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shed antlers

Where to Find Shed Antlers | Shed Hunting

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.

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Focus on these three winter food sources as a primary spot to find shed antlers:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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When hunting for sheds in bedding areas, consider these three types of areas:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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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.

Shed antlers

How to Train Yourself to Find More Shed Antlers | Shed Hunting

Training Yourself to Find More Shed Antlers

You can search high and low, far and wide, mile after mile, but that doesn’t mean you will find one. Shed antlers are in demand this time of year and there is no doubt that they are the main focus of every hunter once February arrives. Whether you are in search of elk sheds, mule deer sheds, or whitetail sheds the fact is that shed hunting in general always comes down to one harsh reality the ability of your eyes to spot sheds!

The common saying of “miles equals piles” might hold true until you get down to comparing the piles themselves. The pile of a shed hunter with trained eyes versus a first time shed hunter will be substantially larger! Point being, training yourself to find shed antlers before actually searching will drastically improve your results!

The Best Set of Eyes Might be Your Taxidermist’s!

Breaking shed hunting down to the bare bones allows many hunters to arrive at the same conclusion each and every year. The hunter that has his eyes trained on the shape, color, and size of antlers the most, is likely the best shed hunter. You then might ask yourself “who looks at antlers on a daily basis”? No, some antlers laying around the house here and there, or stacked in the “man-cave” does not count! We are talking about someone that eats, sleeps, and breathes antlers!

Your taxidermist, the artist who takes in seemingly hundreds of antlers and is around thousands upon thousands of inches of bone each and every year, is often the best shed hunter you will come across in your life. Your Taxidermist has a set of eyes that have studied, picked apart, undressed, and most likely even dreamt about antlers year after year. This is the guy or girl you want in your shed hunting group!

How to Train Your Eyes!

The sad thing about the best shed hunter around (your taxidermist) is that he or she is swamped this time of year! Being around all those antlers comes at a cost, it is more than a full-time job! The reality of the best shed hunter you know is that they probably don’t have time for shed hunting, leaving most if not all of your shed season entirely in your hands (actually your eyes)!

The question to ask now is: “How do I quickly train my eyes to become as good of a shed hunter as my taxidermist?”

How To Find Shed Antlers | Training Yourself To Find More Deer Sheds (Pt 1 of 5)

(Video) In this first of a 5-part series, the crew will discuss how to train yourself to find more sheds, focusing around tricks to train your eyes to identify sheds tucked away in the landscape.

One of the best tactics to train yourself at spotting shed antlers is to simply replicate the scenario. Toss a shed in multiple habitats and ground cover types: simple yet effective! A corn field, thick grass, open pasture, thick timber, or within a food plot, really just about anywhere and everywhere you would expect to find sheds. Seeing the outline, color, shape, and size of the antler in the elements (different ground cover types and light conditions) will slowly build your eye’s ability and skill to spot the shed antlers.

Do this each and every time you shed hunt! Always take an antler or two with you on a shed hunting trip. Before moving into a new ground cover type, say a cornfield, simply toss a couple antlers and have everyone in the shed hunting group look the antlers over. After sweeping the cornfield and before moving into another ground cover type like timber, run the antlers through the group again. This time the group will be trained to what antlers look like in the timber, as they are now searching new ground cover type as well as a bit more shaded light conditions. By training your eyes just before searching and practicing this repeatedly shed hunt after shed hunt your eyes will eventually be at a level comparable to that of your taxidermist!

Training your eyes stacks the favor in your odds, however, a big player in shed hunting success comes down to the time you go, the weather, and what the specific conditions of the property are in terms of ground coverage.

When to Shed Hunt

Weather, ground cover height and characteristics, as well as the time of day all are factors to consider when planning a shed hunt. The absolute best conditions for shed hunting would be the following (this is often debated).

  • Weather:

The gloomier the better. Bright days make it hard to spot glistening antlers as shadows and bright light drastically alter the surrounding habitat and ground coverage. Gloomy days allow the whites of antlers to still pop, yet keep the white of the sun off the surrounding sticks, leaves, or corn stalks.

  • Time:

Anytime you can is the best time to go shed hunting, period. The timeframe, however, is a different story. Late February-early March usually has you arriving when most deer have shed, ensuring you are not busting deer off the property before they shed.

  • Ground Coverage:

Just after rain or if snow is covering the ground completely but has melted off slightly often creates the best possible conditions. When the brush, and ground coverage is laid over and mashed down, or slightly melted snow is on the ground it is very easy to spot shed antlers!

Raised Hunting’s Shed Season

This information is the beginning of several shed hunting tips that could significantly increase your piles of sheds this year. This is just part 1 of a 5 part shed hunting video series. Check out all the shed hunting videos and tips by Clicking Here. Also be sure to stay up to date with the Holder family by following Raised Hunting on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter!