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.
I also discovered some dead trophy deer while hunting sheds. One time, I picked up both sides of a 14-point buck that scored 176 points non-typical on Boone and Crockett. A shed hunter will find these dead deer will include not only deer that may have been wounded during hunting season but also some deer that have died of natural causes. Remember you’re hunting sheds after the rut. During the rut in regions with big deer, the trophy bucks generally will be beaten-up badly during mating season. They may have to fight on a daily or a bi-weekly basis, and the bigger, dominant buck must fight more often to prove his dominance. These big old bucks are not invincible. They may develop an infection after being pierced by the antler of a rival. In this weakened condition, they can be attacked and killed by predators like coyotes. A buck can lose as much as 25 percent of his body weight during the rut, which is also the time of the year in many areas of the country when the snowfalls are the heaviest. After deer season in inclement weather, deer will concentrate heavily around food sources. In many regions of the country, farmers and landowners must feed deer so they can survive. In the brush country of South Texas after the rut, the land tends to get dry.
Also some deer, especially trophy deer, simply die of old age, because they have escaped hunting pressure through the years and eventually die of natural causes just like humans do. Deer are also accident-prone. Sometimes the deer will run into trees and kill themselves or become hung-up on fences and die. Heat and drought both affect deer adversely, and whitetails are susceptible to various parasites and diseases. The main reason you find these dead deer when hunting sheds is because you are in the woods at the time the deer generally die-off.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out part one of this series with Bob Zaiglin on shed hunting. Part three goes through more information on how shed hunting can help sportsmen more effectively manage and understand a deer herd or wildlife area.