It’s that sad time of year where you’ve received your last load of venison for the season, or maybe you’re going to bed with dreams and trail camera pictures in your head of the one that got away hoping that you’ll finally cross paths next season. So what is an avid deer hunter to do between now and then? Well, there’s always shed hunting.
Shed hunting gives you an inside look into your deer herd. You can cross-reference sheds you’ve found to your trail camera pictures to see if that buck on your list made it through the season, or better yet there’s a new deer in your area!
Before we get into some tips and strategy that we use to find sheds, let’s answer the questions of why and when deer drop their antlers.
Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
During the rut, a buck’s testosterone shoots through the roof as they chase does to continue their genetic line. After the rut is over their testosterone levels drop which activates a cell called osteoclasts. These cells eat away at the pedicle resulting in deer shedding their antlers. Not only does a buck’s testosterone level drop but so does their weight, towards the end of the rut and into the spring is a critical time to ramp up your protein and mineral efforts to replenish the herd and get them back to a healthy weight.
When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Deer drop antlers at all different times depending on where they live. Some as late as April in Texas. Some as early as late December in other areas. Extreme cold or even snow can shock your deer’s system to dropping sheds earlier. Your healthier bucks will shed their antlers much later than a weaker buck, with an injured deer shedding their antlers the earliest.
Where Can I Look for Sheds?
“My strategy is to find areas where I think deer are jumping fences or in and out of protein feeding stations at that time of the year. When you can find those kinds of places the deer often drop their antlers when they land after the jump.” – Wade Middleton
Wade said it best, fences and feeding areas are where you’re going to most likely have the best chances of finding sheds. With antlers being weak, that shock of landing on the ground from jumping may just be enough to jolt that antler loose.
Game trails and heavy brush are key places to look after you’ve searched the fence lines and feeding areas. The thick brush can beat on those antlers over time until they fall off as the buck travels from it’s feeding source to their bedding area.
Bedding areas are another good place to look for sheds but we recommend not checking these areas until you know that they are dropping because you may bump those deer into a neighboring property before they are ready to drop. So grab your hiking boots or jump into your ATV and Side-By-Side and start searching!
I Have a Pile of Sheds, Now What?
There are plenty of things you can do with your sheds once you’ve got a nice pile going. Some use it to decorate their home by making furniture out of them or just hanging them on the wall with a mount, or coffee table as a talking point for when guests come over. Sheds can also be sold to aforementioned furniture makers but unless you have A LOT or sheds or a massive set you’re probably not to going to make that much. Check out the Antler Price List for 2020 here.
We like to find a nice set of medium size antlers and use them for rattling come next season. Sure there are rattle bags and other types of synthetic rattling tools, but nothing beats the sound of a pair authentic antlers attacking each other to get the big boys running.
There are individuals who reward their dogs with a recently found shed as a prize to chew on. If you decide to do that we recommend you take the proper steps to make sure your loyal pup enjoys his prize safely.
Happy Shed Hunting!