By Bernie Barringer
Hunt early and often if you expect to find shed antlers.
Part 2: Four Practical Insights on How to Look
By reading Part 1 of Barringer’s Short Course in Finding More Shed Antlers, you’ve probably thought of some places you should search. Do you know places where deer fed heavily during the winter? Have you thought of some lands that aren’t open to hunting, but might be open to shed hunting? Did you identify likely winter cover where deer spend much of their time? If you have, it’s time to start your search. You may want to begin before the snow melts.
5. Get There Early
Back in the 1980s there were very few people collecting sheds. Not so any more. Back then I would wait until late March when the antlers were all cast, and the snow was melted before I would go shed hunting. Then one day I was walking a deer trail in a park in central Iowa and I came over a hill face to face with another shed hunter. In his hand was the match to the shed I held in my hand. This was the beginning of the end for the way I shed hunted. Now you must get there early and often if you are going to collect sheds. It’s become a popular sport.
Other people are not your only competition. Woodland critters get in on the hunt. Coyotes will sometimes pick them up and carry them off. Porcupines are attracted to the calcium in them and will quickly gnaw them to nothing. Dedicated antler hunters are out there while snow cover still lingers, but your intensity should pick up as animals begin to increase their movement in the spring. Wait any longer and many antlers will be gone.
6. Connect the Dots
Of course the deer need to travel between the bedding areas and the food. Trails will develop between these areas and the obvious sign is easy to find and follow. The more snow the better. Get out early before the snow melts and find these trails for later use. A lot of sheds can be found on these connecting trails. Pay special attention to the areas where they have to jump over fences, climb steep creek banks, etc. These areas tend to jar the sheds loose.
7. Look for the Other Side
Antlers occasionally fall off together, but that’s somewhat rare. I do believe; however, that a mature buck will put quite a bit of effort into getting the other side off because of the lopsided feeling he has with one antler. He shake’s his head, rub the antler on trees and push it on the ground to work it off. If you find a nice shed, put an exhaustive effort into finding the other side. Chances are good that it’s close by.
8. Set up a Shed Trap
I could do an entire article on creating effective shed traps, but here’s the short version. A shed trap is something that causes the bucks to come back over and over, with an apparatus of some sort that increases the possibilities that the shed will drop at the site. This could be as easy as pouring a bucket of corn in a thick deadfall where the buck has to push his head in to eat. Or you can create elaborate systems of wire or bungee cords fixed above a feeder.
I use a simple system of woven wire in the shape of a V with some feed inside the point of the V. I do not like to use snow fence, bungees or anything that could entangle the antler. It can be dangerous to the deer. The wire simply bumps into the antler as the deer feeds and when it’s ready to come off it will fall off. Watch a short video of my shed trap here.
One caution about shed antler traps. In some states it’s illegal to do anything that will assist deer in shedding antlers. Check your regulations before using a shed trap.
Hunting shed antlers can provide information that will help you with your deer hunting, mostly in the form of an inventory of the bucks that survived the previous hunting season. But more than that, it’s good exercise, good family fun and a great way to enjoy one of the most remarkable things in nature; the amazing antler.
Bernie Barringer hunts a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 11 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is Bear Baiter’s Manual. Bernie blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.
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