Turkey Hunting Checklist | Preseason To-Do List

Preseason Turkey Hunting Checklist


Spring is knocking on our doorstep and all around the Country the clock is quickly winding down to opening day.  Spring turkey hunting requires a level of preparation that would rival any other game animal.  From the time spent scouting turkeys and practicing with your favorite turkey calls, to putting in the offseason work to ensure that the habitat on your farm is the best it can be, the argument can be made that turkey hunting is a year-round activity. By mid-March the gobblers are already starting to become vocal, which as you know will get any red-blooded turkey hunter’s heart pumping! As the season continues to inch closer and closer, now, during the preseason, is the time to begin to review your turkey hunting checklist and ensure that you are ready to go come first light on opening day.


Turkey Hunting Checklist | Preseason To-Do List

When it comes to managing habitat for wildlife, there really is not a defined “off season”.  Instead, the year is typically broken into two periods, “hunting season” and “not-hunting season” for lack of a better term.  This trend certainly holds true for those dedicated turkey hunters who do their best to manage the habitat on their properties to specifically benefit wild turkeys.  One of the best attributes of 99% of all hunters is their passion for conservation, and the desire to give back to nature.  So when the season comes to an end, the work to ensure that the turkeys on your property have what they need to survive and produce more turkeys for next season begins.

Create the Draw | Food Plots for Turkey

Spring turkey hunting is all about creating opportunity, and one of the best ways that a turkey hunter can do this is by installing a spring food plot.  Aside from the entire suite of habitat management practices that you can complete (timber stand improvement, brush management, prescribed fire, etc.) on your property that will help provide habitat for wild turkeys, installing a spring food plot can really be top of the list in terms of attracting and holding birds.  So when you start reviewing your preseason turkey hunting checklist, be sure that spring food plots are listed right at the top!

Planting a spring food plot for wild turkeys is relatively easy and typically very cost effective.  There are several species of forage that a hunter can install that will typically yield the incredible results.  Wheat and chufa are usually the two most popular forages that are incorporated in a spring food plot, however, clovers such as ladino or alsike and even alfalfa can all be great additions to your spring food plot strategy.  All of these forages provide an excellent food source for wild turkeys, both from the forage itself and the insects they attract and can typically require very little equipment when planting and maintaining the plots. Hopefully, you can already check “spring food plots” off your turkey hunting checklist, but if not, there is still time!  Species like wheat can be seeded quickly and with a little moisture can germinate and produce a forage base in a short amount of time.

Gathering Intel | Scouting for Turkey

There is simply no two ways about it, scouting turkeys is critical in the preseason.  If you were to poll turkey hunters, most would likely tell you that there is no amount of time that could be considered “too much time spent scouting”, granted you are not over-pressuring the birds.  While there certainly is no greater challenge than hitting the woods with zero information and pitting your wits against unfamiliar terrain and unfamiliar birds, the reality is we all want to know as much about the turkeys we are chasing as possible.

Success when scouting turkeys (finding the bird, noting the area, and recognizing his pattern) is typically the foundation of a successful hunt, and although many turkey hunters continue to keep tabs on the wild turkeys on their farm all year long, spring turkey scouting really begins to pick up around the month of March.  Hopefully by now you have had trail cameras running or at least an opportunity to break out your binoculars or spotting scopes and put your eyes on long beard or two, but if not there is still plenty of time.  By mid-March, gobblers will still tend to be grouped up, however, by early April they will have begun to disperse in search of hens.  Once they break from their winter patterns, wild turkeys can disperse over a great distance so keeping a close watch on the gobblers in your area is extremely important.

Calling All Turkeys | Turkey Calls and Calling

Likely what makes turkey hunting so exciting and appealing to so many hunters is simply that you are doing your best to vocalize and sound just like a real turkey.  So when you squeeze the trigger on your shotgun or let an arrow fly, there is an enhanced sense of accomplishment that comes with wrapping your tag around the leg of a long beard.  When it comes to turkey calls and using them in the field, there are likely many who feel as though they are best turkey caller to grace the woods since Harold Knight, when in reality they could stand to spend a few more hours practicing.


