The older I get, the harder it is to pick a favorite “season”. As one season goes and another one comes, I often find my “favorite” shifting. It goes from turkeys in the spring, to habitat improvements in the summer, to whitetails and waterfowl in the fall, followed by sheds in the winter/early spring. I love each and every one. However, there is something special about shed season.
After whitetail seasons have faded and we shift our cameras from scrapes and travel corridors, to winter food sources and supplemental feed spots, I am always amazed. Amazed that despite the odds, we have deer that made it through months of hard hunting, an intense breeding season, and harsh weather. It is incredible to me that whitetails are so incredibly hardy. This all leads to what could quite possibly be my favorite season. ;) Shed Season!
Typically, starting around late December, we start to see those first bucks shed their antlers. Usually its deer that have been injured (shot, hit by a car, lived through EHD, etc.) that shed first, followed typically by the older age class deer and the remaining bucks. This timeline can vary greatly depending on the severity of winter, the overall population in your area, and the food sources that deer have available. The more that bucks are stressed, the earlier they will generally shed out. Here is where tip number one comes in. Patience.
Although it can be incredibly difficult, patience will be one of your greatest virtue’s in shed season. When you start seeing or hearing about people finding sheds on social media, the local coffee shops, etc, it can be very tempting to go out and start walking. However, if your bucks aren’t shed out, your going to be doing yourself a big dis-service by spooking them, forcing them to exert valuable energy, and potentially running them off your farms and onto the neighbors. My strategy is always to wait until a large percentage of our bucks are shed out to start walking farms. This typically has us starting the last week or so of February. The only exception is when we go in to refresh feed sites. If you put your feed sites in a field or field edge and you know the deer aren’t bedded nearby, it’s likely not going to
hurt to take a quick look around the feed. Many times we will find sheds in or around the sites and its always a welcome surprise to find a “gimme”.
Tip number two is to walk your farms on overcast days when possible. Now, this doesn’t mean I will skip out on shed hunting because its sunny, but overcast (or even rainy) days are by far the easiest days to actually spot sheds. With the dark skies, it reduces shadows and glare and really helps sheds stand out. Along with this, we also try and walk our farms from south to north on the days where it is sunny. This will help in keeping the sun at your back and out of your eyes, therefore making it easier to spot antlers.
For tip number three, I wanted to talk about the areas where I often find antlers. The first part of this tip would be to try and find the hottest food source in the area. Without question, that is where all of your deer are going to be, therefore it’s also where most of the sheds will be.
Once I find this food source, my absolute favorite spot to walk is the edges of a food source. I have likely found 70% or more of all the sheds I’ve ever found, on edges where cover meets the field. Its no secret that whitetail’s (and most wildlife) like edges. They use them often and in turn, this is a great spot to look for sheds. Next, I focus on bedding areas and south facing slopes or hill sides. Here in Indiana, that may look like a brushy hillside next to a field, or a south facing slope inside the woods. Either way, the south facing angle will generate the most heat for deer trying to do anything possible to stay warm in the winter months. Lastly, an equally great spot to look is travel corridors that lead to and from bedding and feeding areas. These are great areas to find sheds, especially when they contain obstacles where deer have to jump (over a fence, creek, log, etc).
Tip number four. What items can help with finding more antlers? First and foremost is a good set of binoculars. Rather than having to run to every little thing that looks like it could be an antler, it’s a huge help to be able to glass them up. Especially in large open areas like you would find out west, or in large feeding areas. I can vividly remember a time where we had found a random cover crop field that was getting hammered by deer. After getting permission to shed hunt this property, we walked back and stopped on a high spot and started glassing. Within five minutes, me and a buddy had spotted six sheds in this field! Optics are a huge help. Second is a
backpack, a few snacks, and some water. It’s easy to quit walking if you get hungry, thirsty, etc. Take a few things that will help you stay out there and keep from leaving early. Lastly is to have a good pair of boots that are comfortable and keep your feet warm and dry. Again, it will be easy to call it quits early if you have cold, wet, sore feet.
The fifth and final tip is to stay positive! Shed antlers can be incredibly difficult to find at times. There are likely going to be times when you walk a long distance or spend a lengthy amount of time looking for shed antlers without finding anything. Try to enjoy just being outside. Use this time to scout if your shed hunting a farm that you hunt and keep in mind that the next step you take could be the one that allows you to see a mega giant shed! A positive mindset will keep you walking and the old saying “miles for piles”, exists for a reason. ;)
The time is upon us Friends! Shed Season is here! Keep checking those cameras, watch food sources as you travel and be ready to lace up those boots! I hope the coming weeks are full of big bases, long tines, and the match to every shed you find!
Cheers and Happy Shed Hunting!
Dwayne Jones, Community Manager SHED SEASON®