For those not familiar with Shed Hunting, in simple terms it is hunting for dropped antlers from bucks that have made it through the past hunting season. There are many hunters and non hunters that enjoy the shed hunting season. Some folks will use sheds to decorate their homes or for use in making some unique items like knifes or pens and for the hunter it is a way to get a jump on the upcoming hunting season by learning about what bucks might have made it through the year and might just be around come opening day. Not only is a great way to spend some time in the outdoors, but who wouldn't get excited about finding a big old bucks head gear.
Shed hunting can be extremely challenging and frustrating, like finding a needle in a haystack frustrating. Around my neck of the woods, our forest floors are covered in downed trees and limbs from the two storms we had this past fall making it even harder to pick out those little treasures. Shed hunting is more then just walking along aimlessly, while you enjoy the bright sun and warming days. It takes a plan of attack as well as retraining your body and eyes to ensure you are moving slow enough and looking not only in the right place but for the right things. Make a plan of attack and move slowly. Train yourself to look at the forest floor and not like you are watching birds or still hunting for that buck. Scan the ground at your feet and out in front of you.
I'm no shed hunting expert and there are numerous articles and websites devoted to shed hunting written by folks with much more experience then me, but here are a few things to think about before running out and hunting for your first shed.
- Knowing when the bucks have started to shed in your area is important. It doesn't make much sense to go traipsing through the woods disturbing the deer looking for something that isn't there yet. For the most part late February is a good time to start around our area.
- Understand your targets winter habits. For many animals their feeding habits have changed and may change as snow piles up or melts away. The need to concserve body eneregy force them to change their patterns, move less and find warm safe places to rest. Southern facing hill sides are the perfect place during the winter months so make sure to check these out. Also, as far as food goes, if the mast crop was light and there is no snow, look to fields for grasses to feed on.
- Have a plan and move slow. The slower the better. Take time to stop and look around you. Train your eyes to look at the ground. Look at the ground at your feet and in a small radius out in front of you. Stop often and look for that little piece of bone glistening in the sun or a color that just seems different or out of place. Use binoculars if need be to pick out that object that caught your eye.
- Deer run and jump and many times this might cause enough jarring where an antler falls off so pay special attention to obstacles that deer may have had to jump over like fences leaving a field or a creek, or things they had to duck under like low hanging brush and trees.
- Make sure to not only check in standing pines, but even under that lone pine. I have seen deer sign around and under that lone pine, especially one on a southern facing slope. Don't know what attracts them, but it is something to keep your eye on.
I spent Sunday afternoon looking for sheds on a piece of State Land near my house. I wasn't successful in finding any sheds, but I did find a skeleton of a dead deer and was able to put my searching and investigative skills together as I tried to find the many pieces of bone that make up a deer. I was able to find everything but the upper jaw and a front leg. Some pieces were as far as 125 yards away from the main skeleton, but I found them. What really had me thinking was that this skeleton lay just 20 feet from where I field dressed my 6 point buck from this past gun season. I couldn't help but wonder if my gut pile was cause for attracting the predators that might have taken this animal or at least made sure to put the animal to use. Either way it was an interesting find.
Weather you are a big buck hunter or not, shed hunting offers plenty of fun for everyone and it is a great way to spend some family time in the great outdoors. So get out and HUNT!
Additional Links related to Shed Hunting.
21 Shed Hunting Tips: http://www.trophyhuntingobsession.com/21-shed-hunting-tips/
Shed hunting from Deer & Deer Hunting: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/biology/shedhunting_asportallitsown
Let Shed Hunting Begin from bowhunting.com: http://www.bowhunting.com/blog/post/Let-Shed-Hunting-Season-Begin!.aspx