The point is, failure to break out your calls prior to opening day is often a mistake.  We can all use a little practice every now and again, and regardless if you are slate or box call kind of a person, you much prefer to break out the tube or mouth calls, now is the time to get them out and start tuning them up.  A side note as it pertains to turkey calls, the pre-season months are also a great time to go through your vest and organize your turkey calls.  Once turkey season comes to a close, many turkey hunters will hang their vest up, not to be touched again until the morning of opening day.  There is no worse feeling than reaching for your favorite call only to find that it isn’t where you remembered.  Take some time to organize your turkey calls in your turkey vest as it will help to stay focused on the task at hand rather digging in your pockets!

Fire in the Hole | Patterning a Shotgun

There is no doubt that patterning your shotgun is critically important part of your spring turkey hunting preparation.  It is also true that patterning their shotgun is something that only a small proportion of turkey hunters will do each and every year prior to the start of the season.  If you fall into this category, then now is the time for a change.

The unfortunate reality is that many hunters will just assume that their shotgun will continue to shoot the same as it always has a year in, and year out.  Most of the time, this statement will hold true, however, even the slightest change in ammo brand or shot size, as well as any changes or modifications made to your shotgun (new sight, red dot scope, etc.), can change how your shotgun performs and could ultimately cost you a turkey.  Aside from that, shooting a few rounds through your scatter gun (while wearing your turkey hunting gear) is just good practice and preparation.  It is always better to address an issue while there is still time to rectify it than to discover and issue while a gobbler is quickly closing the distance.  All too often, a shotgun can catch or hang on your clothing or vest, so taking a few shot down range while in full camo can really help tie up all the loose ends and ensure your confidence is flying high come opening day.


The same can be said for compound bows. This is especially true if you are planning to turkey hunt out-of-state. The bumps and scratches that go along with traveling can take its toll on a bow. Try and shoot your bow before each and every hunt to be sure it is still on point. Often times this means shooting your bow the night before a morning hunt. Remember to also shoot with your broadheads on to ensure the arrow and broadhead of your choice are on their mark.

Making Calls | Finding Hunting Permission

When it comes to hunting private land and specifically receiving and maintaining turkey hunting permission on private land communication is absolutely critical.  The more interaction and communication that you can have with a landowner not just during turkey season, but over the course of the year, the better your relationship will likely be.  It is important to develop a report with your landowners, and becoming a familiar face is certainly one way to accomplish this.

If you do happen to have permission to hunt on private land and you have not been in contact with the landowners up to this point, now would be an excellent time to reach out and make contact.  For starters, it shows that you value your relationship and are appreciative for the opportunity to hunt on their property.  Second, it ensure that if for some reason you happen to lose permission on the property or someone else happened to also receive permission, you now have time to develop a plan B.  In addition to contacting your previous landowners, now would be an excellent time to begin reaching out and making contact with any new prospective landowners and attempt to secure any new hunting locations…even if it means going out of state!

Turkey season is already taking place in several states, and will be in full swing in just a few short weeks in others, so if you haven’t taken the time to begin working through your turkey hunting checklist there is no time to waste!  Tag soup is a dish that is best served cold, so be sure you do your best to avoid receiving a healthy serving of it this season.  A little planning and preparation can really go a long way to ensuring that you start the spring turkey season out on a good note!

Learn More About Can’t Stop The Flop 2017


Prescribed Fires | Burning For Deer and Turkey

Burning For Deer and Turkey

“Only you can prevent forest fires!” Yep old Smokey at it again. That bear is the iconic image of fire. And who could forget Bambi and his father running through the flames brought on by man! Unfortunately these images have worked a little too well in supporting fire suppression, to the point where fire is severely lacking on our landscape. But fire is a part of the landscape, even the Native Americans used fire frequently to change habitat. These prescribed burns are different than those displayed by Bambi and Smokey, and when done right, releases a flush of new growth for all wildlife, including deer and turkey.

People are afraid of fire, and who could blame them? Every year it we see massive forest fires that burn up chunks of lands, national parks, homes, and in extreme cases people! But these wild fire outbreaks are due to the lack of fire…wait what… Confused? Here is an explanation. To start, prescribed fires are controlled burns that take immense planning and coordination between many people. These prescribed fires are set intentionally to reduce fuel loads on a landscape, say a forest or grassland, it burns off the vegetation. When applied to a forest, the understory and leaf litter is burnt up, killing some saplings if hot enough, not killing mature trees, and freeing new sapling growth. This done once every other year or similar schedule, reduces those fuel loads and virtually ceases any chance of a wildfire for occurring.

