There are numerous reasons why searching for shed antlers has become so popular. It’s the perfect way to expand your interest in whitetails, it’s good exercise and it’s a perfect time to take a jab at “cabin fever.” It’s a great family participation sport and can be a great way to learn something that may help you get closer to a mature buck the following hunting season. Not to mention that big sheds can bring in big bucks. Pun intended.
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My main reason for going on these searches is to learn more about my hunting area and the patterns of the animals. Finding shed antlers can make you a better hunter by showing you which areas mature animals utilize. Late winter through spring is a valuable time for seeking out the travel patterns of mature bucks. With the foliage off of the trees, sign you never saw last fall can seem blatantly obvious.
Most deer hold their racks through January and begin to drop during February and March. Around my home, it’s usually the second week in March when most bucks “go bald.” If you wait too long, newly growing weeds and grasses will make the search more difficult and mice and chipmunks will have a chance to gnaw on them for the calcium and phosphorus.
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WHERE TO LOOK:
You might get lucky by just taking an aimless stroll, but you’re better off to have a plan. Begin searching areas where you’ve seen deer during the winter before. Prime locations will be winter food sources, swamps with conifer trees for thermal cover and heavy cover adjacent to leftover agricultural crops.
Thick stands of conifers, south-facing hillsides, freshly logged areas, ravines and stream bottoms that offer some protection from cold winter winds are all good bets for shed hunting. Make sure to check fence crossings where an animal might jump across and jar the antler loose as it lands on the other side. For more tips, visit the Mossy Oak GameKeepers Club. (gamekeepersclub.com; 662-495-9292)
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This article was originally published in the AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN ™ 2015 issue #174. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.