The Search for White Gold Begins
Photo by Grand View Outdoors
The hunt for white gold is on!
No, we are not putting on our treasure hunting hats and panning for actual gold. We're talking about that off-white gold that drops from the heads of whitetail deer across America.
Whitetail bucks drop their antlers anytime from January through March. Shedding the antlers they have grown for the previous year in exchange for a new set. Thus, we have the always intriguing "shed" antler, which spawned "shed hunting" season for diehard deer hunters.
Non-hunters or even moderate hunters among us may wonder what the allure of shed hunting really is. After all, there is no trigger-pulling or the heart-pounding adrenaline rush like you get when actually hunting deer, turkey, or whatever your favorite game may be.
But for some people who have an eye for those sheds peaking out in a dormant thicket or propped up against a tree, finding that antler can be just as much of a rush.
Shed hunting has really boomed in popularity over the last couple of decades here in America. As more outdoorsmen and women practice quality deer management techniques and really make hunting their way of life, they find more ways to get out and enjoy deer hunting. Even when the actual season is several months away.
For the hunter who is obsessed with the details and constantly on the hunt for information, shed hunting can mean even more. Finding a pair of antlers in a certain area can tell you a lot about that buck you're after. That shed can be another piece of intelligence that adds up to help you kill that big buck in October or November.
When you add up the rush of finding that needle in the haystack, the information you can garner, and the fact that shed hunting gets you up and active during the off-season, it's not hard to see why shed hunting has become a mainstay in the outdoor world.
Despite the fact that more hunters are chasing sheds than ever before, getting started shed hunting can be a bit intimidating. More so than being intimidating, shed hunting can be downright disheartening if you have some trouble finding that white gold.
Hoofing it for miles without finding any antlers can definitely turn folks away. Just like a good hunting dog, us hunters need a little bit of success as a reward to keep on going.
While successful shed hunting is far more art than science, there are some tricks and tips that can help you direct your efforts correctly.
So let's hit on a couple of tips that could point the discouraged shed hunter in the right direction. Because anyone who has ever stumbled around the woods in search of antlers has felt a little lost from time to time.
Timing is EVERYTHING
You simply cannot find shed antlers if there are none to be found. As long as the antlers are still holding tight on those bucks, you will be a miserable shed hunter. Miserable shed hunters inevitably give up.
Antler drop can vary incredibly across the country, and even in the exact same states and counties. You have to understand the deer in YOUR specific area. Better understanding can come from years of experience, utilizing a trail camera, or simply by scouting with your own eyes. A couple of unsuccessful shed hunts are to be expected, but hunting for bones when they are yet to hit the ground is a recipe for disappointment
Once you are comfortable saying that most deer in your area have dropped their antlers, it's time to actually hit the woods. While it's great to simply lock down a grid search on every inch of the property, there are better techniques to point you in the right direction.
Great shed antler hunters love south-facing slopes. Whitetails certainly spend significant time on south-facing slopes as they soak up that late-winter, early-spring sunshine. Making those south-facing areas a great place to test your luck. A buck settling into or springing out of his bed could be the ticket to knocking those antlers loose. This really boils down to a simple recipe of spending your shed hunting time where the deer are likely to be spending most of their time.
Somewhat playing off of the south-facing slopes point, finding the best thermal cover in your area is another tried and true tactic for shed success. Deer are looking for warmth at this point in the year, especially up north where temps are generally still winter-like. The deer are searching for warm sunlight and protection from the elements.
Thermal cover can be tough to find on many properties across America, but those who have it are likely in the best position. That goes for shed season and in the actual deer season. Finding a thick bedding area that shields deer from the bone-chilling wind and elements will almost always yield success. Granted that you actually have bucks in your area. Just make sure that you measure your strike on that bedding area or thermal cover. Jumping in before antlers are off could really jumble your entire shed hunting season, and it could alter the information you are able to obtain. We don't want that big buck shedding on the neighbors property when his actual home core area is on our property.
More Eyes, More Sheds
Shed hunting solo can be tricky. While none of us love to give up our secret honey hole spot, shed hunting is done best as a team effort. Bringing a hunting buddy along doubles your chances of spotting that shed hiding in a thicket. Two pairs of eyes are better than one.
As a matter of fact, some of the most successful shed hunting operations come by way of the group shed hunt. Those cool social media pictures of dozens of sheds in the back of a truck are likely to come after a large group shed hunt. If you can compile a team of shed hunters to grid your property, you could be in line to find a lot more bone.
Shed hunting with a dog can be incredible, and it may save you from having to bring that buddy along to your secret spot. Dogs are equipped with much better senses anyway. Just a little bit of training and work with your pup can create many years of memories afield. Your dog can utilize that incredible sense of smell and much better mobility to help you pile up the sheds.