It’s that time of year: Shed Season! If you’re anything like me you enjoy the challenge of finding the dropped antlers just to be able to put your hands on them, but there are a couple of other ways you can benefit from hunting sheds.
Next year’s scouting begins as soon as the antlers drop. Start looking for where your deer are dropping antlers and you’ll quickly discover where they are spending the majority of their time in the late season. Most of the time you are going to find them in their bedding areas, in their feeding areas, or on the trails in between…and those trails are often pretty easy to spot with the softer dirt and concentrated traffic. These will most likely be areas that they are only using once the days have gotten short and the temperatures have dropped.
You can tell a lot from a shed antler, especially if you’ve collected antlers from the same deer over several years. A mature buck’s pedicles (where they connect–and disconnect–from the skull) should grow with each year until they reach maturity. The variations may be slight, but if you put a tape to them you can see the growth. Also, study the mass from year to year, which also should be increasing. If you aren’t seeing considerable growth in either pedicle or mass development, it might be a clear sign that it’s time to make sure your deer are getting enough protein to help them reach their full potential.
Shed hunting is much more “hunting” than “finding”, which makes it a great excuse to get outside and put some miles on. I often set out in an area that I think will hold sheds and walk a methodical grid pattern to make sure I’m covering the ground thoroughly. That also forces me to walk the entire area, instead of chasing from spot to spot and missing a bunch of sheds …and the exercise that comes with trying to find them. Shed hunting is a great way to get started on your conditioning for the Fall season.
Even (Especially) with kids who are usually glued to their phones, getting out to look for sheds is a great way to spend some time together. It gives you the opportunity to talk to your kids about bedding areas, food sources, hunting techniques, and any other thing that you are hesitant to talk about when your trying to get them to stay quiet while actually hunting. I actually put a bounty of each antler, just to make sure they are actually paying attention as they walk with me. And with my kids, they become eagle eyed when there’s a few bucks on the line!
Shed hunting is one of my favorite times of year. I love spending time with my family in the outdoors, putting my hands on antlers that I’ve only seen on trail cameras, and burning a few calories in the process.