The National Deer Association interviewed several of our members who are avid shed antler hunters and collectors. The information, part of an article in NDA’s Quality Whitetails magazine, included these useful tips for locating sheds:
1. Use trail-cameras to monitor antler shedding. Begin hunting sheds as soon as most or all bucks in the photos have dropped their antlers (timing will vary geographically). Rodents will immediately begin gnawing shed antlers, so don’t postpone your search until warmer weather.
2. Concentrate your search in these areas: 1) winter food sources, especially cool-season food plots (searchers rate these as the top location for producing sheds); 2) bedding areas or winter cover; 3) along trails and in bottlenecks linking the first two areas; and 4) near water sources if water sources are limited on your hunting land. (Note: In northern areas with more extreme winter weather, it’s not a good idea to disturb deer in “yarding” areas or heavy thermal cover until the worst winter weather is over. Forcing deer out of cover increases winter stress levels and could impact survival rates, so postpone shed hunting in these areas until winter is over.)
3. Focus especially on areas along travel routes where deer must jump, like fence, ditch or creek crossings, as antlers are often jarred loose at these locations. Places where brush is especially dense along trails are also productive, and sheds may even be found hanging above ground level.
4. Most shed hunters believe it is okay to enter bedding areas and sanctuaries to hunt for sheds in the off-season, but they recommend limiting your intrusion to one thorough search each year.
5. Ovals in snow or in bedding cover where deer bed down are productive because of the increased chance of finding a matched set or spotting very small shed antlers.
6. Walk slowly and take the time to scan downrange but also very close to your feet. While some sheds will be obvious, most are spotted within one or two strides of your path. If you are distracted by rubs or other deer sign, slow down and remember to keep your eyes on the ground.