I found my first shed whitetail deer antler purely by accident.
I nearly tripped over it while climbing a fence on the way to the farm garden. It was so neat, I now spend time every year searching out deer sheds. My daughter is particularily interested in these peices and it is a nice time spent outdoors together.
Where can you find these shed antlers?
* Look for bedding areas, food sources and also the routes in between these areas. If you use deer food plots be sure to check in the areas surrounding or on the way into your plots.
Now that you know where the deer are, there are some specific locations to key in on. While checking the food sources, and fringe areas near these sources, you should easily be able to find the entrance trails. Walk these trails back into the woods about fifty yards. Bucks will hang out in these “staging” areas before coming out into the field.
* Look where the deer are concentrated during the process of shedding antlers.
Other key locations where deer shed antlers can be found are areas where deer may be forced to jump or jar their bodies: like fence crossings, creek bottoms and gullies.
That oak flat which proved to be a hot spot when the mast was falling, may not have deer traffic in between January and March when most deer will lose their antlers. Don’t forget to recheck locations more than once, as an area may have had deer traffic since you were last there.
*Use good optics if you have them.
You can find a good number of shed antlers by simply glassing a food source, such as a hay or soybean stubble field for example, and looking for something out of place. You can cover a lot of ground by simply standing in one place and scanning an area with your binoculars.
* Improve your odds of actually seeing these shed antlers:
Finding a shed antler is much like finding that first spring morel: the first one is the most difficult to see. I know darn well I’ve looked right at a shed and my minds-eye just didn’t identify what I was actually looking at.
Here is a TIP:
Bring a shed antler with you and toss it out each time the terrain, field type or cover type changes. Sounds a little geeky I know, but you do need to train your eyes and your mind to work together in order to identify what you are actually looking at. Without that recognition you may look right at a shed you actually don’t even see.
Don’t disturb the herd though. If you go traipsing around their key bedding areas during January and early February, these disturbances could cause the deer to move and could put them under undue stress. Early in the deer shed hunting season, through January and early February, focus your attention on those food source areas and make your best effort to stay out of the bedding areas. You may follow a few access trails back into the bedding areas early solely to identify key spots to check later in the year.
If you are in an area with a lot of snow like we are, you may have to make the trek out later in the spring. Be aware though that weather and rodents have a way of making a good antler peice really poor: so you have to beat the rush, so to speak. Get out there early when the snow starts melting.
Have fun hunting for your deer antler sheds:)