As winter continues on and most deer seasons are closed, shed hunters are starting to get excited for another fun-filled winter/spring of great shed hunting. Two questions I often get asked are why do some people seem to find all the sheds and how can one be more effective? This comes down to a few important aspects in my book.
First, shed hunt where the animals are. This seems obvious, however, the location needs to be where animals are during their late-season patterns. Just because a great supply of deer live in an area during the rut doesn’t mean they will be wintering in the same location; so, some scouting may be helpful. Food becomes a necessity during winter. Most animals are bedding very close to their food sources, so always check these spots first. One of the things I like about big open fields or food plots is the ease of spotting sheds, especially if getting elevated is an option. I like to take a 4-wheeler or ATV in near the field and get up on top. Use binos to glass the area or if you’d rather do it on foot grid off the field and make passes. Another option would be if there is a shooting tower overlooking the field. This would be a great lookout point to glass. Another great spot to focus your attention is any location where bucks may be jumping a fence. If there is not a set location, simply wire a strand down in the fence to get all your deer to use one spot. The results will speak for themselves when the number of sheds lying near the fence gap start to increase. Bucks hop the fence and when they hit the ground with their loose antlers they often fall off. If feeders are legal this is another hot spot for sheds.
Next bit of advice is if a big shed is found, don’t give up easy on searching for the other side. Usually a big buck will go out of his way to get his other side to fall off if he’s carrying a big set of antlers. Start making circles around the area until you find the other side.
Shed hunting and trail cameras also go hand-in-hand in my opinion. I like to use trail cameras to not only see when bucks start dropping so I can get in and start searching immediately, but I like to use it as an inventory of what deer survived the season and what their overall health looks like. This is especially true if you’re shed hunting an area where multiple people may be searching. The key to finding sheds is to be there first.
Shed dogs are incredibly effective, but this takes training. Your dog must also have a good sense of smell. Unfortunately, my sweet little pup Pork Chop would love to find sheds but she needs her mom along for that. She can barely find all the Cheerios I hide in the blind during hunts to keep her busy. So, finding the smell of sheds would be a bit over her pay grade I’m afraid. Luckily, she still loves to come along and enjoy the outdoors with me.
Lastly, keep some flagging tape in your pocket so great stand location options can be marked for the season ahead. Shed hunting is a great time to follow deer trails, see where the most movement may be occurring and where the best intersections are. I’m not a proponent of carrying a heavy treestand, but keeping some flagging tape can be very helpful so you know the stand location regardless of when you return.
Overall, shed hunting is a blast for not only hunters but a fun way to get your dog a little exercise or bring the entire family for a fun and non-expensive activity. These hidden treasures are out there waiting to be picked up and can be fun for everyone. If your kids happen to find several sheds, look online for some fun craft projects they can do with their sheds or even help them make a set of rattling antlers that will remain special to them forever. Just make sure to cut off the brow tines so they don’t smash their thumbs!