There is a real good chance that when I hit the woods in a few weeks checking for turkey sign, I’ll find a bonus. Likely, I’ll find a shed buck antler or two. Seldom does a year go by that I don’t run across discarded headgear from a good buck or a dinky little spike or fork-horn.
Now that deer season is over, bucks are starting to drop antlers and there are some people who have taken the sport of looking for shed antlers to a new level; some even belong to clubs whose members compete to see who can find the biggest and the most sheds during the off-season.
I took a 4-wheeler spin around my Jackson Parish hunting club recently with the goal not only to look for turkey sign but to see if by following the advice of shed hunting aficionados, I might stumble upon a shed or two. Didn’t happen; I was rushing the season too much as bucks are just now beginning to drop antlers. However if I return to some of these same areas in another few weeks, my chances of spotting a shed antler or two will likely increase.
Those who are serious about looking for shed antlers eagerly await the end of deer season when they’ll have the woods to themselves. I did some research and learned how they do it, where they search along with tips for anybody going out with the express purpose of finding sheds.
First, it would be well to study a bit of deer biology to see why bucks drop antlers in the first place. In our part of the country, bucks usually begin dropping their headgear in January and may continue on until early March.
The entire process of shedding in a typical deer herd takes place in a relatively brief period of time, usually two to three weeks whereas re-growth of new antlers takes several months. A short time after losing antlers, a soft bump appears on the pedicle. The velvet-covered new antler continues to grow throughout spring, summer into early fall when blood supply is cut off, the antler hardens and velvet dries up and falls off, usually with the help of the buck rubbing his new antlers on brush and saplings.
That being said, why should you bother to look for dropped antlers? According to several sources, finding a dropped antler is a great way to help pattern your buck for next season; in most cases, bucks drop antlers in areas where they hang out. One site I visited, shedantlers.com, noted that the best shed hunters are also good deer hunters; they know where to search and what to look for.
One particular hot spot to search for antlers is to walk over south-facing hillsides where there is thick brush. On cold days, deer prefer such areas since sunny hillsides are more comfortable.
Look for fence or creek crossings. A buck will sometimes drop an antler from the jolt of jumping a fence or creek.
Look for buck trails which are usually 30-50 yards parallel to a more heavily used doe trail. Old rub lines will help identify those dim trails used by bucks. Find a buck trail leading from a bedding area to a feeding area and you could be in business.
Another helpful tip is to periodically look back over your back trail. You might not spot an antler lying in the leaves as you walk by but looking back, it may be more easily seen. If you’ve never gone to the woods specifically looking for shed antlers, you may want to give it a try. It helps kill time between the end of deer season and opening of turkey season. Plus, finding a shed of a trophy buck and taking note of the area where you found it could improve your chances at bagging him next deer season.