The new year means an old season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on those antlers you’ve been chasing since the end of summer. Now is the perfect time to start looking for sheds. The best part? There’s no limit to how many you can pick up!
Although rare, some antlers drop as early as December. Still, there are possibilities behind the early drops, like disease or injury, that cause osteoclasts cells to cast antlers earlier than normal. Other factors that may cause antlers to shed earlier than normal are harsh living conditions, starvation, or being run down from the rut. But some deer will hold on to their antlers as late as March, or early April. So moral of the story, when a buck sheds his antlers is relatively unpredictable.
Be Prepared to Put in Some Miles
I’ve been fortunate to grow up with some very active and successful shed antler hunters. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years. There are two things in particular that I’ve found lead to successful shed hunts. A lot of scouting and a lot of walking.
If you don’t scout areas to zone in on, you’ll walk aimlessly with little more than a prayer that you may come across a shed. Scouting for shed hunting areas is no different than scouting for the actual season. More successful shed hunters spend massive amounts of time observing yarded deer. When a buck they’ve been watching casts his antlers, you can bet there will be a race to find them. This is especially true if the deer are yarding in plain view of roadways or frequenting public land.
Understand Your Public Land Options
The term, “public land,” is often misunderstood in the world of shed hunting. As a deer hunter, hearing the term public land is assumed as a public hunting area. However, to the hiker who keeps an eye out for antlers, public land could mean city or county owned lands closed to hunters. Other public lands open to recreational shed hunters include park systems, undeveloped neighborhood association lands, hunting preserves, and more.
If you don’t put in the miles, your odds of finding shed antlers will be slim to none. Consistently successful shed hunters will tell you finding bone isn’t as easy as walking into predictable areas. Sure, some areas will just give you a lucky break, but in reality, consistent success is earned, not lucked into.
Now is the perfect time to start scouting for areas hosting yarded up deer. However, if you’re looking at public land, expect competition. If you think you’re the only one hunting a public area, you’ll be sadly disappointed when you find someone else’s boot tracks. Expect to see others out there and stay on top of your intel by observing from a safe distance. You want to stay far enough away to avoid pressuring the deer out of the area they’re yarding in, but close enough to keep tabs on them.
Pursue Both Sides
When you find an antler, spend time looking for the other side. Some deer may carry one side for weeks. But a deer will usually cast both sides within a few hundred yards of one another. I always walk in circles looking for a match set when I find a shed antler. It may be buried (like the one pictured above). But trust me. The reward is well worth the extra effort.
Shed hunting keeps us in the woods and more in tune with deer behavior. I’ve learned a lot about deer by shed hunting and even used that knowledge for late season hunting tactics.
Get outside. The sportsman lifestyle lasts 365-days of the year and is full of rewards.
Gear up for shed hunting season! Check out our new Scout Series today!