March 26, 2022
A Bone to Pick-up
Shed hunting is the perfect way the get more information on how deer and wildlife are using a property or piece of ground, along with their population health and density. Plus, it's just a great way to spend some time outdoors. If you are prepared to put miles on your boots, these tips can help put antlers in your bag, whether you are on private or public ground.
1. Study The Property and Have a Plan
Identify bedding areas, edge habitat, and staging zones. Pinpointing areas deer would spend most of their time in the winter will increase your odds of findings shed antlers. If your property stays wet look for some natural high spots. South-facing slopes allow for the greatest protection from winter’s north winds and receive more of the sun’s warmth. Start in these areas of higher concentrations and work out from there. Find their primary food and water sources as well as their bedding areas, and focus on the travel corridors and funnels in between.
OnX HUNT is a great tool for E-scouting a property, developing a plan, and marking and tracking the areas you’ve searched. It's also beneficial for tracking and seeing the patterns from year to year of where you have found antlers. These patterns are eye-opening to see how deer are using a property.
2. Use Binoculars!
Plain and simple, binos will save you miles of walking. Not only can you sit up on a highpoint and glass open areas (especially effective for scanning croplands and open landscapes out West) but they offer a different perspective that can make an antler stand out.
Anything that catches your eye should always get glassed before you derail your course to check it out, and anytime you find an antler, your next move is to glass 360 degrees to look for other drops or the match. Good binoculars can also help you look through thick underbrush. By pushing and pulling your binoculars’ focus through shrubby cover you can isolate layers in the brush and make a hidden antler pop.
3. Scan Far, Look Close, and Slow Down
Most people struggle with “Slow Down.” More Miles = More Sheds only if you’re seeing the sheds you are walking past. When searching thick hardwoods and cover, spend more time looking than walking. When you feel you're in an area that deer have been using or somewhere you've had previous success, walk a few yards and look around for a couple of minutes and repeat.
Large antlers are going to jump out more than the average and small sheds. Stay scanning in the distance for things that pop, but don’t neglect what’s around your feet. You will likely find dozens of antlers that your buddies have stepped on or over, but you've also probably had the gut-punch of someone finding one that you walked over. Don’t forget to turn around and look back behind you, or crouch in cover to change your perspective.
4. Found One! Now Look Around
Sheds drop from a hormonal change in deer that dissolves the bone tissue between a cervids antler and the pedicle (the bone nubs on a male’s skull.) Because of this, usually when one antler is ready to fall off, so is the other.
The larger the antler is the more in sync they seem to fall off. Whether it’s due to the added weight and leverage acting on the pedicle or the fact at a heavy, lopsided head is uncomfortable, deer and elk tend to drop or knock off the other side relatively soon after the first one. Once you find an antler, mark that spot on the GPS, closely scan around and then start to spiral out from that drop. A lot of your matches will likely be within 100 yards (straight line) of the first one.
5. Enjoy Being Outside
At the end of the day, you will find more personal success if you enjoy your time out. Don’t focus so hard on finding an antler that you can’t enjoy the other benefits of being outside.
Look around for sign, other wildlife, unique property features, or plant species. Slow down, pack a lunch, and take a break if you’re feeling discouraged. You may walk many miles with nothing to show but tired feet and a backpack full of trash, but at the end of the day it can be as fulfilling as if you had found a bundle of antlers.