Native Americans had fire figured out like many things, when they burned, animals came… In forests the desolate black burn gives way a flush of new saplings, forbs, and thickets of blackberry and raspberry. Same is true for fields and clearings. Native forbs, briars, and grasses especially in planted native areas will burst out of the charred remains. What does this mean for wildlife? Cover and food! All that fresh food growing 1-4 ft. high and blocking the wind and sight from predators is perfect for both deer and turkeys. The fresh growth is browse and cover for deer while it brings in a multitude of insects for turkeys and cover for turkey poults. Some may think late winter/spring prescribed fires would destroy turkey nest, but during the right time you might get 1 or 2 nests if any, and the results do far more good than losing 1 or 2 nests.

The negative aspect from Smokey and Bambi was the embedding of the dangers associated with all fire. The one positive taken away from that past is fire isn’t a joke. Safety is of the utmost importance. Fire lines, water engines, plenty of personnel, communication, smoke management, notifying the fire department, and so much more are all important to consider. This means only professionals or experienced individuals should burn. Never put a match down without knowing fire, it’s an animal when control is lost. Study it, learn it, practice it, then love it! March is the perfect time to start. If you have never before tried a prescribed fire as part of your active management plan, this year might be the year to make the difference.

Article by Weston Schrank


Turkey Hunting | Planning an Out of State D-I-Y Turkey Hunt

Execution of a Successful Out of State Do-It-Yourself Turkey Hunt

Any hunter that has spent more than a few seasons consumed by turkey hunting has undoubtedly thought of an out of state turkey hunt or of hunting for another species of turkey. There exists a fascinating sense of wonder when it comes to thinking about out of state turkey hunting; the thought of new ground, different terrain, or possibly a different species of bird. Every state brings a different hunting scenario and often different hunting strategies for a successful hunt.

There are countless numbers of outfitters that offer guided and unguided turkey hunts across the nation, but the most rewarding hunts are those do-it-yourself turkey hunts on new ground. Planning an out of state do-it-yourself turkey hunt requires a dedicated amount of time and will need to be planned several months in advance to the season the turkey hunter plans to hunt. For the hunters hunting deer seasons that end in late fall, shortly after deer season ends, is the perfect opportunity to start planning the turkey hunt.


Photo: NWTF


Where to Hunt Turkeys Out of State


Before the turkey hunter can decide on what state they want to hunt it is important to consider several factors:

  • Is the interest of the turkey hunter to just simply hunt a different state?
  • Is it the intention of the turkey hunter to harvest a different species of turkey?
  • How many days does the turkey hunter have available to spend on this hunt?
  • What is the turkey hunter’s budget for this hunt?


To successfully hunt a different species, the turkey hunter will need to search the Wild Turkey Distribution map published by the National Wild Turkey Federation, and decide on a state that has a good population of the species they seek to harvest. If the goal is simply an out of state do-it-yourself turkey hunt, choosing one of the states bordering the hunter’s home state or within a day’s drive will give them more time to spend on the hunt. When deciding on a budget for the hunt, always consider fuel expenses, lodging, meals, license/tags and a small emergency fund in case something should happen in traveling or during the hunt. If the plans are to fly, the expense of airfare, baggage fees, and vehicle rental will need to be considered into the expenses. Traveling by air is often more suitable if hunting with an outfitter where the turkey hunter will not usually need to rent a vehicle, it is likely they won’t need as much gear and can travel with just the basics.


Once the turkey hunter has decided the state they want to hunt, it is time to do the research in narrowing down exactly when to hunt, where to hunt and familiarizing themselves with the licensing and hunting regulations of that state. Doing the research is the single most important factor in the fate of a successful hunt. The more research the turkey hunter does before the trip, the more time saved and the smoother the hunt will be.


Bone Collector Turkey Hunting Out-of-State | Florida

Florida has never let us down in the past and this year was no exception!


Always Homework to do!


