Once deer season ends, it’s only natural to start feeling down about the fact that you have to wait nearly nine months before you can climb back into a treestand again. But for me, striking white gold during the late winter provides a level of excitement that is about as close to deer hunting as you can get. And yes, I’m talking about shed hunting: foraging the grounds, picking through dead leaves and thorn bushes, searching for fallen antlers.
Not only does locating fallen headgear bring an unmatched adrenaline rush, but it’s also a great way to take inventory of surviving bucks and gather intel about hotspots to check out the following season. Some of my most productive scouting trips have been through shed hunting, and it’s something I look forward to every year.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t it all just luck? I mean, who knows where a buck is going to randomly drop his antlers?” I wouldn’t blame you for that assumption, and while it is true that luck definitely plays a part, there are a lot of tips and strategies that I have found over the years to help you on your quest to find more white gold. Here are 5 tips that will help you find more sheds this year, and prepare you for deer season next fall.
Gloomy Is Gold
Towards the end of February and the beginning of March, I am constantly checking the forecast to see when the cloudiest day will be. While it might not be the prettiest weather there is, nothing makes shed hunting easier like a gloomy, overcast day. The darker the day, the more the white on the antler pops, allowing you to spot more horns, without having to be directly overtop of them.
Cold days right after a fresh snow can be terrific conditions as well. The crisp temperatures make the snow almost a platform for sheds to set on, giving you the advantage of not having to kick over brush and dead leaves looking for one. On top of that, the snow will making finding heavily used trails and concentrated deer tracks much easier to spot, giving you almost a map of where to look!
Seek Winter Food Sources
During this time of the year, bucks are already planning for the growing season by looking for nutrient and protein rich food, while the does are eating for two as they prepare to give birth to their fawns in a few months. If you were successful in your late season food plot, this is an obvious hotspot for fallen antlers. If your state allows it, and you have been supplemental feeding, this is another place that can almost guarantee sheds.
If you’re like me, and your late season food plots didn’t pan out the way you thought they would, don’t fret. Deer can get by almost entirely by woody browse and acorns. Some of my most successful shed hunts have been from locating a thick oak patch. Bucks will paw at the ground looking for any uneaten acorns. If you can find a white oak, you may have just hit the shed lottery, assuming they didn’t already pick through them during the early season.
Sometimes people get so caught up in searching in fields and open trails that they forget that deer bed in some of the nastiest areas possible. Don’t be afraid to venture off the main path and explore areas that don’t come with the easiest access. A buck’s main priority is to be safe, so when they aren’t eating, most of their time is going to be spent in a sanctuary. Put on some thick brush pants, grab a long sleeve to protect against the thorns, and you’ll be surprised at how many sheds you can find in thick cover. It might require a couple of passthroughs and more meticulous searching, but it’ll be worth it.
Knock on Doors
There have been seasons where I just come up short looking for sheds on the properties I hunt. Whatever the reason may be, it just seems like I don’t have access to the spots where they were dropping. When this happens, I know it’s the perfect time to start knocking on doors and asking for permission.
Thankfully, you likely won’t meet the same amount of rejection as if you were asking for hunting rights. Landowners are much more likely to let you search their property for antlers than they would to let you hunt. And honestly, this can be the perfect ice breaker for gaining hunting access the following year. Show the landowner how much you respect their property, and your passion for conservation which is evident by your desire to search for antlers, and who knows, they might even grant you more access this fall!
Bring A Friend
Four eyes are better than two, right? When I first started shed hunting, it was mostly a solo activity. Even some of my hunting friends didn’t understand the interest in looking for antlers on the ground. Over the years, and with some heavy persuasion, I got some of them to join me on my annual shed hunts, and now, they might be even more hooked than I am. And it’s a win-win, because with multiple people searching, the odds of spotting sheds skyrockets.
You might have to divide up the antlers at the end, but who cares? Part of what makes the outdoors so incredible is sharing it with people you love, and the comradery that comes with shed hunting is pretty great, and more often than not, you’ll all go home with a trophy.
Shed hunting is one of my favorite activities, and something that I look forward to every year. Not only do I get to bring home some trophies that look cool on my mantel, but I also get to connect a piece of the puzzle that is deer hunting, and gather intel that will ultimately help me in future seasons. Not to mention, any chance you can get to be in the great outdoors is something to capitalize on. Good luck this shed season! I’m looking forward to seeing some pictures of white gold!
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