Shed Hunting iHuntFit

Shed Life: Why We Shed Hunt

By Jake Myers, iHuntFit Field Team

Its mid-March in Western New York.  A blanket of snow has been covering the ground since November.  It’s been 5 months since we have even seen dirt or the sun.   You’re running dangerously low on Vitamin D and starting to go stir crazy. Then it happens, a warm front moves in and temperatures spike to a whopping 42 degrees and a light rain.  Just enough to have a melt off.  That means it’s time to hit the woods.  I’ve been cooped up all winter looking forward to this melt off, time to search for some sheds.

There are many benefits to shed hunting.  Scouting, Exercise, Family Time, Competition, and reducing Cabin Fever are just a few reasons to get out and search for antlers.

First and foremost, I love deer antlers.  Each find is unique in its own way.  The mass, points, features, are all unique to that specific deer.  Each antler found will have its own story on how, where, or who you were with when it was found.  Shed antlers can be used for decorations to display in the house or garage, used for crafts, dog chew toys, rattling antlers, or simply a collection.

I shed hunt every spring to take an inventory of bucks that survived (or didn’t survive if you find dead heads) the previous hunting season and also survived the winter.  Where you find the sheds will be a good indication as to where these bucks spend their winters.  The bedding and feeding area will change throughout the year based on the season, but their general home territory may not change too dramatically.  

Shed Hunting

Also, there is a lot to learn about your herd from sheds.  It’s a great way to see up close the genetics in your area.  For example, the picture below is of two different 1 ½ year old bucks I found this past Spring.  Probably the first growth for both.  Putting them side by side, you can clearly see that the one on the left has better genetics than the one on the right.  In the coming up Fall, he is going to be a nice buck, but still young.  With this kind of herd knowledge and with a little bit of restraint, you would know that if you pass him up as a 2 ½ year old even if he looks bigger than that, he will be an absolute stud as a 3 ½ – 4 ½ year old.

There is no true science behind where you will and will not find sheds.  A deer could spend 99% of their time in one area and just so happen to shed its antlers that 1% of the time when it moves.  That’s just how it works sometimes.  Other times, you will find a match set sitting right in a deer bed.  I have found them sitting in the middle of open fields and buried in thick brush and prickers.  There are places to look to greatly increase your odds.  These areas include bedding areas (a lot of time spent there), food sources (especially sources that have low hanging branches to catch their antlers), along deer trails, near ditches, fence lines, trails through brush.  Basically anywhere that a deer spends time or travels which has potential to catch and loosen an antler or jolt the antler loose from a jump and hard landing.  Keep an eye out for these areas and you will come across sheds

With leaves not on the trees yet, you can see much farther in the woods in late winter, early spring.  You can see trails, beds, rubs, and scrapes easier which makes it such a good time of year to scout and mark these waypoints down for next Fall.  Also, it is a closer representation of what late October, early November woods is going to look like.  Don’t just walk with your head down looking for sheds, keep an eye out for deer sign that maybe you have not noticed before and couldn’t see during preseason scouting.  Remember that area for next season.  While shed hunting is when I choose most of my stand locations for the next year.

The fitness and cardio benefit from shed hunting is excellent, especially when the winter months have kept you in the house a lot.  Throw a pack on, strap on the binoculars, get good hiking boots and hit the woods.  The more area covered, the more sheds you hopefully find.  Put in the miles, burn the calories, find the sheds.  Adding weight to the pack can increase the workout as well.  Jumpstart your training to build up your endurance and keep it high until next season.  I like to use digital maps to track the areas I hit, how far I went that day, and at what pace.  Tracking features allow me to see an overhead picture of where I search allowing me to go back and hit spots I missed the first time.  By saving the tracks, I can keep hitting new areas without continually walking the same path.  Also, I tend to get excited while out shed hunting and keep focused on how the area looks and not where I am going.  The digital maps keep me on the correct property and I have use it multiple times to find my way home.

My family and I use shed hunting as a reason to get outside and spend time together.  I have been taking my son since he was 8 months old.  He now asks me every day if we can go in the woods and look for sheds.  Of course I can’t tell him no!  Shed hunting is low pressure where the kids can talk, laugh, run, and just enjoy themselves playing in the woods and not have to remain completely quite.  Completely unlike if you take them out in the woods hunting during deer season.  The look on his face when we find a shed is priceless.

Make it a competition. Plan a Shed Rally weekend.  Gather some buddies and pick chunks of each of your properties to hit one after another.  At the end of the day, see who found the most, the biggest, and the most unique shed.  It adds a little more excitement and sense of urgency to really keep your eyes open.  Who doesn’t love competition?!  As long as you trust your buddies to not steal your spot, it also gives a second set of eyes on your property for someone else to see some deer sign you may have missed.  Even if a buddy finds a shed in your spot, you still were able to gather the information from it.  You now know the buck’s area and have an inventory of that buck surviving.  It’s difficult to hit every possible area on your property by yourself.  I even know people that do not hunt but have property and love shed hunting.  Something about the thrill of the search which we as hunters know all about.

So get out there.  Put in some miles, burn some calories, build up your endurance, learn more about your herd, spend some family time together, and earn bragging rights with your buddies.  Nothing beats the end of deer season blues like getting back in the woods in search of sheds.  Shake that cabin fever, shed some winter weight, get your body back in motion, and fill your house with Deer Sheds!