As winter nears an end, deer living in natural habitats start shedding their antlers. These fallen antlers or ‘sheds’ provides an excellent excuse for outdoor-loving people to go out in the wilderness and explore.
Shed hunting has now become a popular late winter activity among hunters and explorers alike. It is certainly more exciting than aimlessly strolling through the woods.
So, in this article, we’ll tell you all about shed hunting you need to before getting started.
How to Find Deer Sheds
Shed hunting is as much about finding the hotspots as it is about spotting them. Even if you have a good idea of where you might find them, if you do not keep a keen eye out, it can be very easy to miss them on the ground. And don’t forget to bring a backpack with you.
Now you don’t need weapons like crossbows for shed hunting. With good strategy and technique, you can find a lot of antlers in just a few days. But without a particular strategy, your time exploring might not prove to be as rewarding.
There are a few things that lots of seasoned shed hunters follow while scanning for sheds. You can start shed hunting by yourself using these tips as a guide.
As you gain more and more experience, we will soon be acquainted with the shedding patterns of the deer in your particular area.
1. Scout and Observe
Before you start looking for sheds in the shed hunting season, try to scout the area in advance at an earlier time before winter comes.
It will provide you with an opportunity to get familiar with the forest. You can also get to see some deer if you are observant enough.
2. Trail Cameras
Many shed hunters use cameras placed around the trails to observe if the deer have started to lose their antlers yet. One-antlered or antlerless bucks are a good indication for you to go out hunting for those sheds.
3. Observing from Above
Instead of cameras, some prefer to observe from a high spot like a treetop to look for shedding deer. Using binoculars, you can also observe the behavior of these deer and what spots they go to during the day.
4. Finding the Feeding and Bedding Spots
Once the time for shed hunting comes, try to spot all the winter-feeding spots and bedding spots of deer in the area you are going to explore.
This will give you a rough idea of where the most number of deer congregates and where their trails are around each of the spots.
5. Following the Trails
After you find a feeding or resting spot, follow each of the trails around it. The to and fro movements of deer create many worn-out trails around the forest.
Following these trails can lead you to the deer’s resting area, where many bucks are likely to shed their antlers. You might even find a number of sheds on the trail itself, or around the trail, if you keep an eye out.
6. Scanning Each Area Carefully
Try to scan each of the spots you go to very carefully. Instead of just taking a sweeping look over the whole area, walk on as much of the area as possible.
Slowly walking over the whole spot while looking straight down will increase your chances of spotting as many antlers as possible. This way, you can also feel for any antlers under your shoes too.
7. Look for the Tip
Often beginners look for whole antlers lying around without looking out for the tips. Many a times there will be just the tips of the antlers peeking out from the leaves. If you do not train your eyes to look for the tip only, these can be easily missed.
8. Utilize the Rainy Days
Do not stay inside if it rains a little in your area. In the case of shed hunting, rain can make your job a lot easier to look for antlers on the ground.
Often times a lot of shed antlers get buried in fallen leaves. Rain can make these antlers to resurface over the leaves.
The wetness also makes the leaves look darker, and the antlers appear glossy. This helps the antlers stand out starkly among the leaves, which is very helpful when looking for sheds in the forest.
9. Pay Attention To Your Footwear
On the days when there is no rain, wearing soft-soled shoes can help. With shoes that have soft soles, you can feel the antlers buried under fallen leaves beneath your feet.
10. Trained Dogs
Dogs that have been trained for shed hunting can increase the number of sheds you find in a day by a lot. They can even find antlers that have been buried under leaves for a long time.
With them by your side, it is possible you can find sheds in just a few days that you otherwise would have taken months.
When Is the Best Time to Look for Deer Sheds
The best time to start shed hunting is when the majority of the deer has lost their antlers. Starting too early can drive the deer out of their winter shelter when they are in a very vulnerable condition.
Keep an eye out for when you start seeing single-antlered deer to know that the shedding period has started. Soon, many of the bucks will be antlerless. Once you start seeing only 20% to 30% of the bucks with their antlers intact, it is a good time to go out hunting for those sheds.
If you have a lot of competition in your area in the form of other hunters or squirrels, you might want to start a bit early in the mornings. This will help you avoid the crowd and increase your chances of finding more sheds.
Even so, always try to keep the well-being of the wildlife in mind. And try not to let the deer sense your presence. This can make them feel threatened and go shed their antlers further away from where their primary spots are.
When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers
Shedding of the antlers is caused by a drop in testosterone levels in bucks. This occurs generally in late winter, once the rut is over.
Antlers begin to fall off at any time ranging from the end of December to the middle of March or April, depending upon the region.
Deer living in colder regions tend to shed sooner. In the North, they start shedding in late December. While in the South, shedding may take place throughout March and April.
Other factors like injuries, food availability, and the severity of the rut also influence when deer start to shed their antlers.
How Much Are Deer Sheds Worth
There are a lot of things that come into consideration when determining the value of deer sheds. Deer antlers are used by crafters to make different tools or decoration pieces for around the house.
There are also collectors, furniture makers and scientists who extract valuable information from deer antlers among the buyers. The price of different types of shed antlers are determined every few months.
Several factors that are considered to determine the worth of an antler:
Bigger and heavier antlers are worth more. Antlers that are unusually large can get you a lot more bucks than you might think. If your antlers catch the eyes of a collector or a number of collectors, the price can go up by a lot.
Faded antlers are generally sold for a lower price than brown antlers.
Condition is very important too. Antlers that are chipped or broken are naturally worth less.
Species of the Deer:
Antlers of different species are priced differently. Elk antlers are generally the most costly, while whitetail antlers are the cheapest.
When It Was Shed:
Fresh antlers that have been collected only a few days or months after shedding cost more. Whereas, antlers that have been shed a year or two ago cost less.
Whether It Is Single Or Has A Pair:
Antlers in a matching set are priced higher than single antlers without their pairs.
Depending on the above-mentioned factors, deer antlers are divided into A, B and C grades. Grade A antlers can sell from anywhere around $10 per pound to $14 per pound. Grade B antlers generally go for $6 per pound to $11 per pound. And going rate for grade C antlers is around $2 to $3 for every pound.
Keep in mind though, these prices mentioned above are merely an estimation and can vary throughout the year depending on the demands among buyers.
Also remember, not all states allow you to possess, buy, or sell deer antlers. So before doing any of these, check to make sure it is legal in where you live.
Video: Six Tips for finding more shed deer antlers
Now that you all about shed hunting, when are you getting started?
Let me know in the comments section.