Where to find shed antlers? Over the years I have gained an obsession for finding antlers in order to keep inventory of the bucks that have survived the hunting season. Once you begin finding sheds regularly, you get just as excited for post season as you do October first. Everybody has different techniques on how and where to search for antlers, however I am going to share what has worked best for Team Radical and myself.
January and February is normally blistering cold here in the Midwest so that forces the deer to be dependent upon whatever food source is left this late in the season. Soybeans and corn of course are the two most dominant sources of carbohydrates and proteins which are necessities for the deer to survive the winter. This late in the season the deer are focusing on packing on the weight to stay warm throughout the harsh weather. Therefore, the majority of their time is going to be spent in and around the primary food source in their area. This is one crucial issue to consider and calculate when planting food plots in the spring. It is essential to have enough food to last throughout the winter in order to hold the deer on your property otherwise they are going to have to travel in order to feed their appetite. The benefit to having food left on your property is that you will be satisfying the resident herd, pulling all ofyour neighboring properties deer and in return producing more antlers to pick up.
With food being the number one priority this time of year, food plots are the very firstplace we search for sheds. Having food plots is not only key to success during season, but after season as well. Usually this is where we will find most of our sheds, especially in our Real World Wildlife Seed standing beans food plots. Last year we found a total of 13 sheds in a quarter acre of standing beans! Once you find the food source they are using late season it is a safe bet that is where you will find a couple sheds.
The next most important aspect besides food is bedding. Where are the deer beddingon your property? Well, connect the two points between their bedding and the food source and that shows you exactly where to hunt next. Most likely the deer are bedding relatively close to the food source and if you are lucky enough to shed hunt with snow on the ground, you most likely will have very visible trails going to and from the food source and you can see where the deer have been bedding. Even if snow isn’t present, there should be beat down mud trails that should catch your attention. We like to have each guy pick a trail and just stay on it the entire distance between the food and bedding. What happens when you come to an intersection or the trail splits off? We like to keep orange flagging tape with us to mark those intersections so we know to go back to that point and walk the adjacent trail. We do not always have multiple guys available so this is still very possible to do alone, it just requires more walking and is going to take longer.
Once all the trails and area between the bedding and food source has been dissected 100%, its time to sneak right inside their bedroom. Most likely their primary bedding terrain is going to be where they have an adequate amount of ground cover. Deer are no different than humans when it comes to picking the place you are most comfortable resting or sleeping. We want to be in our bedroom with the doors shut and blinds closed to prevent anyone from seeing in. Deer are on the same page when they choose their sanctuary. They choose the place that is free of human intrusion and where they aren’t getting disturbed by outcasts.
Once you find their sanctuary, begin searching the south facing slopes first due to the amount of deer that favor soaking up the sun on these brisk days. Unless you have a designated sanctuary on your property and you know primarily where the deer are bedding, chances are the deer are resorting to any small piece of cover, free of human scent. This time of year the deer could be bedding in fence rows or little patches of timber that the average eye would never even look at. Searching with snow on the ground will show you exactly where their trails are and where they are bedding. Most likely the information you acquire will hold true year after year. Once you find their primary sanctuary, begin grid squaring it until you have covered it completely.
Shed hunting requires a tremendous amount of walking, so it is more important to cover a small area entirely than it is to cover a large area partially. I like to have a highlighter and an aerial photo of the property with me to highlight the areas that I have already checked thoroughly. This prevents you from bouncing around the property aimlessly and allows you to implement a more detailed plan of attack to pick up more antlers. After you get done picking up all the antlers in the food plots, bedding areas, and travel corridors in between, start searching for these distinct landmarks I’m going to mention next. Creek crossings are notorious for antlers falling off due to the amount of jolting caused by climbing up and down the creek banks. I like to get down in the creek and walk it looking at every crossing. Once you find a crossing be sure to climb up the bank on every one because an antler could be right where you can’t see it from down below. Once you slide and stumble up and down a few of these you’ll know exactly why antlers get knocked loose so easily. Fence crossings are the exact same as creek crossings. Find those fence lines that you know deer are constantly jumping because when that buck lands on the other side there is a chance that the jar from landing is just enough to make that antler pop off.
When is the right time to start shed hunting? Every year and individual deer is goingfluctuate based upon the weather and amount of stress on each animal. By using trail cameras, we have the upper hand because we get to see exactly when bucks start shedding which lets us know we need to get out there immediately to win the race before the varmints chew up our antlers. The forecast also plays a huge role in when we go shed hunting. Right after a rain the forest floor is dark and saturated allowing you to sneak around the woods more quietly and the antlers stand out a lot more with a dark background. The sun plays a large factor too. I prefer hunting on overcast days right after a rain so I don’t have shadows to deal with when the sun is overhead. If hunting while the sun is present be sure to keep the sun at your back so it will help illuminate the antlers rather than squinting and walking right past them. I have found a great amount of antlers on sunny days but I still prefer those overcast days. Regardless of the weather, while you’re walking be sure to turn around periodically and look the opposite direction. For instance, if you’re walking through the woods facing North be sure to take time to turn around and look back South because tines sticking up from one direction may be completely concealed compared to looking from the opposite direction. It is scary how many sheds I have turned around and went back to pick up in disbelief that I had just walked right a shed. Then it really irritates you thinking about how
many sheds you may have walked past all together!
One last significant place I love to look for these mystical antlers is under Pine and Cedar trees. Bucks desire these soft bark trees to rub on and sure enough if you know where a cedar thicket or a row of pines are, there is a great chance that there will be antlers laying under one of them. I can’t count the number of bucks I’ve recorded throughout the seasons thrashing their antlers in pine and cedar trees. Even in late season, they still enjoy using these trees to push on and mark their territory, so keep in mind where there are evergreens, there will be antlers. Now that I have shared all that I can about maximizing your chance to find shed antlerseach year don’t forget about all the key points I have made about how crucial food and bedding is at this time of the year. Bucks are spending the majority of their time in their bedroom or in a foodplot so when it is time to drop those beastly bones you know they have to be between point A and B. Shed season is right around the corner so get ready because your next antler is too. Don’t forget to grab your antler basket because this year it’s going to be as easy as picking up trophy “Easter eggs”. We wish you great luck this shed hunting season!!
This super awesome shed hunting blog is a guest post from Justin Roepke of Team-Radical.Com. Team Radical is a group of dudes who enjoy every aspect of the outdoors – and record their experiences via a weekly web show – you can check it out here. Warning – it is pretty awesome!
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