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When we needed to swing the line to make a bend or if one side got slowed down by difficult terrain (remember those kudzu washes) the wingman would tell the point man by radio to slow down until the line was straight again.
The number one rule before beginning your antler hunting adventure is to be sure of the state regulations about gathering or keeping them. Just like with hunting, where you never look for an entire animal, while antler hunting, don’t look for an entire antler. If you are into horseback riding, hunting antlers can be a great way to spend the spring days; however springtime riding in the mountains can be very dangerous.
Finally, always carry a camera with you and keep it in your pocket or another easy place to access. If you find a single side, start searching in a 100-yard radius and work the area out from there. Sheds that you find will give you a good idea of what caliber of bucks are in the area and what survived last falls hunts.
Practice ethical shed collecting when out on the winter range- do not push or put unnecessary pressure on the animals. A successful shed hunt requires a lot of patience, a sharp eye and the ability to cover plenty of ground.
March is also an ideal time to search for antlers because the under growth which is waiting to explode will typically hold off until April – which bring with it poison ivy and ticks!
Including the kids in the hunt for antlers is a great chance to spend time with the young’uns and teach them about being in the woods. This is the perfect opportunity to spend time with your kids in the woods, make it an adventure!
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While our television stations show hunters in the great Midwest walking through plowed fields and picking up 150” antlers, that is certainly not likely in the thick brush of the southeast. Annually, I will spend the January and February months wandering through my property looking for sheds. It’s exciting to find a shed from a buck that may have given you the slip during the season. I often make this a family affair offering some reward to my children for every one they find. As hunters we are always looking for an excuse to be out in the woods, and if small game hunting isn’t your thing, get out there and walk your property looking for sheds, you will learn your property intimately, and learn a lot about the deer you are hunting by knowing where they bed, feed and spend their days. Receive weekly updates on new listings and price-reduced properties, and our periodic Evidence of Success updates. Shed hunting can be challenging and fun, but more importantly, it’s a special way to spend time with your kids. I will never forget my middle son’s reaction when he walked up on his first matched set of antlers.
Through my many parenting mistakes, I’ve learned it’s best to have some sort of strategy when shed hunting with your kids. Walking together for an entire day can provide insight into your kid’s lives that otherwise might have remained unseen. Kids like excitement, so while it’s easy for us to get focused on finding the next big piece of bone, don’t forget to make this an exciting time for your kids. From the time my boys and I leave the truck until we return, I’m looking for any sort of oddities. While we’re walking, I’ll tell them where Indians camped, why bucks make rubs, or point out certain kinds of trees. Part of the adventure may include, “Guys, check out these tracks.” Then I’ll ask, “What kind of tracks are those?” If they get it right we move on.
That ‘one more mile’ mentality can create a negative experience until the son or daughter isn’t interested in shed hunting with you next time. This may sound like a rant, but if we can afford to have good hunting gear, then our kids deserve to have quality shoes. A few intrepid souls choose to live out of the belief that hunting is a lifestyle as much as it is a season. Some call us passionate, others call us obsessed, however you define us, we are individuals who live the outdoors 365 days a year. 365 Whitetail was born out of a deep conviction that season’s change, but the dedication to train, prepare and plan every day of the calendar year should not. Here you will find hunting tales, tips and techniques for those who share the same belief; that for some - There is no off season. I hunt in West TN and am always wanting to learn about this area more and what type of deer others are growing!
I went with my buddy Isaac, and we found over 20 elk sheds, 14 of which were worth keeping.
Since shed antler hunting has become extremely popular and competitive over the past few years, a few people have taken it to the extreme. Smaller day packs might be easier to maneuver with and be more comfortable, but try strapping 50 pounds of antlers to a daypack and hiking around. Personally I wear clothes by Sitka Gear during fall hunts, all spring while antler hunting and basically any other time of the year I am out hiking.
They like the high, wind blown ridges and unless pressured by wolves or people, will scratch out a living there all winter long. When you are tired, it’s difficult to make yourself dig out a camera for pictures so keep it accessible. I have found that the bigger the bucks shed, the more often you will find the other side close. I was wondering if any of Popeye’s sheds where ever close to being a world record typical or is there too much deduction? While I stay out of sanctuaries, during shed hunting, I wander through them looking for evidence. It proves they lived through the hunting season and offers hope that it will make it until the next.
The quest for shed antlers offers parents a chance to pass on our hunting heritage to the next generation and is an occasion to make memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. Several times, while in the middle of a shed hunt, I’ve heard my kids say, “Dad, I’m bored!” Whether their little feet got tired, stomach felt empty or they were just worn out, some days they’re just not into it like dad is.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned across the years. Whether it’s colored stones (we actually found a large Opal once), arrowheads, buck rubs, old buildings, or some piece of history, I want to peak their curiosity. If not, we get down on one knee and teach them how to tell what animal the tracks belongs to.
Randy is currently the Online Editorial Director for Petersen's Bowhunting, Petersen's Hunting, Bowhunter Magazine, North American Whitetail and Game & Fish. Text, photos, and video may not be used without written permission of the copyright holder(s). About five miles into our hike, we stashed 6 of them for horse packing or another backpacking trip at a later date. When time is getting close for elk to be dropping antlers, I like to find a vantage point early in the morning where I can put my optics to work. After my fall hunting seasons end, I keep myself in shape, looking forward to the middle of March when I begin to look for antlers. Very rarely will you find bulls with cows after November and if you do, they will usually be smaller type bulls. A few years ago we lost a local young man when his horse went down and rolled over him on an icy slope. I have noticed on some that the antler is almost flat across the bottom and on others it sticks out and is rounded.
I’ve picked up sheds that actually have a hole in the base where the antler was attached to the skull.
Hunters have learned that by looking for and finding these sheds can be a great manner of spending time afield and to monitor bucks that made it through the hunting season. Granted, this isn’t hardcore shed hunting, but I do occasionally find a good shed, and actually get more excited when I find some that are rather small since they are more difficult to locate.
Also with the pressure mostly off the deer with the ending of the season, bucks will also bed near these food plots, so making some sweeps around the edges will usually benefit in the locating of some sheds. I will only make one pass through the sanctuary and look well then abandon the area until the next shed season. I don’t know of a better way to spend a day with your kids than stomping around in the woods. Although we are focused on finding sheds, these additional finds help to provide consistent excitement along the way.
Doing your best to make shed hunting an adventure will help your kids to both learn and have fun while being in the outdoors. Many places in the west have migratory herds, so finding a great pair of shed antlers doesn’t necessarily mean that bull will be within 50 miles the following fall. Some states now have actual antler hunting seasons, some have certain opening dates and some may restrict it altogether. It’s better to spot bulls from a distance using binoculars or a spotting scope to see where they’ve been feeding and if any are missing antlers. Staying in shape for me consists of hiking and snowshoeing, looking for mountain lion tracks, all the while searching out wind-blown ridges where bulls may spend the winter. Do not wear cotton clothing unless you are out in late spring or early summer and aren’t worried about the weather!
Downed timber and deep powder snow make climbing those slopes dangerous and almost impossible.
In deep snow conditions, bulls will often hang out near the bases of trees where the canopy has lessened the snow depth. Be extremely careful where you ride and look into the special horseshoes specifically for that type of riding. I have watched bucks drop one side, and glassed him seven day’s later still packing the second shed. If you know where a buck is before opening morning, the better the chance you will get him. He also had about 30 inches of non-typical points and this is the reason he would go non-typical because of all of the deductions it would cause. Regardless, it is great exercise and can be a good way gain further knowledge about your elk unit or other ones. Also remember to do your research and use your GPS and maps to make sure you don’t trespass on any private lands or parks.
If you are patient and wait for the bulls to timber-up and bed for the day, you can then go search the clearings where they’ve fed for the night, pick up whatever antlers are there without disturbing the bulls. Bungees are easier and faster to strap a load on and quicker to rearrange when you have to add more antlers.
If Isaac and I had been wearing cotton on our trip, we would have become hypothermic very quickly and been in a dangerous situation. Typically, mid-March is when they begin shedding, and it usually peaks around the first week of April.
Windblown ridges and south facing slopes are key places, especially if there is adjoining timber. Also, another thing I have noticed is when an antler is shed naturally, it will have more of the round bottom to it. If your terrain has some hillsides, deer will bed on the south facing slopes to gather the winter sun as fully as possible.
Lastly, when I find sheds of deer I never saw during the season or have pictures of it builds anticipation of finding him come fall.
The day started with beautiful weather, but by eleven in the morning it was snowing sideways, typical spring weather in Wyoming. Bottom line is, just like your fall hunting season, you should be physically prepared as well as have some areas scouted out. If there are cliffs on a south facing slope, pay close attention right at the base of the cliffs. The deer shedding later than normal may cause a shed that has a flat or concave bottom to it.
If he did not have the extra points, he would be a 220 gross and about a 210 net typical buck. Lord knows in many areas, wolves harass the elk enough; they don’t need us adding to their pressure at this critical time of year.
Larger, more mature bulls tend to shed first, with some smaller rag horn bulls carrying their antlers well into April. It’s worth packing snowshoes for 10 miles even if you only have to use them for a few hundred yards. Snow conditions change and fresh wind blown snow can make it look like no animal has been there all winter. In any case, enjoy your time in the field and again, please remember to not put undo stress on the elk.
The farther that bucks travel to and from feed and water, the farther apart the sheds can be. March and April, the key months for shed hunting can be brutal and unforgivable, especially at an elevation of 8000-9000 feet. This past weekend, snow conditions were so soft that even with snowshoes, we were waist deep in snow. I think the sun against the rock backdrop creates more warmth for the bulls, and fresh green grass sprouts early there as well. We ended up crawling with snowshoes on our hands several times to make it across really deep places.
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