- Chris Campanelli
Is Shed Hunting Really Necessary?
Photo by AmmoLand.com
Shed antler hunting. It is what all of the cool kids in the hunting industry are doing these days.
More hunters than ever before are putting on their hiking boots and hitting the field throughout February and March in search of deer antlers. We have all come across the epic photos of our favorite outdoor personalities posing with huge sheds or a truck bed full of them.
But is shed antler hunting really necessary? If you are not shed hunting, are you falling behind those who are?
Pinpointing the reasons why so many hunters live to shed hunt in the late winter and early spring could yield some answers to those questions.
Believe it or not, those diehard shed hunters are out there for more than cool antlers to pile around their fireplace. There is a lot to be learned from shed hunting. There is also no reason to panic if you don't shed hunt or if you are not finding piles of antlers.
To be upfront and honest, hunting for and finding sheds is always going to be better than not. At the most basic level, finding sheds means that you have buck whitetails in your area. Most of us are hunting for bucks, but not everyone is. That is part of what makes hunting so cool. You can be a rack-hunting trophy seeker, a freezer-filling meat hunter, or a combination of both.
At a deeper level, those diehard trophy hunters who really live for shed hunting season are seeking more information about specific deer. A lot of these guys are the ones who can name just about any buck on their property. For that style of hunter, shed hunting is an absolute must.
Finding that big shed from the upcoming season's top hit-list buck can tell you just as much as trail camera pictures will in the summer and fall ahead. Shed antlers leave an indisputable trail of information on the whereabouts of whitetails. They can also confirm whether that target buck survived the winter.
Picking up a big shed in a certain area can either confirm or reshape what you know about that target buck. Maybe you thought that giant buck was bedding on the neighbor's property but you find his shed in the middle of your property. That shed antler find may be one of the key pieces of information that helps to shape a successful strategy in the fall.
At the exact same time, shed antlers are far from the tell-all piece of scouting information that they are often painted to be.
Most hunters would trade that very cool piece of bone in the spring for actual trail camera pictures of big bucks rolling through our hunting spots in the fall. It's important to put shed hunting into perspective despite the fact that it can be extremely valuable in providing information. Shed antlers do not tell the entire story.
We recently made a post that chronicled how not finding sheds does not always spell doom once the hunting season arrives. Finding sheds is always going to be better than not, but we explained how certain properties are great during deer season but not so much during shed season.
If we put all of our eggs into the shed hunting basket, we are only getting half of the story. That underscores the importance of implementing a full-scale scouting regiment to become a successful whitetail hunter.
Shed hunting absolutely adds a major piece to the puzzle in trying to kill big whitetails, but shed hunting is just one aspect of the puzzle. Reaffirming what you learn in shed season is the big key to this story.
Finding a pile of sheds in March is great. Any hunter who can collect several sheds in their hunting area is going to be well on his or her way to putting an arrow or a bullet in a big whitetail. But you still need to reaffirm that positive piece of scouting information throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall.
Remember that shed antlers do not fill freezers or make beautiful trophy mounts on the wall. They look awesome sitting around the den, but what happens when that pile of sheds turns into a slow summer and early fall of trail camera pictures? What if your property is the place to be when deer drop their antlers in February or March but your neighbor's property is the hot spot in the fall?
Relevant scouting is always going to be preferable to scouting done seven months away from the actual season. Meaning that actually glassing a big buck in your field with your own eyes or obtaining a trail camera picture in late September is going to be more valuable than a pile of sheds in March.
With all of this being said, do not take this as the ticket to sit out of shed hunting season by any means. You should be implementing that well-rounded scouting effort for best results. Shed hunting is definitely a piece of the puzzle.
Confidence from collecting sheds around your property can be a huge reason in and of itself. It's much easier to invest your time, money, and effort into your hunting spot over the summer and into the fall if you have a reason to. Knowing that your spot is home to a big buck or two can provide you with motivation for the off-season.
Let us not overlook the alternative fact that shed hunting is just plain good for the hunter. It gets you out and about during a period of the year that would otherwise be very dull in the outdoors. Being out and about on your property also gives you a chance for in-depth scouting that was not possible when you were walking on eggshells during deer season.
In closing, shed hunting is not exactly necessary. Finding a pile of sheds may place you no closer to that trophy of a lifetime than the hunter who spent February and March in his recliner. Eyes-on-deer scouting information ahead of and during the hunting season is always going to be preferable.
Shed hunting is also a must if you want that extra piece of information about the deer that you pursue. It gives you that extra piece of information that could put you over the top in targeting a specific and mature whitetail buck.
Shed hunting is good, clean outdoor fun that keeps you in shape while obtaining information about the deer we pursue all season long. You don't have to do it by any means, but you probably should give it a shot.
Shed season is one of the few periods out of the year where we can intrude on those no-go zones in search of more information.