Shed hunting has long been one of my favorite things to do in the woods. And it’s probably crazy to even be thinking about it on December 9th. But February will be here soon, and that’s usually when I get serious about trying to find them. Here are some of my “tips” and “tactics” that I have found to be true, that I think would help the basic shed hunter, like myself.
- Keep the trail cams out. I used to pull all my cameras before Christmas because by that time I had basically quit hunting deer and moved onto another critter. But as I began to get into shed hunting I realized the bonus information you can get from trail camera pictures. The pictures are almost always time stamped and dated and provide endless information as to when the first bucks start to lose their antlers. Look for pictures of bucks with half their rack missing, then shortly after you will begin to see bucks with small holes in their head not carrying any antlers. This is the cue to start walking, I always try to be patient because it seems the older, more mature deer, tend to hold their antlers a few weeks longer.
- Walk the Fence Lines. This one seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised the amount of people I talk to that don’t do it. Fences are everywhere and deer are constantly having to cross them. The best ones are the 4 and 5 barbed higher fences. The jolt from the deer jumping these higher fences causes the antlers that are barely attached to go ahead and fall off. Look for fences that separate bedding from food sources and walk them every time you go out. This is where I find 80% of my sheds.
- Bring the Binos. This one is not so obvious, and it took me several years before a buddy of mine asked me why I never bring binoculars. Most people think you’ll just walk up on a shed like you’re out hunting for mushrooms. But the reality is you are missing tons of sheds without binoculars. I always try to get a high vantage point and scan food sources for antlers that have fallen out in the middle of food plots or ag fields. Also I cant count the times I’ve thought I’ve seen a shed, only to look through the binos and realize its not. Talk about a lot of wasted steps!
- Check the South Slopes. Deer spend gobs of time in the cold winter months on South facing slopes. They can stay out of the cold North wind and they get more sunlight exposure on the South slope. I usually have the best luck near deadfall and on the top 1/3rd of the slope. If you are going to dive into bedding areas looking for antlers, I wouldn’t leave out any South facing slopes.
- Bring the Dogs. If you are like me, you love dogs. I never go shed hunting without one of my labs. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the years trying to train them to find sheds. This is a long and ongoing process, but I can honestly say they have helped me find more sheds. Usually the dogs can get me on a hot trail or point me in the right direction. If a buck has moved through the area, especially recently, the dogs know it and they want to follow it. Don’t get caught up chasing the dogs all over the country and walking meaningless miles. But if they are trained to follow deer scent, it helps to pay attention to their cues.
Hopefully this shed season you can be successful. It really just takes a lot of miles and dedication, but to me I enjoy every step. Shed hunting is a great way to stay active and also be able to effectively scout your deer herd. Finding the sheds is just a bonus in my opinion. Hopefully these tips will help you down the road!