Enter your email to get the best whitetail deer hunting tips, big buck stories, gear reviews, and venison recipes in your inbox - plus store discounts and special offers from our partners. Shed hunting is fun and can give you some insight to the deer on your property, and what might be coming next season! Filming for our show, Driven TV, takes my wife Nicole and me around the world hunting and making new friends.
Shed hunting can be a family activity and, if you want to add a twist, a little competition to find the biggest shed! Also, look in secluded, out of reach places that a buck can hide and other hunters wouldn’t bother looking. The other way I think about location is by asking myself where will the bucks be during the shedding period? Where we live, the shedding period is usually a two-month long window between mid-January through mid-March.
For the most part, if a herd is healthy, the bucks should be dropping their antlers during this late winter shedding period.
With no snow, and a high amount of moisture in the air, sun-bleached antlers have their own unique sheen to them, allowing them to be easily found. Deer will spar, compete, thrash at the snow, and dig for a chance to eat a high-calorie meal. Other places to look for sheds are near crossings where a big buck might have to jump or scramble a bit.
I’ve completed matching sets by looking in bushes, near logs, on fences, and anywhere else a big buck can relieve himself of the annoyance of only one antler. When snow starts melting in the Midwest and Northeast, it’s a good time to locate sheds that have been covered up. It’s pretty easy to analyze the age of bucks younger than 4? by gauging their pedicle size.
Showing the beginner the ropes of shed hunting is a lot like taking a kid hunting or fishing for the first time. When I do find a shed, I leave it alone and call everyone over to get a good look at how it looks. Also, if I have a shed and know a hunter has killed that particular buck, I’ll give them the shed to help tell that buck’s story. I don’t just shed hunt to scout next year’s buck, I shed hunt to be outside, to breathe fresh air, to spend time with loved ones, to see the sun again after a long cold winter. With years of experience and passion for hunting deer and the great outdoors, Pat and Nicole Reeve now are sharing their knowledge and stories with you in their newest book, Trophy Whitetails With Pat and Nicole Reeve: Tips and Tactics from the Driven Team. As one of the most knowledgeable bowhunters in the industry, Pat has plenty of experience to pull from, including time as an expert videographer and renowned hunting celebrity and producer. Diagram of a growing antler tip illustrating the main anatomical regions.Adapted from Price et al. X-ray of cross sections at the antler base showshows the range of variation in relative amount of spongy (dark center) and compact bone.A) average composition,B) minimal spongy bone, andC) maximal spongy bone. Some deer antlers exhibit annual variation in conformation, and a deer's last antler set may be quite abnormal. Antlers from the same deer at ages 3, 4, and 5 years showing consistency of general conformation, annual variation in presence of tines (a), and abnormal points increasing at older ages (b).
I’ll never forget setting my eyes on that beautiful 3-point whitetail shed resting on the smooth gravel bar.
For years, even before I was working on outdoor television, I would travel all over shed hunting. It was both sides, fused in the middle with no hair in between, with a diameter of more than 10 inches. Where legal and with permission, I also like to shed hunt parks, public areas, nature reserves, etc… places that hold a lot of deer. Other stress factors could cause a buck to shed early such as a hunting season wound, a dry summer, extremely cold winter, and lack of food.


