Something I look forward to every winter/spring is the pursuit of shed antlers. There’s something about stumbling upon a shed that’s hard to explain. I don’t know if it’s the actual act of finding an antler, the mystery behind each one, or the desire to know what buck the cast antler belongs to. Whatever way you slice it, shed hunting is a lot of fun, and it’s something that deer hunters all over the country love to do. But, what sometimes gets lost in the fun, is learning. Even though shed hunting is a blast on its own, it’s equally important to scout, observe, and learn while you’re out in the field. Here are five things that you can learn from shed hunting.
1.) What Bucks Made It Through The Season?
The first thing you can learn from shed hunting is to identify what bucks most likely made it through hunting season. Obviously, you have to find a shed antler first, but assuming you do, you can go back and look through trail camera photos to see if you know the buck that the antler belongs to. Finding a shed leaves you with a piece of physical evidence from a deer, and it gives you something else besides a trail camera picture or sighting to help identify a certain buck.
RELATED: Using Trail Cameras To Find Sheds
2.) Where Are Bucks Spending Time and Why?
In my experience shed hunting, I’ve found that there are generally a couple reasons you’ll find sheds in certain areas. Number one, you could be in a buck’s core area. Here, it’s possible you’ll find his sheds in or around the same spot year after year. If you’re finding a buck’s antlers in his core area, odds are you’ll end up hunting him in that same area as well. Compare this situation to the one in the following paragraph, where a buck’s presence in an area may be defined by a timely food source.
As suggested, the second scenario identifies how a quality late-season food source may be great for shed hunting, but not “actually” hunting [during fall]. While you’re out searching for antlers, this is something you should be paying attention to. Ask yourself, are you in a spot you’d expect to see bucks in during the fall? Or are they only there because it’s the only food source around? Often, surrounding factors like plowed fields and open woodlots will hint at the answer.
3.) Early Spring Sign Tells All
When it comes to shed hunting, all bets are off as to what areas of your hunting property you can touch. This is the time of year to comb areas that you would otherwise not touch the rest of the year. Popular places to shed hunt can be sanctuaries, bedding areas, spots on a map you’ve always wanted to check out, but haven’t for fear of bumping deer, and any other areas you wouldn’t want to mess up in the summer or fall. By taking the time to walk areas such as these on your hunting property you can learn a lot of information without even finding a single shed antler. Things such as how deer use a bedding area, what makes a bedding area likable to mature bucks, or even figuring out how deer move through a certain area are just a few things you could learn. When it comes to whitetail hunting, it’s all about putting together all of the puzzle pieces. Whether you’re finding sheds or not, there is a lot to be learned and it could ultimately help you put together the pieces for a solid plan of attack this coming fall.
4.) Yearly Tendencies
If you hunt the same property year after year, you’ll start to understand differences in deer movement from year to year. One year you may find an area that’s all torn up and you find a few antlers. The next year, that same area may be vacant. If that ever happens, don’t bypass that fact. Figure out why, and what led to that happening. Did food sources change? Did you pressure an area too much before they shed? Understanding yearly tendencies can help you adjust as a hunter to be better prepared for the years going forward.
5.) Being a Hardcore Deer Hunter Can Sometimes Be a Bit Crazy
Shed hunting has taught me more than just tactical information. Through shed hunting, I’ve learned how much I love deer hunting, chasing mature bucks, and simply being in the outdoors. I get pretty fed up when non-hunters tell me the only reason I deer hunt is for a mount to be on my wall. It’s so much more than that, and we know it. Shed hunting is the perfect example. Think of what we put ourselves through to find a shed antler. For a single antler we’ll walk miles and miles through the thickest and nastiest timber we can find, wade across rivers, climb hills and mountains, and even get lost and not really care. All of that to maybe find a shed antler or two. Crazy, isn’t it? And then you see it. That moment when you catch a glimpse of a tine sticking up through the snow is simply unexplainable to someone who has never experienced it.
RELATED: Shed Hunting…Not Just About Antlers