Ever since man first began his love affair with those bony protrusions on the top of male deer, he has been collecting them. First he hunted them and used the antlers for tools and weapons as well as trophies. Today, he also collects racks after the deer discard them.
Sheds, as they are called are dropped by deer following the end of the mating season. Most are allowed to decay anonymously in the woods. But, a growing number of hunters have found that collecting deer sheds is a fun way to extend the deer hunting season. It also is a great way to tell what deer made it through the hunting season and will be available on the land next year. It reflects the health of the deer herd in general.
Shed antler gathering is like being on a treasure hunt. You never know what you will find.
There are some tips that will aid in finding the sheds of trophy bucks. The big guys are usually the first to drop their antlers. Beginning in late December or early January, the bucks are in a worn down physical condition. They have been through the rut that takes a tremendous toll.
During the rut, they are breeding and fighting to defend territory. There is little time to eat. As a result their body condition suffers greatly. Their lack of good nutrition contributes to the dropping of the antlers.
By following deer trails one can pattern the activity of the herd. Big bucks will often remain just off of these trails but still in contact with them. Since bucks will have similar patterns of antler points from one year to the next, it is possible to pattern individual bucks from one year to the next.
After the buck gets to be eight or 10 years of age, his antler size begins to decline but the configuration remains much the same. In the wild, deer do not often get to be that age. But, if one finds one, he may be a wonderful trophy.
Key to finding sheds to know deer habitats that are in use during this period. One can drive the roads and observe deer in fields and woods. A good pair of binoculars will allow one to observe the animals without spooking them.
It helps to keep a record of deer sightings in a notebook or on a map of the area. Do not rely upon your memory. Of particular interest are bedding areas. Since the animals spend most of the day in them, the bedding areas are good locations to find sheds. Easy travel areas between feeding and bedding areas are also important. These are usually changes in vegetation or cover which make it easier for the deer to travel through them.
Once the game plan has been worked out by watching deer behavior during this period, it is time to take to the field. In the field, look for signs of bucks in the area. These can be old scrapes or rubs. Often the best location for antler finds is in an area where rubs are found.
Walk slowly and scan every inch of the ground. Often only a point or two of the rack will be visible in the first sighting. It is exciting to see a point protruding out of the grass or snow. It becomes like Christmas to pull it out of its hidden location and find much more than you expected.
Who knows, perhaps you will find the rack of a monster buck that you did not even know existed. And if you can find both sides, and they will be near one another, you will have the trophy of a lifetime.
Shed hunting helps one to pattern deer activity for next year’s hunting season. One can see the growth of a particular buck and know that he will be there for you to pursue during hunting season. Finding the same buck’s rack year after year whets the desire to finding him during the season next year.