Even if deer-hunting season is over, you can still get a nice rack to mount on your wall. Dave Thomas shares some of his shed-hunting tricks to help you find them.
Shed hunting in Michigan, for most people, begins in late March or early April. This is the time of year when antlers begin to fall and the weather starts to improve. It is an excellent time to get out of the house and start getting some fresh air. Long walks through the woods are one of my favorite things to do in early spring, and there is much to be accomplished. First and foremost the topic at hand, shed hunting, as well as some turkey scouting and patterning of the winter yarding areas for your deer. This is a valuable tool when that late muzzleloader season arrives.
I try to stay out of the areas where I am seeing deer until I know that they have shed their antlers. The reason being, I don’t want to spook them out of their location. If they are comfortable where they are, then they will stay there until the weather breaks. If you are seeing deer on a neighboring property or someplace else that you drive frequently, these may also be good locations to find sheds. It never hurts to knock on a few doors and ask if you can go looking for antlers. It is generally easier to get permission to shed hunt than to deer hunt. This can also lead to future opportunities.
If you are just starting your shed hunting in late March and early April, you are already at a disadvantage. There are some things that you can do to improve your yield. The first and easiest is to figure out where the deer in your area are yarding up. This is done by shining at night or by simply driving around in the evenings looking for herded deer. Often the bucks will be back together and in the same areas. It is important to have a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope to tell what you are looking at. I would recommend stopping by D&R Sports, since they have many different varieties, and the salesmen can help you pick out the style that’s right for you.
Once you have located the deer, you need to figure out where they are coming from (their bedding areas). Generally they will be coming from the closest thick area of cover, usually on easterly facing slopes that will receive sun earlier in the day and remain sunny throughout the day. These are excellent areas to target once the antlers have dropped. I have also had excellent luck in grassy areas. Most of the time, when you find grass you also find someplace that receives a fair amount of sun. Deer love the sun in the winter to help keep them warm.
Another option is to look for corn or beans that have been left standing. Sometimes an early snow will prevent a farmer from cutting. Also look for fields that have been cut but not tilled under. Deer will frequent those fields to feed during the winter. When spring arrives, go to those fields and look there, as well as the runs that lead to and from the field. Antlers can drop anywhere and, although I have found most of mine in bedding areas, there are many people that find them in the fields and on the connecting runs.
Apple orchards are another excellent spot to find antlers. These are easy places for deer to find food when the snow is deep and the weather is cold. Again, be sure to check the runs connecting the orchards and the bedding areas. If you can locate ditches or old fences that cross the runs, these are great places to look. The antlers can drop when the deer jump these structures.
When I go out shed hunting there are a few things that I always have with me. I wear rubber knee-high boots because there is always standing water or muddy spots that I need to walk through or around. Take along a backpack to carry water, antlers, and anything else you find that you may want to keep. I always wear a pair of brush pants or chaps. Most of the time when I follow deer runs I end up going through patches of briars and protection is a must. Who likes picking prickers out of their legs? It is always wise to carry a small folding saw as well, in case you stumble across a dead buck. Then you can cut the antlers off.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find antlers every time out. There have been years when I have walked for days and never found anything. Some seasons they are much easier to find than others. I may find antlers in one area one year and then nothing other years. I know people that have found spots that yield antlers every year. The key is to keep looking and do everything that you can to help better your odds.
For more information, or to purchase shed hunting equipment, stop by D&R Sports. I buy all of my shed hunting equipment there.