The old cliché of looking for a needle in a haystack can seem to ring true with shed hunting, but you’ll pick up more antlers by starting your search in high-odds areas. Food sources are great locations to find sheds, according to Dwayne Jones, community manager of Shed Season (shedseason.com), a website that lets shed hunters share their finds.
“Look for the food,” Jones said. “Regardless of where you live, you’re going to find the bucks where you find the food source.”
In Jones’ home state of Indiana, that often means bean fields, standing grain or cover crops like tillage radish. It might be something different in your area, but finding the best food means finding shed antlers, too.
Another tip is to avoid shed hunting too early, particularly during mild winters, when many bucks will carry their antlers into mid-February.
“First and foremost, stay out until the antlers are actually on the ground,” Jones said. “If you’re on social media, it seems like everyone else is finding sheds. If you’re running cameras or monitoring deer, it’s best to stay out until you see that bucks are shedding. If you’ve found the spot and you’ve got the food, the antlers will be there. We don’t get crazy into it until about the first of March.”
Walking large fields or combing big stands of timber can seem daunting, but Jones recommends shed hunters focus on transition areas.
“Walk the edges,” he said. “Fields where they meet the taller grasses; the edge of the timber, the edge of the CRP. They’re creatures of the edge.”
Probably the first bit of advice anyone ever gets about shed hunting is to look where deer jump a fence. Jones laughed at the idea, admitting that he’s never actually found a shed at a fence crossing. Still, he said the concept is sound. The impact from jumping can knock an antler loose, so it makes sense to check crossings near fences, but also where deer jump creeks or ditches. Any obstacle a deer has to go over or under could knock off an antler.
“It’s worth taking the extra steps to check those,” he said.
Jones is always thinking about shed hunting and even plans shed hunting strategies while he’s deer hunting.
“Pay attention to fall sign while you’re out and about for the upcoming (shed) season,” he added.
The best time to shed hunt is any time you can, but if he had his choice, Jones would pick a cloudy day.
“Try to focus on overcast days,” he said. “Try to walk with the sun at your back. If it’s sunny out and you have the sun in your face, it can be nearly impossible to see sheds.”
When you do finally pick up an antler, particularly if it’s a nice one, naturally you’ll want to match it up. Sometimes antlers fall off together, but it’s rare.
“A lot of times if I find an antler I’m going to start walking circles around it,” Jones said. “That has been the best way that I’ve found (to find the matching antler).”
A GPS or mapping app can aid your search.
“Turn on your tracker and you can go back and see what you’ve covered,” Jones said. “The best thing is it will show you what you didn’t cover. Using a tracker can be a huge help.”
He noted that last year, he matched up a nice set by looking at his tracking device and finding the largest gap between his circles. That’s ultimately where the matching antler was.
Finally, keep a positive attitude.
“Don’t get discouraged,” Jones said. “There’s going to be times where you go days and don’t find a shed, but there could still be one laying just around the next bend or behind the next tree.”