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This has to be the toughest time of the year not just for myself, but for every hunter and outdoor enthusiast alike. The whitetail bow season has come to a close, spring turkey and bear seasons are still far off in the distance, and if you’re like me you have a terrible case of cabin fever. Old Man Winter taunts me as I sit snuggled up by the fireplace typing while I watch the frost thicken on the outside window panes. I feel like a caged animal, clawing at the door wishing for the day the snow melts, and it warms up enough to finally get out and go shed hunting.
Taking a relaxing walk in search of shed antlers is what keeps us hunters sane until the beautiful greens of spring arrive. It’s what feeds that craving. That fire that burns deep inside each and every one of us. It fuels our outdoor addicted souls. From shed hunting can come so many benefits not just to the avid deer hunter, but to any person looking for some great outdoor recreation. And that’s what I think separates shed antler hunting from actually going afield to harvest one of God’s great creations.
Even if you just love the outdoors, and love taking walks through the woods, shed hunting can be a fun, challenging experience for you just as much as the hunter who is looking to see what his buck crop is going to be like for the upcoming season. Shed hunting is a way to connect with not only Mother Nature, but one specific creature of the woods. Knowing that antler you just found came from a living, breathing animal that has hosted it as an object of protection, dominance, and hierarchy is just so unbelievably fascinating to me. Knowing that out of all the places in Mother Nature’s kingdom that a buck could have shed it’s antler, and you happen to find it is just so rewarding to me. It’s an addiction of mine just like any other of the outdoors. In this article I’m going to discuss a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years that can help you become a more successful shed hunter.
During the post-rut, bucks bodies are in recovery mode. Food is limited, and bucks are building reserves of amino acids and minerals. Antlers are shed because the bucks absorb the bone material at the base of the antlers to build their body mass back up. Bucks can lose up to 30% of their body mass during the rut. This provides us as outdoor enthusiasts, the opportunity to find these shed antlers during the late winter. When a buck drops it’s antlers can vary depending on the weather, and the overall health of the buck. They can cast their antlers as early as December or as late as April. But the majority of bucks in this area drop them anywhere from late January to early March. So depending on the weather, I try and take my first crack at it around the second week of February and continue my search through March. But no matter when you decide to go out, you need to have a game plan first.
The worst thing you can do is just go wandering into the woods hoping to stumble upon a piece of bone a buck cast. It takes some pre-shed hunting scouting if you want to do things right and have a better chance at success. Just as you do during the fall season, you can use your trail cameras to your advantage. Find out where those deer are now. Whitetails, and other deer species alike usually shift their patterns from fall to winter cover, and wherever there is an available food source.
Travel routes from thick bedding areas to reliable winter food sources are going to be your best bet. Deer bed up in thick cover areas a lot during winter months to conserve energy. So it’s always smart to check those in case one lost one while in it’s bed. Another tip is to learn to identify which plants deer prefer in winter. Find the food, and you have a better chance at finding sheds. Also, getting out and looking for tracks in the snow to find out where the heavy traffic is will also benefit you, and help key in your search efforts.
Another good place to check while on your journey to finding sheds is any place with some southern exposure. During the winter, deer soak up the sun’s rays just like a cat in a windowsill. And in the winter, the south side of anything receives the most sunlight here in Ohio. So try looking on south facing hillsides and ridges, and south edges of forests.
This last tip I’ll share with you is where I find most of my sheds. Two of the best paths you can walk while shed hunting are fence lines and waterways. I always make it a priority to walk all of my fence lines, and all of my creek-beds, streams, and rivers. As bucks cross these obstructions, most of the time they are either jumping them, or crawling underneath. This presents a great opportunity for the buck’s antlers to jolt loose and fall off. I’ve lost count at the number of antlers I’ve found this way. If all else fails, this tactic will be your best bet.
So when the snow melts and you’re looking for a way to break out of your winter funk, take a walk around your property in search of some antler gold. You might be surprised what you find. Tune in next month as we preview Ohio’s spring turkey season and talk shot placement with a bow, and don’t forget to check out my website where you can find all my bowhunting videos and articles at: http://launchtoi.com/LukeFabian