With peak shed hunting season less than a month away throughout most of the Midwest, here are some quick tips to get you geared up and ahead of the game. Shed hunting is both a marathon and a sprint in today’s world. A marathon in the sense that those who search the longest get the most bone, and a sprint in the sense that those who get to the best areas first, also collect more sheds. The time between the end of hunting season and antler drop is when you should be doing your homework so that you have plenty of quality areas to search in the coming months.
Most bucks will lose their antlers between January and March. On the same day this shed was found, I observed 6 different bucks holding both antlers during the evening hunt.
Driving, Mapping, Asking
It’s exactly what it sounds like. When you’re driving around, whether it be on your way home from work or while you’re running errands, remember the areas that look good. You must have some sort of deer hunting knowledge to identify these areas, but it’s a relatively simple eye test. Living in the farmland region of southeastern Wisconsin, unplowed crop fields surrounded by thick wooded areas get me excited. I take several different ways home from work to scout potential shed hunting grounds.
Marking shed hunting “hot spots” and locations where you found a shed on a map is a great scouting tactic and can teach you a lot about the deer in your area. Shop for Pro-Text Hunting Gloves
It is almost exclusively private land in my area, so if I want land to walk, I’m going to have to work for it. First, find a good looking field or area. Snow really makes it easy to spot deer and sign. Secondly, don’t just make a mental note, but physically mark it on a map. Thirdly, knock on the door or call the landowner to ask for permission – OnX Mapping App is a godsend. Personally, I prefer knocking on a door so the landowner can get a feel for the type of person I am, rather than making a judgment over the phone.
It may seem like a lot of work, and most aren’t willing to put in the time beforehand, which means more antlers for you and me!
Hanging, Checking, Walking
Hanging, checking, and walking refer to using trail cameras to scout for when and where bucks have cast their antlers. Trail cams are a great tool for keeping an eye on your own hunting property to know exactly when you need to go out and look.
Again, exactly what it sounds like . . . taking quick walks in search of sheds. This is more of an early shed hunting season tactic. I started doing these this week, as I would say roughly 30% of deer have shed in my area. Hit up the good-looking areas early and often, especially if they are near high traffic areas like busy roads or nature parks.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to ask or look for sheds in non-hunting areas like nature preserves, business parks, and golf courses.
If you only pullover to glass fields during hunting season, you’re missing out. Glassing tells you if bucks are still holding antlers, if bucks are using that area/field, and can sometimes even lead to you spotting a shed lying out in the wide open. DO NOT TRESPASS! Even if the shed is just screaming for you to grab it, DON’T. Ask for permission.
A good set of binoculars is a “must have” during any shed hunt.
Once peak shed season arrives, you want to be ready to hit the ground running . . . or should I say walking… slowly. The above tips should assist you with prepping a game plan for the weeks to come. Mark out which locations you will hit first and when you will hit them. Gather and pack your gear. My must have shed hunting gear includes a comfortable pair of rubber boots, a quality pair of merino wool socks (often overlooked, but the key to avoiding blisters), binoculars, hunting chaps, a good bushwhacking coat that can handle the thorns and briars, a smartphone, and a backpack filled with a couple water bottles, energy bars or trail mix, toilet paper, and maps. Don’t forget a hand saw or hatchet for the occasional shed that’s frozen into the mud or any dead head you may find. Mind you, dead bucks are not legal to take in a lot of areas without contacting the local game warden first, so be sure to know the local regulations.
Now that you’re armed both figuratively and mentally, get your plan together and get out there! Remember, Miles=Piles!