Research the hunting season dates and licensing/permit process; if the permits are available over-the-counter or if it is by application, research the application process and the deadlines. All of this information can usually be obtained from the state wildlife authority website. Review the hunting regulations of the particular state where the hunt will take place for vital information such as the number of birds that can be legally harvested, the daily limit, any reporting or game check procedures, parking area sign-in, legal hunting weapons, and allowable gear such as decoys, electronic calls, blinds, etc. Every state is going to vary and it is the turkey hunter’s responsibility to know the turkey hunting regulations before setting out on the hunt.


Search the state’s wildlife authority website for harvest information, public land access, wildlife management areas, national forests, private land walk-in areas, and Army Corps of Engineers land. Keep in mind that when looking at the land information, search for larger parcels of land to hunt so options are available if the public land is heavily pressured. It is also beneficial to try to find remote areas where campers, hikers, bikers and/or birding enthusiasts can be avoided. Look for several choices and often finding multiple areas that are in close proximity is a good idea in case the turkey hunter finds that the property was not what they hoped for and need a backup location.


Once property is found that interests the hunter, they should contact the state wildlife agency, management officials or the state wildlife biologist to obtain information about those areas and request maps. These agency officials can be very helpful with providing a turkey hunter with bird numbers, harvest statistics, roost and strut zones on specific parcels, and possibly favorable hunting strategies for that area. Another good resource is contacting the NWTF Technical Committee Member in that state the turkey hunter wishes to hunt.


Scout From Home!


If the state agency was able to provide public land maps or wildlife management area maps, those maps will need to be used along with topo maps, aerial photos, and any mapping programs or apps that the hunter already accustomed to using such as Google Earth, OnXMaps, or MyTopo. Armed with these maps, getting familiar with the terrain, scouting for ridge lines, river bottoms, water sources, likely roosting and strutting zones will result in finding prime locations to hunt. It is also important to know where parking and access to the property are located. Many of the mapping programs and apps allow for the user to mark waypoints that can be accessed in the field, on a GPS or app, on a smartphone.  It is a good idea to always carry paper maps that have been marked up as well in the case of a lost device, no signal or drained batteries. Technology is the greatest ever, but only when it can be relied upon; prepare for doing it old school.


Use the mapping programs to find local towns for lodging, meals, and fuel. There are several types of lodging to search for: hotels, motels, bed & breakfast, local lodges, local outfitters, state park cabins, camping areas, and if a turkey hunter is lucky enough to own a camper, camp water/electricity hookups. Finding and reserving lodging, preferably in close proximity to the hunting location, is vital. When making reservations, it is helpful to know if they have an onsite laundry room, in-room refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and complimentary WiFi, if those amenities will be used.


The typical weather in the location of the hunt is important to know. A turkey hunter does not want to arrive in Montana, in May, with primarily spring green camouflage only to find several feet of snow on the ground. Nor does the turkey hunter want to take mid-weight camouflage to Florida for a spring Osceola hunt.  It is important to match your clothing to the hunt in color and in clothing style and weight. Finding the average weather for that state during the time you will be hunting can be researched online at websites such as U.S. Climate Data, a favorite weather program or app, or by obtaining information from the state agency.


Preparing For The Hunt


Having an idea of the type of terrain and the type of hunting to expect, whether it be long scouting hikes, run and gun hunts, blind hunting in high traffic areas or a combination of hunting styles, it is important to be physically prepared for the hunt. For security, it is often advisable to group or buddy hunt which also makes for great camaraderie; this is not always possible. If a turkey hunter is hunting solo, it is imperative to have basic survival skill tactics or emergency measures available. Some safeguards the turkey hunter can take are:


  • Know the local park ranger’s or game warden’s information.
  • Take a power bank with charging cable for recharging a cell phone.
  • Have a printed map of the area with waypoints marked on the map.
  • Have a flashlight, preferably USB rechargeable with power bank.
  • Carry a small First Aid kit.
  • Stay hydrated with water, Sqwincher Fast Packs and carry portable protein snacks in the field.
  • Take a decent sized cooler for food, snacks, water, and be sure to have enough room to bring your turkey meat back!



When deciding on gear, as a seasoned turkey hunter has a good idea of what they will need for turkey hunting. Adding a blind and blind chair to the packing list that is easy to carry is a good idea. It is better to have a blind available than to need it and not have it when finding the perfect high traffic area for an all-day sit or for inclement weather.



