It’s that time of the year again to hit the woods and look for sheds. Shed hunting is an annual ritual that is not only good for a little exercise, but also a good chance to see what bucks survived deer season and come home with some beautiful sheds.
Your success while shed hunting often depends on the questions you ask yourself. Where should you look? When should you look? What techniques should you use?
If you hit the field with a great game plan, you definitely will come home with a much bigger score of shed antlers. Shootingtime.com reached out to some of the countrys best shed hunters for some shed hunting tips that will help you bring home more shed antlers.
If you have any comments, questions, or would like to leave us your shed hunting tips, please send us an email on our contact page. Good luck!
Shed Hunting Tips From Some of the Nation’s Best Shed Hunters
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #1 – Use a dog. Dogs have upwards of 300 million scent receptors in the noses (bloodhound) and with some training, they’ll locate and retrieve some shed antlers that you would have never found. Now, you can’t just take any hunting dog out to the woods and expect a pickup bed full or antlers. Just like with bird hunting, your dog will have to be trained properly. This means, they will have to be introduced to the look and scent of shed antlers and associate pleasure/reward with a successful retrieve. Shed antlers are hard and have dangerously sharp points, so they must be trained a specific way. For tips on training your dog to find shed antlers, we contacted the leading expert in the field and owner of Dog Bone Hunter, Jeremy Moore.Jeremy’s Dog Bone Shed Antler Retrieving System is a 3 step system that works with pretty much any breed of dog. The system uses a combination of safe rubber antlers and antler scent to program your dog for success.The first step is to introduce the safe white rubber shed antler to your dog. Your dog will soon begin to hone in on antler shape and with some rewarded retrieves, it will be hooked on this new pastime. Your dog’s eyes will now be programmed.The next step is to add some Dog Bone Antler Scent to the shed antler retrieving dummy. For this exercise, you can use the white antler dummy and the graduated to the harder to find brown antler dummy. Do some basic retrieves to start out and then do some scent drags to the hidden antler dummy to ensure your dog depends on it strong sense of smell. Once this stage is complete, your dog’s nose is programmed.The final step is to replace the rubber dummy with a real shed antler. Since the dog is used to the shape of the antler by now, it’ll know how to pick it up safely. Add some Dog Bone Antler Scent for familiarity and practice a variety of non blind and blind retrieves. Use an environment that’ll challenge your dog’s senses. Once consistent success is achieved, your dog is ready to hit the woods!
Here are a couple of good tips on training your dog for shed antlers by the “shed dog whisperer” himself, Jeremy Moore.
- Never introduce your dogs to something that you want them to like in a negative way. Sheds are no exception. Just like training a gundog or bird dog, trainers don’t start out with birds but instead work their way up to them in order to ensure success. Using the right tools to get you to the real bird or shed ensure that success.
- A dog will rely on their nose as much as humans depend on their eyes, consequently you want to ensure that you train your dogs to use both their eyes and nose for sheds. For most dogs, using their noses to find things is very natural, so it’s simply conditioning what a shed smells like and connecting that to the reward (for most, the reward is the retrieve).
- Once you do get to the point that your dog has the confidence and understanding that the shed shape and smell will equal something good (retrieve), you can begin to introduce the feel of the real thing. Take this step similar to how you introduced your dog to shape using the dummy. Make sure its fun, easy and nothing more than a fun game of fetch.
- When you do get into the field with your dog, don’t bore them or burn them out with long hours in the field without a find. Be sure that when you get into the field, particularly for the first season or two the time spent is merely an extension of your training. An easy way to do this is by bringing along a small shed with you and keep your hunts short. As soon as you see your dog’s focus begin to fade, pitch the small shed, circle them downwind and let them find it.
For more information on the Dog Bone Shed Antler Retrieving System, visit Jeremy’s website at http://dogbonehunter.com/.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #2 – Don’t get pushy.
Try not to pressure an area too soon. Premature shed hunting adds unnecessary stress on your bucks and it may drive them out of your shed hunting area.
