The Best Places to Find Shed Antlers
Prime shed hunting season is upon us and if you have not been out looking yet, no time is better than now. Finding shed antlers is not easy especially if you have not trained yourself to find sheds. It is downright impossible to pick up any sheds with even the most trained eye if you are not searching in areas where bucks may have dropped them.
Find Deer First, Then Look for Sheds
Deer, and bucks particularly, can move into their winter patterns sometimes right after the conclusion of deer season. Those bucks that have survived will be finding ground that offers secure bedding areas and amble food sources to get them through the tough months ahead. Pressured bucks will often remain in secluded areas such as those off limits to hunting or designated sanctuary areas of a hunting property. Learning how to shed hunt in areas like these will increase your chances simply because they are likely to hold bucks that have survived long enough to shed their antlers.
Another way to up your chances of finding deer sheds is to eliminate ground. It is senseless to walk ground that has little to no winter deer activity. Again, first and foremost it takes a buck to find sheds and if no bucks are in a particular area you should spend time shed hunting somewhere else. One way to eliminate ground is to do some high-level scouting. Whether it be driving around looking for tracks in the snow around farm fields or using maps to identify areas that may have been hunted lightly or not at all, you can start to focus on where your time will be well spent shed hunting and where it will not.
Primary Areas to Find Shed Antlers
Now that you have found places deer are actively using this time of year, the next step is to hit the ground hunting for deer sheds. There are two primary areas to find shed antlers. Neither one will be surprising since both relate to the primary winter patterns of deer.
How To Find Shed Antlers | Best Places To Find More Deer Sheds (Pt 4 of 5)
(Video) In this fourth of 5 episodes, the team discusses the best places to find deer sheds. Searching bedding and feeding areas can yield the best results, because of the amount of time deer spend in those areas each day.
The first primary area for shed hunting is food sources. Deer are looking to not only recover lost energy during the rut, but they are also trying to maintain reserves throughout winter until spring brings renewed options to feed on. Unlike early fall where food is readily available, the shed hunting season falls within a harsh time for finding food for deer. Lush agriculture fields, food plots and vast acorn flats have all but diminished by now. What this means for those hunting for deer sheds is that deer are concentrated on just a few available food sources.
Focus on these three winter food sources as a primary spot to find shed antlers:
- Leftover farm fields. Agricultural fields such as cut corn and soybeans offer leftover high-carb foods needed to meet the whitetail’s energy needs. Bucks will spend most of their time feeding in winter on these fields. Also, sometimes farmers will leave parts or whole corn fields still standing at this time of year, which are deer magnets in winter.
- Oak lined ridge-tops. Two-fold here. If there was a good acorn crop, bucks can still find some scattered acorns for calories along these ridges, Also, winter weather like ice, snow and wind can blow tops out of trees providing adequate and easily accessible browse to keep bucks fed through winter.
- Edges are always good. Edges offer young shoots and stems perfect for browsing. Deer will work the edges of woodlots along fallow fields browsing the first several feet of low, brushy growth left to flourish from the extra sunlight.
The second primary place for shed hunting is bedding areas. Bucks bed most of the day, usually near feeding areas like the ones discussed above. If you have not already pinpointed potential bedding areas on a property you are searching for deer sheds then start by following trails back from food sources. Additionally, use aerial maps to delineate possible bedding areas to check out by finding thick cover on southern exposures.
When hunting for sheds in bedding areas, consider these three types of areas:
- Thermal pockets. Since the pressure is gone, bucks are mostly looking to survive and survive comfortably. When winter weather is in full force, bucks will bed in natural thermal pockets such as hollows and dense conifers to avoid the heaviest of snows and high winds. These areas are typically a few degrees warmer and have less snow, making for much more habitable conditions for bucks.
- Southern exposures. Not every winter day is packed with sub-zero temperatures and snow. On these days, bucks will often bed in open, southern exposures. Southern exposures are not only warmer but thaw out quicker than other areas making travel easier (for deer and shed hunters alike) to move to and from food sources.
- Thicket beds. If bucks are not bedding on southern exposures and they are not seeking thermal pockets then they are bedding in thickets. Bucks are likely to be bedding in thick, dense vegetation in areas that have extended late season hunting or places with high predator populations.
Bedding areas are only second to food sources for finding shed antlers because it is harder to see sheds in bedding areas. Sheds stick out in a cut bean field but are much more difficult to spot in tangled thickets that you can barely walk through.
Secondary Shed Hunting Areas
After exhausting food sources and bedding areas looking for deer sheds, there are two secondary areas that may land you a shed or two.
First, remember that a buck’s focus is mostly feeding and bedding, which is why those were the two primary areas to find shed antlers. However, a buck will have to travel back and forth and these trails can be where his antlers drop off. Worn trails with fresh tracks and scat leading from a food source are a good place to check out during shed hunting season. In extreme winter conditions, deer will condense into the same areas and these trails may hold several sheds from multiple bucks trying to access the only remaining food left on a property.
Another spot to look for sheds are crossings. These are areas like stream crossings and fence rows. The energy exerted and sometimes the force required to cross can jar a ready to fall off antler free from a buck’s head. When searching for sheds here, be sure to not just look right at the crossing but also a few feet on either side as the shed may have been tossed to the side from the act of crossing.
In conclusion, where to find deer sheds comes down to finding deer. The best places to shed hunt are where you will find bucks in February and March. Start with available food sources and bedding areas then move on to deer trails and crossings to maximize your chances of finding shed antlers this shed hunting season.