In Part I of Shed Hunting Tips for Bone-Heads, Peter Fiduccia provided us all with some background on his experience with shed hunting. Now he’ll teach us the tricks of trade, that will leave you finding shed after shed.
Trail cameras will help you determine when bucks start to drop their antlers, and to help find out where a buck dropped an antler (rarely does a buck drop both antlers in the same place). Trail cameras also help to identify the deer trails the bucks are using which helps to narrow your search.
Dropped antlers don’t always fall to the ground. Sometimes a buck will place a loose antler into a crotch of a sapling tree and pull it off. Bucks will often use thick tangles of briar and mountain laurel patches pull off loose antlers. I have found sheds near cedar fence posts and barb wire fences, two of my favorite hot-spots to find sheds. As the buck squeezes between the strands of wire an antler can get hung up and pulled free.
Another good location to search for sheds is in evergreen thickets. A Christmas tree farm is a sizzling hot-spot. In winter deer seek thick cover and head to places like Christmas tree farms. In the closely grouped trees antlers often branches often knock off loose antlers.
In northern areas deer yards are also good locations to find sheds. Deer yards are one of the few places a shed hunter may end up locating a matched pair of antlers. Entering a deer yard while the deer are using it can cause stress to deer for this reason I don’t recommend searching for dropped antlers in deer yards before the snow has melted and the deer have left.
I have had success locating whitetail, moose, elk and mule deer shed in places that deer have to jump over or across fences or natural obstructions. As they land on the ground the impact often causes an antler to be jarred loose. This also happens when a buck jumps across a stream. Find where deer are jumping a fence by locating a deer trail, tracks, or where deer hair caught in the wire. Walk about 100 yards parallel along a fence on both directions searching from the fence out to about 50 yards. At creek crossing locate the deer tracks leading to the creek and then search both sides of the shoreline.
Search late harvested corn fields for sheds too. Several years ago I was turning under a field of cut corn in early April to prepare the plot for a new crop. Halfway through tilling the field I was turning the tractor to start a new row when I caught a flash of white from the corner of my eye. I stopped the tractor and walked over to the spot and I was delighted to find the main beam of an antler sticking up in the soil. When I picked the antler up it was in prime condition.
Become the Shed!
To find sheds consistently shed hunters learn to think like a buck. Where you would you be when the time comes to drop your antlers? What natural vegetation or man-made objects would you use to help knock off loose, annoying antlers? The successful shed hunter learns not only to look carefully but also where to look for his bone-gold! Train your eyes to scan rather than stare. Don’t only look at the ground but also learn to look at trees, laurel, under-brush and other thick cover at approximate natural height of a buck’s antlers. Look carefully for anything white that looks out of place. Don’t always expect to find the entire antler lying above the ground. Another point to consider is that a shed antler can be entirely or partially covered by leaves and other natural forest debris and is easily passed over unless the hunter moves slowly and inspects any suspect object carefully. Once you established a strategy for locating shed antlers you will develop into a champion antler shed hunter.
Tools of Shed Hunter
When looking for dropped antlers bring along a backpack with shed hunting tools and essentials. You can be afield for hours so pack drinking water to stay hydrated along with a sandwich and healthy energy snacks. Take a small digital camera with and when you find a shed antler take a close-up photo of it where it lays before picking it up. Then take a take slightly wider image of the location and finally a wide shot of the area with the antlers lying on the ground.
Bring a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. Use them to clean any mud, dirt, and other debris off the sheds you find. Rub them gently to remove the dirt. Don’t scrub it too hard or you’ll remove the natural color. Use a black Sharpie to mark the base with the date the shed was found. If you don’t want to mark the antler make a written note in a log. As your collection of shed antlers gets larger the photos and the written information you recorded will help you recall all the details of where each shed was discovered. Include the exact location, the date, time, and the weather conditions. All the recorded written and photographic information will make the enjoyment and memories of your shed antler hunting adventures last a lifetime! So what are you waiting for Bone-Head? Get out there and go shed hunting!