Instead of hitting the woods like a search and rescue team, learn how to observe your deer before going after the head gear. Get some good binoculars or a spotting scope and scout from a distance. Remember that bucks will often winter differently from does and fawns. Locate these bachelor groups from a distance so you know when it’s the right time to enter their space.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #3 – Look in feeding and bedding areas.
Bucks are more likely to drop antlers where they spend their most time and in late winter, that means checking the feeding and bedding areas.
Search for what food sources are being hit between January and March and work between them and the nearest bedding areas. Spend a little time glassing fields to figure out the hot feeding areas. Search the active fields and work the trails back to their beds. Most bedding areas will be located on south facing wooded and grassy hillsides.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #4 – Use high quality optics.
Our 20/20 vision will find antlers, but normally within a limited range. Use a good pair of binoculars to scan fields and woods for antlers that normally would have had to been walked up upon. Find high spots that will allow the greatest field of vision and do a slow scan for antlers. Just like with mushroom hunting in the spring, sometimes all you have to do is slow down a bit and take a good look.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #5 – Check water sources.
Deer need to drink and when they do, they bob their heads up and down quite a bit. Picture a deer with his head down getting a drink and a squirrel jumps off a tree onto some noisy leaves. Chances are, the buck might jerk his head up to have a look at what made the noise. That’s an ideal movement to shake, rattle and roll some nice head gear to the ground.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #6 – Check out fence lines and tree rows.
Many of our farm fields and woods are surrounded by fences. Deer jump these fences on their daily routes for food, water and shelter. Look for trails that lead to these obstacles to find antlers that are jarred loose from jumps.
We have also found that tree rows produce. Tree rows are often heavily traveled and if they are thick enough, they make a great hide away for big bucks. Give em a good look.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #7 – Do a grid search.
If you have been working an area that you know a big buck has been using, do a grid search. When all else fails, grid searches are the only true way to make sure an area is thoroughly covered. This technique is best done with a few friends walking in parallel until an entire area is sliced and diced. Throw a shed hunting dog into the mix and it’s pretty safe to say that if the big boy dropped his head gear, you’ll find it. High percentage shed dropping spots are a great quick hit, but the more walking you do, like in a grid search, the better your chances for success.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #8 – Quality Spots, Quality Sheds. Just like with any kind of hunting, the better your spot, the better your results. If you search an area with a large deer population and it’s loaded with great bucks, you should do well. A favorite saying of mine is “an ounce of private property is worth 10 pounds of public property.” Private property spots normally aren’t pressured like public property and are an excellent environment for big bruisers to develop and drop some great racks.Public lands can also provide for a great shed antler hunting experience as well. Before attempting to shed hunt public land, be sure to check the regulations to make sure it’s legal. Many national forests, state parks, and forest preserves do not allow people to shed hunt and normally administer pretty steep fines. If it’s allowed, try to get to where other people haven’t searched. Get into the thick stuff that might scare off lesser men. If you’re willing to log some serious hours and miles, public lands can provide an excellent bounty.
- Shed Antler Hunting Tip #9 – Take the road less traveled.
Our final tip comes from Tom Miller of the North American Shed Hunter’s Club.
Checking the lesser used trails will increase your odds of finding sheds from adult bucks. Just like you may have noticed during your time deer hunting, trails that produce a high quantity of deer may not produce a high quality buck.
Not being predictable is one reason why some mature bucks live to a “Boone and Crockett” quality age. Find these sometimes better hidden trails that run parallel to “doe highways” for a chance at some gnarly headgear.
I just picked up this 88 inch piece Sunday in Wisconsin. This main frame 5 scores an impressive 79 2/8 inches and was found on a very seldomly used trail that ran parallel to a trail that was very heavily used.
Shed Hunting Tips From Brennen Nading of “The Breaking Point”
For me, Deer hunting season never really ends. Of course the Department of Natural Resources sets a closing date on each season, but that doesn’t mean that the hunt must end, it only means I must stop carrying a weapon afield. Whitetail deer have woven a place in my heart that I cannot explain to most people, particularly those that do not hunt. I think what makes this sport so addicting is the fact that you are constantly learning. In fact, it would be ignorant of someone to think that they know everything there is to know. It is trial and error at its best, for we all know that the best way to succeed is to fail. If we succeeded all the time, we would get bored and move onto something else. Instead, we ride the whitetail roller coaster from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. And when you are in a slump and feel like giving up, you have to keep on going to get back on that high. Whitetail deer hunting to me is my getaway, it is my passion, it is my drug.
There will always be sadness within me when the sun sets on the final evening of any given hunting season. Another season has come and gone and it will be a long 8 months before a new one begins. It is up to me on what I decide to do with my time over those 8 months to prepare me for the next season. A lot of people will hang up the bow, or put their rifle in the cabinet and not do much of anything until the week before the season opens again. Not me, I can hardly stand to sit at home on a weekend when there is always plenty to do to prepare for the next go round.
Shed Hunting Strategies
Today, I want to talk a little bit about shed hunting. Why I shed hunt, when I shed hunt, where I shed hunt, and how I use shed hunting to my advantage.
Why do I shed hunt?
Why do I walk hundreds of miles every spring to maybe find some antlers that aren’t even attached to a big bucks head anymore? I do it for many reasons, one of which is because it is very addicting. There is something about seeing a tine sticking through the snow, or a pedicle showing through the grass that makes my heart stop, just for a second. It’s no different than any other sport, you play to win. When I pick up a shed antler, I am winning.
When is the best time to shed hunt?
Many people ask me this question. Deer will generally lose their antlers between late December and late March depending on several variables. The rule of thumb that I have used over the years, and one that I find to be consistent is as follows: 20% of bucks will drop in January, 60% will drop in February, and 20% will drop in March. Obviously these numbers aren’t textbook and bucks will drop earlier than January and later than March but these numbers have always seemed to be fairly accurate in my findings.
What’s the best way to find sheds?
Yes, some people go out shed hunting and wander aimlessly across their property and stumble across an antler here and there. I am a little bit different. I like to have a solid game plan and have targeted areas that I know I will need to spend more time in than others. The main focus is bed and feed. When you think about it, bucks will feed on and off throughout the night, it is important to recognize what food source the deer are hitting at the time of the year that the antlers begin dropping. For example, an alfalfa field might be a dynamite food source for deer in the early fall and even up until after a couple of hard frosts, but chances are, they are going to shift to a grain field say soybeans or corn when the temperatures drop and the snow falls. It is important you recognize these shifts in food sources and adjust your walking accordingly. When it comes to bedding areas, I have had my best luck on south facing or east facing hillsides. These are the areas that are getting the most sunlight, and the areas that the deer are going to lay during the day when the temperatures start getting cold. Although feeding and bedding areas are where you should focus your walk time, don’t forget to check the travel areas in between. Obviously the deer are liable to drop an antler in between bedding and feeding areas, so don’t count them out.
Benefits of shed hunting
Shed hunting is also a very effective tool in learning the behavior of the deer on your property. Most of us will go an entire season and hunt away from bedding areas, or at least stay out of the middle of them because we are so worried about bumping deer out of these areas and them not returning. Spring time offers us a great time to get into these bedding areas and get some serious scouting accomplished. In my experience, nearly 50% of the sheds I find are in the middle of bedding areas. This is very useful information when you start keeping a journal on where the deer are bedding on your property. Once you find a shed in one of these buck bedding areas, you can begin dissecting the situation. Start asking yourself questions like why has he chosen that area to bed up, what travel route has he used to get there from the feed, and what travel route will he use to head back out to feed. When you can start answering these questions, you are already putting yourself in a better position for success in the seasons to come.
I hope this article gives you a little better understanding of the sport of shed hunting and why I enjoy doing it every season. It is something that I look forward to each and every year. Spring is a great time to get out in the woods and check things out and put the miles on the boots in search of some antlers. I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts, good luck and happy hunting.
For more information on Brennen and The Breaking Point, visit their website at http://www.thebreakingpointtv.com/
Summary on How To Find Shed Antlers
We hope some of the above tips help you find some shed antler trophies in the next couple of months. Shed hunting is like any other kind of hunting, it’ll take many hours and sometimes years before you experience the success you’re after. Good luck and if you have some success, please post some pictures on our media page. If you have any comments or suggestions, leave them below. Happy hunting!