ScentBlocker's Guide to Shed Hunting

I'll never forget the sight. Almost completely buried under a fresh dusting of snow, two tiny tines poked out just enough for me to notice. I hollered at my dad and eldest son, proudly showing them my prize. Although I had found sheds before, it was always while turkey hunting or searching for morel mushrooms. This was the first shed antler I had ever found on purpose! It wasn't much, with just two points and approximately an 8” beam, but it was all mine. It was something no human had ever touched before, and a promise for a bigger buck to hunt next fall.

 

Much larger compared to the first shed I ever found, this beauty got a fresh coat of snow before being discovered. Much larger compared to the first shed I ever found, this beauty got a fresh coat of snow before being discovered.

 

 

Since that fateful day years ago, I've become passionate about shed hunting. I'll never claim to be an expert, but I've learned a bit along the way. With the help from everyone at the ScentBlocker office, or “Shield HQ“, along with our shed hunting pros Pat Reeve and Cody Robbins, we've compiled a guide to shed hunting.

 

Gear

Like many deer hunting related activities, shed hunting doesn't usually align with the nicest weather of the year. Also throwing a wrench in the works is the fact that finding sheds often requires a lot of walking. That being said, we recommend wearing our ScentBlocker hunting socks. I try to dress as lightly as possible to avoid becoming too hot or sweaty. Our Merino wool baselayers are always in season. With the Merino wicking properties, I stay warm and dry in these baselayers. Also, Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, so after a long day of walking I don't smell like dank marsh water.

 

Shed hunting guru Pat Reeve with a beautiful set of antlers he recently found on a sunny day. Shed hunting guru Pat Reeve with a beautiful set of antlers he recently found on a sunny day.

 

 

My favorite time to shed hunt is in March just after the winter snow melts. If it's not raining my outer layer will be Recon pants, a ScentBlocker hoodie, and rubber knee boots. If it is raining, I'll be protected in my Drencher rain gear. Other people who live in more extreme climates might choose to wear something different. For instance, when Pat Reeve heads north to frigid Canada to shed hunt with Cody Robbins, they're all wearing our Outfitter gear or new Northern Extreme if it's a late winter.

 

No dedicated shed hunter ever leaves home without a backpack. Not only is the pack handy for carrying sheds, it also doubles as a snack pack. In my Spider Monkey backpack I'll at least bring granola bars, jerky and water, as well as fundamental survival gear that stays in my pack. This includes a lighter, 50 yards of parachute cord, and a reflective mirror.

 

Once the gear is in place to make the physical part of the shed hunting trip a safe and enjoyable experience, it's time to think about where to look.

 

Canadian shed hunting expert Cody Robbins with a beautiful four point shed he found recently. The snow is so deep in Cody's neck of the woods he needs to ride his snowmobile to get to shed antlers. Canadian shed hunting expert Cody Robbins with a beautiful four point shed he found recently. The snow is so deep in Cody's neck of the woods he needs to ride his snowmobile to get to shed antlers.

 

 

Food

“The first step to finding a lot of antlers is to locate where the deer are feeding during shedding season.” Pat Reeve's logic makes a lot of sense, yet many overlook it. Each winter lots of well meaning shed hunters continue their fruitless searches in bedding and feeding areas that were popular during the fall. Unless the preferred winter food source is also the fall hunting area, the chances of the deer still being there are slim. We recommend starting to look right where the deer were feeding. Fresh sign, droppings, and of course trail camera evidence will confirm what the deer were eating. Possible food sources could be grain fields, (harvested or standing) oak flats, hay fields, fruit orchards, etc... Each property will be different.

 

Often times shed antlers will be near the food sources. Sometimes a buck digging for food under the snow will knock an antler off. Big bucks don't like the lopsided weight that remaining antler creates and generally, he'll soon become annoyed with the other antler and purposely knock it off as well.

 

Some people even create “shed traps” (where legal). They set up a small chunk of hard wire fencing or bungee cords with a few posts in the shape of a “V”. At the vertex of the fence, they drop some corn or hay on the ground for the deer to eat. The intent is that the buck will stick his head into the “V” for a bit of food, and bang or press his antler on the resisting lines and hopefully knock or push it loose. PLEASE do us all a favor though, check local rules and regulations about winter deer feeding and creating shed traps. No shed antler is worth breaking the law.

Pat Reeve matching a massive set of shed antlers. This buck is already at the top of Pat's list for next fall. Pat Reeve matching a massive set of shed antlers. This buck is already at the top of Pat's list for next fall.

 

Trails

Once the preferred winter food source has been located, the next step is to find where the deer are bedding. By “backtracking” the trails to their recent bedding areas, many sheds can be found along the trail. Often the path to the food isn't an easy one, with possible fence jumps, creek crossings, or steep hills to maneuver. Whenever the bucks have to jump, duck, or run they might jostle an antler off as well. When looking for sheds on trails, pay particular attention to obstacles that might jar the animals head or bang the antlers on something.

 

Bedding

Lastly, we recommend scouring the bedding areas for antlers. Although the trail may be obstructed, most winter bedding areas will not be far from the food. A decent winter bedding area needs to offer enough cover to protect the animals from the weather. In the winter months deer like to use as much of the sun's warmth as possible. Look for winter beds on south facing slopes as well as in thermal cover such as spruces and cedars. Pat Reeve said it best, “My ideal winter bedding area would be a southern slope with cedars. If you can find that, there will be sheds nearby.”

 

Often the buck will drop an antler while he's laying down, entering, or exiting the bedding area. Be sure to check all the trails, not just the major ones. Every decent bedding area has a number of escape routes. If a buck is startled and has to use the backdoor to quickly evacuate his bedding area, he may also move just quick enough to knock off an antler.

 

Closing thoughts

We all know in deer hunting there are no absolutes. These are just a few areas we recommend to begin the search for shed antlers. We've also found them in our yards, on the road, in creeks, on frozen lakes, near barnyards, at corn cribs, compost piles, gardens, and several other places.

 

Shed hunting is a lot of fun and can be incredibly addictive! It's also a great way to start scouting for the next season. Take the whole family, and maybe even the dog. Be sure to dress appropriately and of course, send us pictures of what you find on Facebook or on our website gallery page. http://www.robinsonoutdoors.com/tech-ed/trophy-gallery/

2 Comments

  • Mitch

    I hunt in the deep woods of northern MN can you tell me if your tips will work in the deep woods and do northern deer drop there antlers in Mar as they do down south?

  • Staff Writer
    Staff Writer - March 6, 2015 at 11:05 am

    good question usually in the North they drop in January and February the cold stresses them so they shed early

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