email me at Patrick.Long@omegaoutdoors.net.
Other Sources for Shed Traps
Sister Post | Becoming a Better Shed Hunter
A sister post is a post that I highly recomend you read after this post. Here are some questions that this post answers and a snippit of my response,
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….Keep Reading
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…. Keep Reading