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The Roving Sportsman… Shed Antler Hunting Time

Shed antler hunting has been growing in popularity over the years, and now that the snows have finally ceased for the season (hopefully!), it’s the perfect time to get out and see what you can find. If you have never looked for them before, you may well be in for a real treat. Besides, it is a great way to get some exercise, scout, and have some fun with friends and family. Finding sheds is a true bonus to a hike, and when you do come across one or two, it is a great reminder that some bucks in your area have made it through the hunting seasons and the tougher part of the winter. With that in mind, there are a few tricks to the trade and techniques to becoming a better shed hunter and to have success.

Take the easy path first. From black bears to deer to humans — we all prefer the easy path to travel. Thus, old logging roads are a great place to begin your travels. If you come across a well-traveled deer path, take it — especially if it is leading to a bedding area or feeding area. If a deer trail leads to a fence or ditch that they must jump to continue travel, pay close attention to both sides of the obstacle. Jumping the fence or ditch might just provide the jarring impact that will loosen one or both of their antlers.

Think small. Don’t be focusing only on a shed from a giant 12-pointer. Even when you might come across a larger shed, only a small portion of it may be visible — often only the tip of one of the tines. When you find a shed, slow down and rescan the area. Often, the other side of that buck’s antlers may be close by. On numerous occasions, when you find a shed, there very well may be several others in the area.

Pay particular attention to the southern-facing hillsides. Deer enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on the southern sides of the mountains and hills, and the melting of the snow and ice from the sun makes the underlying food more quickly available there as well.

Retrace your steps as you return from your hike. When you do so, you will be looking along the pathway from a completely different angle and, no doubt, under different lighting conditions, which might make a small part of a shed antler more visible than before. If your travels lead you to a stand of oak trees or a cut corn field, slow your search since deer tend to hang out in these feeding areas.

Make sure you bring your binoculars. You should always have them with you any time you are in the woods, but they can help cover much more territory than just scanning with the naked eye. Scanning a nearby hillside slowly with binoculars will enable your seeing sheds hundreds of yards away.

Weather conditions. It is always great to get out whenever time permits, but if possible, try to do your shed hunting on cloudy or rainy days. Without the glare of the sun to reduce your focus, the overcast conditions make the light-colored antlers pop against their dark surroundings.

Okay, great, you found some shed antlers — now what?

Some folks enjoy slowly filling a basket full of sheds and sitting it in a visible spot in their “man cave.” Depending on the size and shape of the sheds, they can be used as handles for tools or knives. They can often be fastened together to make desk lamps, floor lamps, and even hanging chandeliers. They are also sometimes used as door or drawer handles or pulls.

In the end, taking time to hike throughout your favorite hunting grounds in search of shed antlers is just another great excuse to get outdoors, especially after being holed up in these winter months. You may discover some new bedding areas or travel routes for the whitetail deer that frequent your area and get some great cardiovascular exercise along the way. As an added bonus, ensure you carry your favorite “coyote tamer” because this is the mating season for coyotes. They are out traveling in search of a mate, and they are also more visible during the daytime hours as they are searching for hard-to-find winter food.

Good Luck!