Without any external stress factors, the bucks will usually shed within a few days of when they did last year.
When my trail cameras, physical scouting, weatherman, or calendar say it’s time to look, I pack up my gear and start shed hunting. Deer feed so aggressively in the winter that the chances of them jarring an antler loose are highest at the dinner table. Deer love to sunbathe and will warm up in the winter by soaking up the south sun when given a chance.
Younger bucks with lighter antlers don’t seem to be bothered as much by this and sometimes may take weeks to drop both sides of their headgear. In fact, more often than not I can recall the exact location and conditions of each and every shed I have found. Once they have hit maturity it gets a bit more difficult, but also comes with unique rewards. It is important to set them up to be successful and make sure the experience is a positive one. I don’t take rookies to sparse places, but rather bring them into areas where I know there were plenty of deer during the shedding period. I have a trained eye to look for antler and tips and bleached contrast, and want other shed hunters to train their eyes to be keen shed hunters as well.
A good retriever of other breed of dog can learn to hunt sheds and really help a hunter cover more ground, saving precious time and energy. I do have a lot of “shelvers,” which means they are big enough to be displayed on a shelf at home. I was in an area that looked absolutely perfect, and was wondering why I hadn’t found any sheds yet. Let Pat and Nicole’s journey guide your own as their stories help form hunting tips and advice for your own experiences.
A) showing the rough texture due to attenuated spicules of bone, B) showing a line flush with the antler base, C) showing a line that would have extended from the base into the pedicle, and D) showing the likely effect of a brain abscess or bacterial infection (note dried puss at arrow).Photo Credit S.
Beneath the velvet epidermis and dermis of the growing antler is a thick, fibrous protective membrane, called perichondrium when it covers the cartilagenous growth stage and periosteum when it covers the boney stage of the growing antler.
It’s time to start thinking about where to look and how to find the antlers bucks have cast. Find Areas With Low Hunting Pressure: Shed hunting won’t be very good on heavily hunted areas because few bucks survive to drop antlers.
Find the Food: In winter, finding food can be more challenging after crops are harvested and after snowfall covers the ground. Look Where Deer Jump: Sudden movements caused by jumping or running can knock an antler loose.
Walk Slowly: You’re trying to spot an object on the ground that looks a lot like a cornstalk or a stick. Keep Your Eyes on the Ground: As elementary as this sounds, first-time shed hunters often focus too high, looking at rubs, licking branches or actual deer.
My old friends Tom Indrebo, Jim Hansen, Dennis Williams and myself would often go to Canada looking for big, chocolate colored antlers and literally find between 200-300 sheds in a week! I have also had the opportunity to travel the world in search of sheds from moose, caribou, elk, red stag, fallow deer, mule deer and whitetails, of course. Many people don’t bother shed hunting on public land because they feel that they’ll all already be picked over. While they may have some luck, it’s best to start looking for sheds at preferred food sources during the shedding season. My ideal shed hunting day would be an overcast, early spring day just after a rain has washed away the last traces of snow.
I use my high power Nikon’s to survey alfalfa fields, eliminating the need to pace back and forth in a field where there are no sheds.


During the shedding period, deer are in survival mode and do not expel any more precious energy than necessary. Many big timbers with no crop fields or creek crossings will collect sheds on their southern ridge slopes. Mature bucks don’t appreciate such a discrepancy in the weight on their head when one shed drops, so they will soon get annoyed and do what they can to get the other one to fall.
This is a perfect time to look for old rubs and scrapes, scout a few new potential stand locations, and start to create a game plan for fall.
If you were to ask Nicole, I’m not so good at remembering household chores, but I remember each shed vividly. Mature bucks really have a lot of unique character traits such as kickers, stickers, drop tines, and crazy twists. By showing someone what a naturally fallen shed looks like, I’m helping to show them visual cues to look for in the future. When you do find a shed, appreciate it for what it is; a unique, one of a kind trophy than no human has ever held before. Shed hunting is a super way to learn more about the property where you hunt along with enjoying the outdoors.
In winter, deer often shift from the areas they frequented in the fall to take advantage of changing food availability and winter cover.
Obviously you want to search your hunting area to find out which bucks survived hunting season, but if your goal is simply to find a shed, areas where hunting is not allowed can be even better choices. Coniferous forests are prime bedding spots because the dense cover blocks the wind and the branches catch the snow before it hits the ground, making travel easier. In winter, the southern exposure receives the most direct sunlight, so check the south face of a hill or the south edge of a forest. Sure, I’ll miss a few little ones here and there, but the majority of the time, if there’s a big shed in a hayfield, I’ll be able to spot it. After months of being cooped up inside hiding from the bitter cold, our bodies and minds are ready to reconnect with nature and get some fresh air. It’s proper etiquette to give the landowner all sheds collected on their properties, so many of my biggest now belong to others.
We had seen this buck wintering on Tom’s property and it was a race to see who could find it first. But you will also almost certainly be competing with squirrels, mice and porcupines, which eat sheds for their calcium. This Shed Hunting Collection includes the first book devoted entirely to shed antler hunting, which is a fully illustrated, 160-page educational tool that teaches readers how to find shed white-tailed deer antlers. Often, I’ve killed “residential” bucks within 50 yards of where I have found their sheds the spring before. The kids and dog have gotten so good that it is to the point where we arrive at a shed hunting location, and won’t see them at all until the evening, with tired kids, an exhausted dog, and pile of fresh sheds!
I’m reminded of that day every time I pass my china cabinet in our home where the shed proudly rests. I enjoy knowing that when I find a big shed I’m creating another chapter in a story that is still open, the story of that buck’s life. By standing in an open area, and slowly glassing the entire forest floor, I usually can pick out sheds among the leaves and twigs. Quickly I slammed the truck into gear and sprinted to my prize.  That’s still a really special shed to me. In areas where squirrels are not present, such as in farm fields, you can delay your search.



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