For some outdoorsmen and women, March can be a time of idleness and longing for the next deer season. Shed hunting is one way to get a deer hunting fix while you prepare for the next season – and it may be able to give you an edge over other hunters.
Well-known deer manager and writer, Bob Zaiglin of Houston, Texas, a certified wildlife biologist, has overseen numerous Texas ranches through the years. According to Zaiglin, hunting sheds helps you learn where deer are concentrated on any particular piece of property. The area where you find the most sheds will be the regions where you will discover the most deer. Also sportsmen can pinpoint the corridors deer are using to enter agricultural fields to feed, water and bed and the places where the deer are hiding from hunting pressure.
By hunting sheds, a sportsman may find a rack that will score very high on Boone and Crockett, and that buck never even may have been seen during hunting season. Once the hunter locates that trophy shed and decides to hunt that deer the next season, he must realize he will have to let numbers of small bucks walk past him – if he’s going to try and take that trophy buck. But by knowing a trophy buck is in an area, a hunter can concentrate his hunting time the next season in the general region where he’s found the trophy’s shed antler.
In the West, I find many sheds around watering holes and along fence lines. Often when deer are jumping fences, they’ll knock their antlers off. Then a hunter can try to find travel trails between feeding and bedding areas along fences where he locates drops. Although each of these places are easy spots to discover sheds, if you really want to locate the shed antlers of trophy bucks, you must go into the thicker spots to look for them. One of the problems with locating big sheds in heavy cover is that rodents are more abundant in thick areas and will consume those antlers at a rapid rate after the deer have shed them.
Finding a Matched Pair of Sheds:
Although the dream of most shed hunters is to find a matched pair of trophy antlers, very rarely do deer shed both antlers at the same time and in the same place. But one year I actually located five sets of matched antlers. I’m not sure why finding both antlers off the same deer is uncommon, but my best guess is that antler shedding and the casting of antlers is definitely related to nutrition. A deer on a good nutrition level holds his antlers longer than a deer that is nutritionally deprived of good food. Last year our ranch provided good nutrition. But after hunting season, the lands I managed went into a drought. Since the deer were somewhat deprived nutritionally, the deer shed their antlers more quickly. At least this guess was the best I had as to why I found more sets of antlers together then.
If you enjoyed this article on shed hunting, you may also like to read part two of this series on shed hunting with Bob Zaiglin.