By Emily Schaad
Shed hunting has become nearly as popular as hunting in recent years. Being able to find antlers is such a thrill in itself, especially when you can come home with a pile of bone. Being able to cover these specific areas and learn the tricks of the trade will increase your success dramatically.
Food sources are probably the number one location to find sheds. During the late season when food is scarce and bucks are trying to recover from the rut, food sources are at the top of the list for wintering whitetail hangouts. When we think of late-season food sources we generally think of food plots, agricultural fields and supplemental feeding areas. However, do not forget about some key overlooked food.
Oak trees where the acorn crop was heavy earlier in the fall are great places to find sheds. Deer will still be digging heavily looking for leftover acorns. Honeysuckle is probably the most overlooked food source. Whitetails love honeysuckle because the foliage stays green throughout winter and when there is a lot of snow on the ground, you will find that deer annihilate it. Deer prefer green to anything, so if you have a green food source, I would start there.
Big Buck Bedding Points
Deer will ultimately bed in a variety of locations, but big bucks love to bed on specific points where everything is to their advantage. Bucks love to be able to see what is going on and smell what could be coming behind them. Finding good vantage points that allow for warm sun in the winter and good open views below them are key. Bucks will lay with their back to the wind and face towards a good vantage point, that way if a predator comes in from behind they will detect their scent and if something comes towards them, they will spot them right away.
Back in 2016, I shed hunted a good bedding point exactly as I described above. About half way down the flat point, I spotted a giant set of sheds laying perfectly in a buck’s bed. To this date they are the biggest set of sheds I have ever found, gross scoring in the low 160’s.
When deer typically cross a creek or a fence it usually requires more than usual effort to get across which leads to jolting, which are times when antlers are likely to come off. I constantly look in both of these locations throughout shed season and will always pick up sheds. During 2020 shed season, I had a particular buck that always used the same fence crossing going to and from an alfalfa field. Once he shed, that crossing was the first place I looked. That is exactly where his shed was laying, right on the other side of the fence.
Great places to look are on properties where there are pine thickets and young conifers. Throughout harsh, cold winters deer love to bed in pine thickets and under low hanging conifer branches where it is warmer, and the pine needles provide great bedding. During months where there is a lot of snow on the ground, deer will bed down here because the snow is a lot less abundant.
Once you have determined where a whitetail’s food source and bedding are, travel corridors and trails going to and from the two are perfect places to look. If a buck does not lose their antlers at the food or bedding, they have to be laying somewhere in between. You will find that trails always pay off in a big way when it comes to finding sheds.
Days Best to Shed Hunt
This may sound silly to some people, but there are particular days I believe that increases your odds in seeing sheds. From years of shed hunting experience, I have shed hunted in about every type of weather condition, but only a couple I really like. Ultimately, I prefer to shed hunt in the rain or right after a rain when it is still cloudy. I have picked up more sheds while it was raining or after a rain than I have at any other time. Rain creates a dark background and when antlers are wet they seem to shine/glow compared to the ground and stick out like a sore thumb.
Snow is another great way to easily spot antlers, but it has to be during the right time in order for it to work. If a buck happens to drop their antlers after a several inch snow, their antlers will stick out of the snow and pop compared to the bright background, especially when laying tines up. A heavy snow also allows you to see trails and heavily used areas a lot easier, making potential shed hunting locations a lot easier to find.
In summary, walking aimlessly throughout the woods may land you sheds, but having knowledge of the best locations and thinking like a buck will highly increase your success. Being patient and physically fit definitely makes all the miles come a little easier, and keeping your eyes from wondering far from where you are walking will prevent you from walking right by them. Happy hunting!