As winter doldrums continue to roll on, there is one thing us whitetail hunters are consistently dreaming of. The prospective of shed hunting. That thought of upcoming days, walking through the timber and seeing a long tine poking through the snow or long grass. It’s a feverishly addicting feeling to stumble upon a shed antler, no matter the size. There are some shed hunters out there that find dozens, or even hundreds a year. While others are hard pressed to find any at all. If you fall into the latter category, it can be hard to figure out a strategy to improve. Let’s go over three simple things you can do to improve your shed hunting ability this year.
A big issue I often see, is realizing the difference between shed hunting and scouting. Too many times, we try and rope both in the same trip. But usually where you want to scout for deer season and where you search for sheds are really two separate places. Additionally, if you do have an area that’s good for both purposes, shed hunting and scouting in the same trip may still be challenging. In that scenario, you might find yourself battling with searching for rubs, stand trees, etc. and sheds.
When you truly dedicate time to shed hunting, you need to be in areas that deer have spent time in during the winter. Otherwise, there’s less of a chance that sheds are around. And then, once you’re walking, your eyes need to stay on the ground as much as possible. It may seem obvious but think about how much time you spend looking at various things. This inherently takes your eyes away from the ground, causing you to potentially miss some sheds. The moral of the story is that finding sheds isn’t a multi-tasking kind of activity. You must dedicate time to solely looking for antlers.
A common phrase used among shed hunters is “miles for piles.” But personally, I think that applies more to someone who is already a proficient shed hunter. A good shed hunter knows where to go and what to look for. They can take off intending to put in as many miles as possible in a day. They know the more miles they walk, most likely, the more sheds they’ll find. But what if you are a person that struggles overall with finding bone? I’m not sold on the fact that miles for piles fully pertains to some newer shed hunters.
If you are still learning, or have struggled finding sheds, my biggest piece of advice is to SLOW DOWN. Scan the timber floor with every step you take and take it slow. Heck, at times I’ll even walk a little bit, then stop completely and scan everything around me. I’ll repeat that again and again, walking a little bit at a time, before stopping and scanning. My methodology here is that you need to focus on finding ONE antler. Once you find one, use the same method until you find ONE more. As you begin to find sheds, you will become much better at picking up on them with your eyes. And then eventually, when you feel more confident, you can pick up the pace and put the old phrase “miles for piles” to the test.
Cover That Sweet Spot Over & Over
You might be asking where I’m headed here. But bear with me. One of my most important shed hunting tips, is that when you find a spot that has been hammered during the winter (prominent food source, bedding area, etc.) don’t be afraid to cover it multiple times. A lot can change depending on when you’re looking. Sometimes being unsuccessful in a certain area doesn’t mean the sheds aren’t in there.
I have a perfect example of this from a few years back. I was shed hunting a great piece of public land in February. There was still quite a bit of snow and the deer trails running through there were crazy. I felt as though I should have been picking up a shed antler with every step I took. Yet, I only found one or two that day. But knowing there were probably sheds under the snow, and maybe even some bucks still holding, I returned a few weeks later. And then throughout March. I ended up pulling fifteen antlers out of this small area. I wouldn’t have found most of those had I not returned after that first unproductive shed hunting outing.
Shed hunting can be addicting, no doubt about it. But it can be equally frustrating if you are continually going out and returning home without any bone. Just like anything else, you have to practice. Over time, you’ll surely improve. Hopefully you can put some of these tips in place and they have a positive effect on your shed hunting ability this year.