Secrets of Shed Hunting: Finding Hunting-Season’s Leftovers

by
posted on March 13, 2023
Christmas 057

Please do not assume by the title of this article that I am going to describe the week after Thanksgiving. Instead, we are going to discuss one of the fastest-growing topics in hunting. Looking for, finding and collecting shed antlers has become one of the most popular activities among not only hunters, but all segments of the population. Lots of folks are now spending late-winter days looking to bring home a pile of discarded whitetail antlers.

There seems to be no limit to the uses for these shed antlers. The creativity of some of these decorative pieces is truly amazing. I have seen them made into everything from centerpieces, to lamps, to door handles. Others just like to pile them up and make their piles bigger each year. Either way, mice and squirrels are getting fewer and fewer antler treats each season.

Shed Shelf

In the past, the only sheds I collected were ones I accidentally stumbled over while turkey and mushroom hunting. I have a modest collection of various sizes, which also includes deadheads, and deadheads with the antlers still attached. There are lots of surprising things to find on the forest floor if you are looking for them on purpose. I realized this a few years ago as I participated in my first organized shed hunt.

I spent several days last fall hunting with my great friend Luke Terstriep Jr., and his younger brother Lance. We had some outstanding hunts and are already gearing-up for spring turkey season. Last week, Luke Jr. and Lance called and invited me to go with them to look for sheds on one of their properties. I happily accepted.

Their plan was based mostly on the data they had already collected about buck activity since deer season ended. Trail cameras showed a large number of bucks using a particular food plot during the big snow of early February. They also found dozens of beds in the snow while coyote hunting the farm. They had a really good idea of where the sheds might be, and the plan was to cover the area in a grid so as not to miss anything.

Small Sheds next to golden fork
The author's favorite sheds are the two smallest he has ever found, seen above.

Luke drew got us on the board with a small three-point antler. As we moved down the hill I was between the two Terstrieps. By the time we had hit the field edge, Luke had found three more sheds, including the match to the first find.

There are a few keys to learn to make shed hunting more than just luck. Understanding that antlers loosen on buck’s head before they drop is a fact that can center your attention on specific places and terrains. I like to look first in places where major feeding trails cross any or all of the following: creeks; ditches; fence lines; and roads. These are all spots that may cause the buck to jump. Quite often, loose antlers are jarred and fall as the deer hits the ground after a jump.

As we emerged from the timber, Luke yelled out about his find, prompting me to turn and walk toward him. Lance was behind me and laughed as he picked-up an antler just a few steps from where I had been. “You would have stepped on this one if you hadn’t turned around,” he said as he raised the shed to show me. That’s my luck.

By the end of the day, the Terstrieps had found 18 nice sheds and a whole bobcat skull. I, on the other hand had found two vertebrae, two leg bones and a doe skull. Twice I walked away from spots where Lance stepped in and found a shed. It just was not my day.

Mike Roux Holding large sheds

The bottom line to finding shed antlers is that you must go out into deer country at the right time of the year to find them. You can intentionally find many more deer-season leftovers than you could ever stumble across by accident.

Despite my luck, I had a great time and learned a lot about this growing pastime. These guys, along with their father, Luke Sr., have a barrel full of sheds in their basement. Always remember to look for sheds during turkey season when you are watching the ground for mushrooms.

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