If you haven’t looked for shed antlers this year, or you have poor success finding them, here are some good reasons to get out in your deer hunting area and give shed hunting a good try this year, right now.
Now a Good Time to Scout
Late winter and early spring are the best times to scout for next deer season.
Last fall’s rubs, scrapes and trails will still be visible after the snow melts and before spring green-up occurs. Plus, at that time of year, you don’t have to be paranoid about bumping a buck from its bedding area and making him go nocturnal. The deer will have months to forget the encounter. Therefore, it’s a good time to get into the thick bedding cover bucks call home or even to invade the places you may consider sanctuaries during bow season. By shed hunting at this time, you’ll get a feel for where deer are bedding now and how they enter and exit these bedding areas, which can help you set up a perfect ambush when archery season rolls around.
Learn Which Bucks Survived
If you find a fresh shed antler in the spring, there’s a good chance the buck that dropped it survived hunting season as well as the winter. He still has to dodge predators and vehicles in some areas for several months before the next bow season. Body size differs between young and old bucks, but aside from that, individual animals are difficult to tell apart after they cast their antlers. But finding a shed is proof positive that a particular buck at least made it through hunting season and is very likely in your area.
Antlers Are Collectible
The best part of shed hunting is taking home some antlers. Every antler is a unique natural artifact, and a shed is at minimum a nice to display on a coffee table. But antlers are useful for all sorts of rustic décor and crafts, and even for making tools like knife handles or turkey totes. But you don’t have to make anything for sheds to be useful.
Shed antlers are valuable scouting clues. For example, if you find a shed near a food source and its matching side in a bedding area, you have unraveled a local buck’s pattern of travel. Collecting a set of sheds (or perhaps several consecutive sets) from a particular buck adds to the excitement and experience of hunting him. You can trace his antler growth over the years, and with dedication and a little luck, you may tag him.
Shed Hunting Is Great for Introducing New People to The Outdoors
Introducing someone with limited outdoor experience to the outdoors by first taking them bowhunting could be negative. The young person may not enjoy the experience of sitting still, particularly in the cold, and you probably won’t arrow a deer.
But taking someone young out shed hunting can be a lot of fun. Your mentee is free to move around and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Point out a herd of distant whitetails or a flock of geese winging north on its spring migration.
You won’t have to worry about your companions spooking game or getting cold, either. Point out rubs, scrapes and tracks or even plant an antler for them to find. Keep it interesting and engaging. You have more control over the outing, and you can make it a positive experience. Who knows, with a little nurturing and time, you might turn your guest into a bowhunter.
Strengthen Landowner Relationships
Visiting landowners outside of hunting season can strengthen your relationship with them. While you’re there to search for antlers, offer to help with chores like feeding cattle, mending fencing or moving bales of hay. You might even plan to have dinner with the landowners. These visits can go a long way toward cementing long-term relationships.
Beat Cabin Fever
If nothing else, taking a walk on a spring day after being cooped up all winter is good for the soul. You can get some exercise, breathe in some fresh air and get out of the house. Picking up an antler or two on one of those first springlike days is a great bonus.
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