It’s that time of year again. Hunting seasons are winding down around the midwest, leaving outdoor enthusiasts with the itch to get back out there. If you ate tag soup this last season like me, the desire to get back in the woods is even greater. So when the opportunity to go shed hunting arose, I jumped at the chance.
I’ve never really gone shed hunting. My late winter/early spring was filled with basketball, softball, and tennis growing up. The rare chances I got to hit the woods in the search for antlers provided little success. But now that I don’t have to worry about conditioning and game schedules, I’ve got the time to pursue new interests. No matter how challenging they might be.
Shed hunting sounds simple. You strap on a backpack, lace up your boots, and hit the woods scanning for antlers along the way, but it’s a lot more challenging than what meets the eye. There’s a strategy that plays into it. It takes some serious endurance to put in mile after mile, and it’s likely you may have to head back empty handed.
Kyle and I knew we wanted to go, and when we heard his uncle Craig was in town for the weekend to shed hunt, we decided to tag along. Kyle’s uncle is Craig Bell, the founder of Shed Heads. The man lives and breathes everything outdoors, especially shed hunting, which made for an excellent learning experience for a newbie like me.
Tip #1: Look for Cover
We started in a heavily wooded area that opened into a brushy, cedar thicket. Kyle, Craig, and I split up and walked the thicket in thirds. We easily found 5 or 6 different beds as well as plenty of other deer sign, including several big, fresh rubs. Honestly, that was one of the most exciting parts of the day for me. I love finding a bedding area or scrape line. It gives me insight as to where the deer are spending their time so I can better manage and hunt the area. And hopefully find sheds!
Tip#2: Scan, Scan, Scan
The biggest problem I had was keeping up. I spent so much time specifically looking for an antler, that it really slowed me down. This is crucial when you’re trying to cover as much ground as possible. Craig explained that his strategy is to scan from left to right as far as he can see, then about 30 yards in front of him, and then right around him. He says it allows him to search quickly and effectively, especially when he shed hunts alone.
Tip #3: Bring Your Binoculars
This is something I didn’t think about. The land we hunt is primarily fairly dense wooded areas filled with valleys and hills, so binoculars aren’t really necessary unless you’re hunting a large field or have an open field of view. However, Craig pointed out that carrying binoculars, even in this kind of terrain, can save a shed hunter from walking several miles a day. Having to walk 30 yards to check out something that may not even be an antler over and over again can lead to a lot of unnecessary exertion. To save yourself the hassle, make sure you bring along your binoculars!
Tip #4: Edge Habitat is Your Best Friend
During the winter months, deer are on the hunt for easy-to-find food which makes food plots, crop fields, and even power lines the perfect place to look for sheds. Not only are they going to be spending a lot of time in those specific locations, but also directly around them. No, not every shed is dropped in open areas like these, but looking in any place where the deer are spending a lot of time during this time of year can’t hurt.
Tip #5: Just Do It
Don’t be afraid to lace up your boots and start looking, even if you are a newbie like me. Shed Hunting isn’t easy, but if you put in the right amount of work and strategy, you’re bound to find something. For me, it’s the perfect escape from school and city life. It lets me get back in the woods with family and friends. It helps remind me where I come from and why I’m doing what I do. It’s a great way to spend this late winter/early spring lull, and I highly encourage everyone to just get out there and give it a shot.
Now, we weren’t necessarily successful on this trip. We only found an old doe skull, but we covered a lot of beautiful ground. We saw a bobcat, which are just now starting to make a comeback here in Indiana, and we spent time together doing something we love. And you can bet that I’ll be back out there again this weekend!