I think I’ve finally figured out what it is we as shed hunters love so much about finding an antler. It provides a different kind of excitement then we are accustomed to. The excitement stems from not only finding the antler, but also from the hope that a single shed antler can bring. It creates a relationship of sorts between the hunter and that particular buck. In the heavily hunted timber and crop fields of southern Michigan, sometimes a single antler can keep you in a stand all season long, hoping for just one encounter with that specific buck.
So, how do you find more sheds? Find where the bucks in your area are wintering and find their bedroom.
Scouting throughout the winter months is crucial to finding more shed antlers and it does not necessarily require a ton of extra effort. It is hard for most deer hunters to understand that when it comes to shed hunting, it doesn’t matter where the deer are during deer season. It only matters where they are in January and February, the time period when most bucks will lose their headset. Locating this area is going to require some extra work, but nothing that a little post season scouting can’t take care of.
First off, find out where the deer are feeding in the area you plan on shed hunting, keying in on their main food source. In southern Michigan you can usually locate this part of the equation from the truck, just by paying attention to where you see deer in the fields. In other areas of the state, finding the main food source may be a little more difficult. Concentrate on the areas with the most natural browse (leftover acorns, cedars, etc.) if you are not in farm country.
Once you have found the food, it is time to find the bedroom. For the most part, deer do not travel far this time of year, so the bedding area will be somewhat close to the food. Watch where deer enter the field, where they leave, etc. At this time, I will often enlist the help of Google Earth. An aerial view can frequently help you locate the bedding area. It can also help you better understand why deer are using a certain area and the travel routes they may be using to get there.
Trail cameras, if you have them, can also help in the scouting process. This applies both to finding the main food source and to finding the bedding area. I use trail cameras virtually all year long and I always make sure I have several on the property I plan to shed hunt. Most of the time, I won’t even check these cameras until spring –it only takes spooking a buck one time to have him run off and end up dropping his antlers elsewhere.
As soon as the snow begins to melt, I will take my cameras down, checking them immediately for any bucks that may have made it through. These pictures help me determine how much time to spend in a given area. It is important to pay attention to the frequency of buck pictures as well as the date. One random buck picture in early January doesn’t mean much, but multiple pictures of the same buck in late February can mean everything.
Once you’ve located the primary bedding area, concentrate a bulk of your efforts there. Every area is different, but in southern Michigan bucks spend a large majority of their time in or around the bedding area. Not only do deer spend a large amount of their time in the bedding area, this is the only time they are somewhat concentrated in a small area. These areas can range in size but frequently they are not very big, sometimes only a few acres.
To do a thorough hunt, I like to grid search each area, allowing no more than 10-15 feet between my last pass or a second shed hunter. It is important to remember most of the shed antlers will be from young bucks and will probably be quite small.
I’m relatively young, with good eyesight and I routinely find antlers on my second time through an area. It’s amazing what a difference a few feet here or there or even slightly different lighting conditions can have on your ability to spot an antler. If I’m confident that there are sheds in an area, I may walk it two or three times to make sure I don’t leave one behind.
I occasionally will find a shed in what I believe is an actual deer bed, but more often I find them in random spots throughout the bedding area, likely because deer spend large amounts of time on their feet within the bedding area. You will also notice that most productive bedding areas, from a shed-hunting standpoint, are those with heavy amounts of browse; this is no coincidence. Spend the extra time in the areas with the most browse and you will often be rewarded.
Throughout the winter months, you may notice deer in small secondary bedding areas between the main food source and the main bedding area. These areas are small, usually less than an acre, but are certainly worth checking for sheds.
On several occasions, I have found antlers in small thickets or treetops between these two areas. If it looks like an area a buck would bed for the day, then there is a chance for an antler.
I will concede that locating a primary bedding area is easier said than done outside of southern Michigan. But, the principles are the same. If you really want to find more antlers, you have to put the time in scouting. Whether it is with trail cameras, on foot, or from a vehicle, scouting is essential to your shed hunting success. Put the time in scouting, find the bedding area, and you will find more sheds!
The opinions stated herein are not necessarily those of GreenStone Farm Credit Services.
Link to full article here: https://issuu.com/greenstonefcs/docs/partners_winter_19_final/32