Let's face it, as deer hunters we are a competitive bunch and we all have those buddies that are consistently successful in finding shed antlers. Today I am going to share the best shed hunting tips so that you can learn how to find deer antlers like a pro!
Shed hunting is a great opportunity to get into the woods in the late winter and early spring, which happens to also be a great time for scouting as the sign from last year is still prevalent.
Shed hunting can also be a family affair where you can get everyone involved in an outdoor activity at a time when most families are cooped up inside.
Before we get into the shed hunting tips, let's learn a little bit of background on the Whitetail Deer.
What Time of Year Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
All male members of the deer family grow a new set of antlers each year.
The antlers begin to grow in the spring and develop over the summer in velvet.
As the amount of daylight grows shorter, the amount of testosterone in the buck's system causes the antlers to harden.
The buck's antlers stay this way until after the breeding season has ended.
Depending on the location, a buck will usually shed his antlers between January and late March.
There are exceptions to every rule, but the vast majority of bucks will shed their antlers during this time period.
Now that you know what time of year deer shed their antlers, we can answer the question; When is the best time to look for deer sheds?
When is the Best Time to Look For Deer Sheds?
Clearly the simple answer would be anytime between January and April, but it is slightly more complicated than that.
There is a lot of competition for shed deer antlers and I'm not just talking about other hunters, although that should be one consideration.
If you are in an area that has other hunters or shed poachers looking for antlers, then it makes sense to get out early and often in order to find shed deer antlers.
You also must consider the competition from other animals.
Mice, porcupines and others love to chew on shed antlers and can make amazingly short work out of a fresh shed, so again you should get out early and often.
Alright, so now you know when is the best time to look for deer sheds, let's move on to the shed hunting tips.
Shed Hunting Tips
1. Check Food Sources
At the same time that deer are losing their antlers, food sources are dwindling rapidly. Deer tend to congregate around late season food sources, food plots and green food sources as they become more and more scarce, making them a prime location for finding shed antlers as the deer are spending a lot of time there.
2. Check the Evergreens
If you live in an area that gets a significant amount of snow, the deer will congregate in the evergreens and thick stands of conifer trees where the snowpack is lighter and it is easier for them to travel and escape predators. This can be a prime location to find shed antlers.
Evergreens also create thermal bedding areas where the temperature is slightly warmer under these trees. The deer will seek these out during the late winter.
3. Check the South and East Facing Slopes
Deer are just like humans and they will seek out the most comfortable environment that they can find while remaining safe. In the late winter, that comfortable place is often the south facing slope where they can soak up the afternoon sun in an area where the snow melts first.
4. Check Fences and Stone Walls
Look closely at any place where a buck has to jump. It is very common for antlers to be shed when the deer jumps over an obstacle like a fence crossing or stone wall. Also don't overlook creek crossings and steep banks.
5. Check the Thickets and Bedding Areas
If you are in an area where pressure on the deer is high. The bucks, especially mature bucks will live in the thickest, nastiest cover available to them. Think of the spots where you say; "No way am I going in there."
Yea, those spots. It's time to put on a pair of chaps and head into the briars. I've used this tactic and found sheds from more than one year! Go where no one else will and you will be rewarded.
6. Still Hunting for Sheds
This is one of the tips that most people I know can use! Shed hunting is very similar to still hunting.
You need to move slowly and examine your surroundings. Some people think they are going to go for a brisk hike in the woods and the shed antlers are just going to jump out at them. It ain't gonna happen.
The best shed hunters I know are slow and methodical, examining as much ground as Possible.
Take your time and work on your still hunting skills while you are shed hunting.
7. Look for Small Pieces of Antler
It is pretty rare when I am shed hunting that a shed antler is just sitting there in the open with its tines sticking up.
I usually find sheds by first spotting a piece of the antler. Sometimes it is just something that doesn't look right and deserves further inspection.
Similar to when you are deer hunting, look for pieces and parts rather than the whole animal.
8. Carry Binoculars and Use Them
I always carry my best hunting binoculars and use them every few steps to examine the are around me. If you see something out of the ordinary, study it with binoculars. Pieces of deer antler become much more obvious through the lens of binoculars.
9. Cover a lot of Ground
This can be confusing because when some people hear, cover a lot of ground, they move quickly.
That is not what I mean.
You still need to move slowly and stay focused on the ground, but sometimes shed hunting is measured in miles covered instead of antlers found. It depends on the area where you shed hunt, but I have measured miles covered anywhere from 5 to 10 miles per antler found.
10. Find One Look for the Other
I've been shed hunting with guys that find a great shed and can't wait to get out of the woods to show their buddies, but they are missing out on a great opportunity to find the other antler from the same buck. Very often the other side is close by. Once a deer sheds one antler, it becomes uncomfortable for him to carry the other on one side of his head. He will try to dislodge the loose antler and shake that antler off to lighten the load.
11. Bring Friends and Family
This is the perfect time to get your wife and kids into the woods! Kids love to shed hunt and it is a great skill to learn when you are young.
I wish someone had taught me how to find deer antlers when I was a kid. It is like a scavenger hunt to them and they are getting lots of exercise.
It will also help cut down on their screen time, which is definitely becoming a problem these days. More eyes are always better when looking for shed antlers.
12. Train a Shed Dog
A dog's nose can be a huge advantage when trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Many breeds of dog are being successfully trained how to find deer antlers and your family pet may be more than capable of helping you cover ground.
Click here for an article on teaching your dog how to find deer antlers.
Here's an awesome video on teaching your dog to be a shed dog.
For most deer hunters, deer hunting is a year round endeavor. When we are not in the woods actively hunting deer, we are reading deer hunting tips and preparing for next hunting season.
In this article, we have answered many questions, including:
- What time of year do deer shed antlers?
- When is the best time to look for deer sheds?
- And 12 tips that will put you on the right track for finding deer antlers.
Late winter and early spring is a great time to get out of the house and into the deer woods.
Put on your hiking boots, grab your binoculars and get out and use the 12 tips above and learn how to find deer antlers like a pro!