Out Of State Turkey Hunting Gear| Turkey Vest Checklist


When preparing for an out of state do-it-yourself turkey hunt, make a packing list and use it to ensure nothing gets left behind. This sounds like a trivial step but it is extremely important when hunting in remote areas where there will not likely be an establishment to buy a replacement. Starting with a good quality turkey vest that can be worn comfortably for extended periods in the field and has plenty of secure pockets ensuring that there is a place for everything. Fill the turkey vest with quality gear such as:




Knowing the terrain can lead to needing a different choke and ammo combination. If a turkey hunt is going to take place in terrain that will require longer shots, a tighter choke and extended range shot shells will be necessary. If the turkey hunt will take place where closer shots will be more prominent, it will be to the turkey hunter’s advantage to use less choke constriction, which will result in a wider pattern at shorter distances.


When selecting the perfect turkey decoy setup, the turkey hunter will want to be selective, carrying the minimum amount possible to remain mobile in the field. Use quality decoys for the best success.  Always carry decoys in a decoy bag for safety. On public land, it is not safe to carry the decoy or simply stuffing it into the turkey hunter’s vest where a portion of it could be seen by another turkey hunter and mistaken for a live turkey.




Upon leaving for the out of state do-it-yourself turkey hunt, the gear list should be checked and double checked, making sure that printed maps, lodging information/confirmation, and license/permit, if hard copies were mailed, are packed and making the trip.


Often traveling at night will give hunters the advantage of saving valuable hunting daylight for scouting and hunting. Upon arrival at the destination, a turkey hunter will want to get out and familiarize themselves with the area, so it is not unlikely to hit the ground running shortly after checking in. It is much easier to find parking and access areas and to get the bearings of the property from maps if the hunter will spend some time the first day or afternoon doing so; this can save a lot of time later. For better odds of a successful hunt, spend as much time in the field and hunt hard; success is often equivalent to the time and miles you put in.


From planning to execution, a turkey hunter can successfully execute an out of state do-it-yourself turkey hunt with proper preparation. Turkey hunting is definitely more about skill and strategy than luck. By doing much of the research from home, making phone calls, sending emails, requesting maps, building a contact list, securing lodging and scouting the hunting land from afar, a turkey hunter is investing in the success of that hunt. Do-it-yourself hunts require a lot of work and time but the rewards are boundless. Even without a successful harvest, often the experience is more rewarding than ever expected.


Turkey Hunting Basics


Beyond these helpful tips for planning an out of state turkey hunt, do you know the basics of turkey hunting? Check out the articles below as they just might mean the difference between a successful or failed turkey hunt!



Turkey Decoy Strategies




Shed Hunting the South Versus the Midwest

Shed Hunting Southern States is No Comparison to Shed Hunting the Midwest


The popularity of shed hunting has increasingly grown over the last half decade. The deciduous growth, often referred to as “White Gold,” provide land managers critical information in deer management, and hunters much more than just a trophy find. It has gained such popularity that antler sales have driven non-hunters to become shed hunters in search of extra income.
Shed antlers can help land managers keep abreast of buck inventory, herd numbers, genetic potential, as well as, nutrition, stress, and other important biological information for managing trophy bucks. For hunters, it offers critical information of buck movement and can provide helpful information for patterning and hunting next year’s trophy buck.




Why Do Bucks Shed Antlers?

Let’s take a look at the natural science of antlerogenesis; the growth, development, and casting of antlers. The photoperiod, duration of light in a 24 hour period, controls the secretion of neural and endocrine hormones. These hormones are primarily growth hormone which results in the natural growth cycle: testosterone, estrogen, prolactin, calcitonin, melatonin, and parathyroid hormone.
The antler growth begins from the pedicle, a growth plate on the skull. A buck’s first antlers begin growing when he reaches the age of one year old, depending on the buck’s actual birth month in comparison to the timing of the seasons. During this growth stage, which usually lasts about four months, the antlers are covered with velvet full of blood vessels to feed the growth. Antlers are primarily phosphorus and calcium and can grow an average of ¼” per day. The growing antlers are very sensitive during this growth stage. As the photoperiod shortens, testosterone levels rise and result in the blood vessels closing and the antlers begin to harden, known as the mineralization stage. The velvet dries from the lack of blood supply and sheds from the antlers. At this point, the buck’s testosterone level is at its peak, preparing the buck for rut and breeding.


