Shed hunting can either be incredibly fun, or extremely frustrating. I remember when I first started, I could not find a shed to save my life. Luckily after plenty of trial and error and lots of advice from pro shed hunters, I was able to finally start picking some up.
If you find yourself struggling to find sheds, or simply just want to find even more than you already do, here are some tips and advice from the pros that can help you!
What And Why Do Deers Shed Their Antlers?
High levels of testosterone are necessary to keep a buck’s antlers firmly attached to his skull. When testosterone levels drop, their antlers loosen and fall off.
According to Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist, and director of conservation for the Quality Deer Management Association, testosterone levels are affected by photoperiod, nutrition, injuries, and dominance. Poor nutrition or injuries lead to early shedding.
Well-known antler expert, Dr. George Bubenik, with the University of Guelph in Ontario, noted that testosterone levels are also affected by the presence of does that are in estrus.
Again, according to Bubenik, another factor is continued fighting between bucks, which could be related to additional does in estrus. If bucks continue to spar, testosterone levels stay up and their antlers will stay on longer.
Have a Game Plan
When it comes to shed hunting, maps and game plans are your best friend. The biggest mistake many shed hunters make is randomly walking around in the woods without any kind of clear path or strategy. Pro shed hunters will look over maps, and identify the most likely areas that will produce sheds in order to concentrate their efforts.
The two most common areas to find are bedding areas and feeding areas, as well as the travel corridors in between. Deer tend to shed their antlers in the areas they spend the most amount of time, so many shed hunters will start there!
Train Your Eyes
For many, their eyes are already naturally accustomed to finding shed antlers. For others, we have to train our eyes first to find them. A simple way of doing this is following shed hunting people and groups on social media, and looking over as many pictures of them as you can.
Seeing more sheds will train your eyes to look for the colors, shapes, and outlines of sheds when you are out looking for them. Of course, the best practice comes from actually shed hunting and finding them.
Slow it Down
Some people advocate riding in trucks or ATVs in order to cover more ground as quickly as possible, but this is leading them to overlook more sheds than they will find. The faster you move, the more that you will miss with your eyes. If you think you are walking too slow and still aren’t finding any antlers, you are probably not walking slow enough!
This is the number one tip that most pro shed hunters will give people. The slower you go, the more time you have to catch a glimpse of a shed antler nearby. You should focus on one small area and walk a thought out grid pattern to cover it as thoroughly as possible.
This part of the process takes some amazing patience, especially when walking in more open areas, but it is the one thing that will help you find more sheds when nothing else seems to help. Stop periodically to survey the ground around you and behind you, because you never know what you might have missed!
If there is still a little snow on the ground, follow well-used deer trails. Check feeding and bedding areas. Anywhere that a buck spends a good percentage of his time increases the odds that a shed will be there. Above all else, look down because that is where the antlers will be.
Shed hunting can be extremely frustrating sometimes when you can’t seem to find any antlers, but if you take and implement a few of these top tips from pro shed hunters, you will be finding more shed antlers in no time!
Remember to check out the Bradley Smoker blog for new fishing and hunting guides all year round!