If you have never heard of shed hunting, you might envision it to be the glamping of the hunting world…where you and some buddies get together on a three-day weekend and go to a temperature-controlled shed built on a property with ample game, and pick off top-tier animals. Sounds cool. Wildly impractical and actually ridiculous, but cool.

The thing about shed hunting is, it is very cool and it doesn’t even happen in the hunting season when it’s cold. Not to mention it offers some excellent insight that can help you become a better hunter and a better steward of natural resources, even though it’s a different kind of “hunting.”

Here’s the long and the short of shed hunting:

·       It is the act of looking for antlers that have been shed by male deer species as they grow new antlers each spring (caribou, elk, and other branches of the species can also shed)

·       Antlers being shed is a normal thing for these deer and it is a fast-growing, renewable resource that doesn’t hurt the animal long-term

·       It’s has been one of the hottest trends in the outdoor/hunting world, and it has now transcended the trend label to become a lasting endeavor for thousands of enthusiasts

·       Tens of thousands of people are doing it each year and there is a lot of room for growth

Here’s some reasons why you might like shed hunting:

1.     You’re an avid hunter who wants to learn your craft better.

You learn incredibly valuable information about where the deer like to move and roam, how they eat, and where they like to frequent. You can find the traits of bigger game versus smaller game in the region. It can teach you the transitions that game go through, knowing that they are being stalked in the late season as well as where they might envision safe places to hide may be.

You can also test your own patterns for feed and lures to learn if they are working before you spend days out in the field without any animals on your tags.

2.     You like winning.

Finding “white gold” against the backdrop of your favorite hunting areas is exhilarating. When you uncover your first set of shed antlers, it’s amazing, but when you find bigger and better sheds, it gets even more exciting. Helping younger hunters learn about animals while shed hunting is rewarding too. That wonderment you feel at first can be reexperienced through bringing others into the hobby. It’s just like the first deer you took in the field, or the first time you won a local shooting competition. It’s a big win.

3.     You are a DIY’er or a collector.

You can make money gathering and reselling antlers, but more importantly, you can find some truly spectacular pieces that can serve as art or part of a project. You can mount them just like other taxidermy. You could use them to craft items, though one must admit the beauty in the perfect imperfection of the antler itself.

What You Need to Know

Most antlers are dropped in the early parts of the year with February and March being a big focal point. You aren’t going to find a lot of deer holding antlers in April (at least not in the later parts of the month), generally.

Because aggressive bucks that are shedding testosterone are more likely to shed their antlers earlier and they tend to be the bigger game animals, you will likely find that an earlier hunt can yield bigger, better sheds. You won’t find nearly as many as in later months.

And, since this is now a very popular endeavor, going too late in the season can mean you are not going to find anything because your fellow shed-hunters beat you to the field, so plan accordingly.

Animals shed where they bed, fed, and tread. Look at where they lay down their heads, where they are eating and looking for food, and the routes they are traveling to and from these locations.

You may also come across dead deer/game, and there can be rules in your jurisdiction that make it an awkward take from a carcass. Make sure you understand your local and state regulations regarding antler collection.

In conclusion, if your interest is piqued, you should take a hard look at expanding your own supplemental procedurals to help grab more antlers from sheds, but also to further improve the game behavior on a given property. Utilizing mineral supplements or feed stations or hay bales in a given tract can exponentially improve your chances of finding antlers in the off season and trophy game in the hunting season. Good luck finding some “white gold!”

HUNTING, DEER, ELKBenjamin Worthen