At the end of winter, many people shun being outdoors, but hunting deer antler sheds can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity. As a bonus, searching for sheds can also be a means of scouting for the following deer season.
If you think that seeing a buck, especially a good quality buck, is challenging, then try scouring the woods and fields looking for shed antlers.
Finding even small antlers can be a trophy. Finding a matched set might even be more rewarding, but whatever the case, you’ll discover that locating antlers is harder than it appears.
Hunting sheds can be the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. You might think with all the deer roaming the woods, antlers would be all over the place. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s a good idea to find an antler hunting buddy to accompany you before you set out on your quest. And, before you go, consider all the factors that influence finding sheds.
Deer often inhabit very remote and inaccessible areas.
Also, many sheds are lost or washed into bodies of water. Others are covered by debris, but the majority of them are eaten. Antlers are high in calcium and are quickly consumed by many different animals, especially those in the rodent family. Squirrels may be the number one culprit. It’s not unusual to find an antler shed that has been gnawed.
But, there are also ways to increase the odds of finding quality sheds. The number one recommendation for antler hunters is to find them soon after they hit the ground.
You’ll need to be familiar with when the deer typically drop their antlers in your area to increase your odds of finding them. Deer can drop their antlers anywhere from January to April.
Concentrate your searches in places deer frequently use, such as feeding and bedding areas.
Walking trails between these areas often provides rewards. Thick areas consisting of vines and brush can snag antlers, so don’t always keep your eyes on the ground.
Another hot spot is near fences. Bucks that go through fences can snag their antlers. Bucks that go over fences can jolt off an antler that’s barely clinging.
Hunting deer antler sheds is a lot like hunting deer.
You need to locate feeding, bedding and travel areas. Once these areas are located, the legwork begins − lots and lots of legwork.
This time is an excellent opportunity to scout areas for the next hunting season. It’s a safe bet to assume that if you find an antler shed, a buck uses the area.
Whether you are looking to see if that big buck made it through hunting season, or just looking for the challenge of finding something so small in such a big place, hunting for shed antlers is an excellent way to spend time outdoors.
— Contributed by Jim Schrenkel, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries