March 17, 2022
By Clint Casper
Shed hunting! Who doesn't love to look up and see a freshly dropped deer antler out in front of them on a warm spring day? I know I sure do and I cannot express to you how much there is to gain from shed hunting in the spring. Not only am I looking for antlers of bucks that made it through the hunting season, but I am also scouting for turkeys and deer while I'm out there. To me, shed hunting is an absolute blast and I just love to be out in the woods during these spring months, when most antlers have already dropped.
I've been shed hunting since I was a little kid, and throughout my 25+ years of looking for antlers I've narrowed my focus down to four areas — food sources, bedding areas, south-facing slopes, and creek/fence crossing. With any luck, this will help you gather more antlers this spring!
Food sources are probably the most common area to look for sheds. In my opinion, they're also the easiest. For me, food sources are broken down into a couple key categories — agricultural fields and timber mast locations. These are the two main feeding features for most whitetail deer during the late winter and early spring months.
For agricultural fields which include corn, beans, alfalfa and winter wheat just to name a few, I really like to cover as much of the field as efficiently as I can. With row crops such as corn and beans, I like to start four or five rows off the side and walk from one end to the other covering four rows to the left and right of me. This allows me to slowly scan and pan left and right as I walk down a row in the middle of these eight. This technique covers 9 rows per pass, or 18 rows total, going from one end to the other. I've found that this method keeps me focused and forces me to slow down, which usually ends up with more sheds found.
For timber feeding locations like hard mast trees and briars, I like to stick to the most south-facing feeding locations around. South-facing feeding locations will provide the most new growth from briars and grasses as well as the most sun. Oak covered ridges on south slopes are a hot spot for deer movement and antlers during this time of the year. I like to start from the top of the ridge and work my way down by going from one end to the other as I scan below me. Don't forget your glasses on this one because on sunny days these slopes will definitely be super bright.
Bedding areas are extremely important to check out when shed hunting. Not only do they create a great spot to find antlers as a buck gets up or lays down into his bed, but because of what we can learn from these areas. Bucks will bed in certain places for specific reasons and we must pay close attention to the "why" portion of this equation.
Bucks will bed during the later part of the season in spots that typically offer a combination of a few key things — cover, low pressure, visibility and sunlight. I like to key in on thick timber patches that face south due to the sun hitting these spots more so than any other direction. I also like to key into nearby thickets with good food sources that provide shelter from the wind and weather, allowing a buck to feed with just a short walk.
When shed hunting bedding areas it is very important to go extremely slow. These areas are usually thick and it would not be hard to walk right by one without realizing it. I like to cover bedding areas like I would work a field, starting on one side and sweeping back and forth until I'm completely across the entire bedding area. Pay close attention to all the details and clues left behind, especially when you find an antler. That buck was bedding there for a reason!
South-facing slopes are an absolute hotspot for finding sheds each and every spring. They provide so much that a whitetail needs during the winter months, so it should come to no surprised that deer spend a lot of time in these places. For example, deer need sun for warmth during a cold winter — especially if there is deep snow. South-facing slopes get the most sunlight per day. This provides an abundance of good bedding for deer because they can rest and be in the sun all at the same time.
South-facing slopes also provide the most browse during this time of the year as well. Due to the fact that the sun hits these areas so much, growth is jumpstarted on these slopes and the deer know it. Combine feeding areas and good bedding and you have deer frequently in these areas. This gives bucks a good possibility of shedding their antlers here. I like to start at the top and work my way down by going back and forth to make sure I cover the slope thoroughly.
Some of my favorite spots to look for sheds are near and around creeks and fences. Both of these spots force deer to jump over them, which can easily knock loose an antler and pop it off. Deer will naturally use creek crossings to their benefit all times of the year, so a good creek crossing in the fall will typically be good during the winter and early spring as well. Make sure you look closely on both sides of the creek for antlers. I like to walk along the creeks as much as possible, especially close to the good crossings. More times than not, a buck will jump and land on the other side with the impact being enough to dislodge a loose antler.
Fence crossings force a deer to either jump or go through the fence. Either way can easily pop an antler off, and when it does occur it frequently happens very close to the fence. They also work as funnels to force deer to cross it at a certain spot. Look for any low spots in the fence or perhaps an area where the fence is already down. If you can tell a deer often uses that funnel, it gives a shed hunter a good chance of finding some missing headgear not far off the fence. Pay close attention to both sides of the fence and the surrounding areas.
All in all, I'd say 90 percent of my sheds come from these four places. That other 10 percent is made up of random spots and places, but year in and year out these four locations produce. The common theme amongst all of them is that these areas have deer in them often, and the more time a buck spends in an area during this time of the year the better the chances are to find his sheds. Good luck and enjoy your searching this spring!