shed-hunting-the-south_pic2The hard antlers remain on the deer through the peak of breeding. After breeding season, testosterone levels begin to decrease which causes an abscission zone to form between the pedicle and antler. This abscission results in an erosion that causes the antler to separate and fall off. Usually, both antlers fall off at the same time or very close in length of time. It is not unusual for one side to be held for a day or even up to several weeks. In correlation to the amount of energy expended during the rut, older, heavier antlered bucks typically shed earlier than younger bucks.

When Do Bucks Shed Their Antlers?

In Northern regions, antlers typically start to shed in January and into February whereas in the southern regions, shedding in some areas may start in January but can occur as late as April in other areas. Again, the casting of antlers is in direct correlation with the timing and completion of the rut as it affects the buck’s hormone levels.
The timing of antler growth and shedding varies dramatically among the northern regions, southern regions, and Midwestern regions, with the southern states starting the growth cycle much later than northern and Midwestern states. This is due to the fact that the rut is much later in the southern states. In the natural course of survival, breeding is synchronized so that fawns are born during a time period that maximizes their chance of survival in direct correlation with adequate forage for optimal milk production of lactating does. The mild climate of the southern region’s fall and winter season provides adequate forage and food sources resulting in fawn having a larger survival rate. This fact results in a variation of the actual time and duration of the rut for the area.



Best Places to Find Sheds?

Understanding what to expect region to region, it is important to focus on areas most likely to find sheds. The adage holds true to look for sheds where deer spend the most time; around feeding/water sources, mineral sites, travel corridors, and bedding areas, for the highest success. Other areas that are proven for finding sheds are those areas where bucks have to duck or jump such as creeks, fences, ditches roads, thick overhanging branches, and thick privet shrubs on travel corridors. Shed hunting doesn’t only take patience and a lot of walking/hiking, it takes a good method for visually sweeping the ground and the knowledge of where to look. Some hunters incorporate the use of shed hunting dogs with much success of traveling more ground and finding more sheds.

Shed Hunting in the South

Shed hunting in the south is no comparison to shed hunting the trophy producing states of the midwest. Several factors make the odds of a successful shed hunt in the south very slim.

The mild southern climate, dense forest, vast pine plantations, abundant forage, managed and planted green fields make for quality deer habitat resulting in bucks not having to travel an extended range for necessities. In turn, while the browse is plentiful, finding possible shed locations are not concentrated to small areas.


In colder climates, concentrating on warm south-facing hills, for deer bedding makes for good shed locations. This doesn’t apply to deer behavior in the south because of the milder and often high-temperature averages. Not to mention that the southernmost states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi are predominantly flat land with some mild hills, therefore, bedding locations are often spread out in low traffic areas or sanctuaries locations on the property.
Finding shed antlers is a challenge in the south when you are trying to beat the feral hogs, fox, coyotes, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, rats, mice and other rodents that find them, chew and ingest the antlers. Cast antlers are sought out by these animals and rodents because the antlers are primarily protein, calcium, and phosphorus, and trace amounts of other minerals. It is not unusual to find smaller antlers in trees where squirrels have carried them up the tree for safety while dining on the mineral laden meal.
Several southern states have multiple rut peaks throughout the state making it hard to plan shed hunting trips without actively being ready to hit the woods at the first sign that bucks have started dropping their antlers. For instance, in Alabama, the northern region of the state may experience rut in late November, the west region will see rut action in early December, whereas the east region may experience rut in late December, but the southern region will experience rut late January into early February. In Alabama and Florida, it is not unusual to see rut activity around the time some hunters start scouting for turkey prior to the March turkey season opener.



Another deterrent for many shed hunters is the abundant population of poisonous snakes in the south, primarily rattlesnakes and timber rattlers. Depending on the average weather, these snakes can be active as early as March in many southern regions.
Some areas that seem to be prime spots in some northern and Midwestern states are impossible to travel in southern states, such as fence lines. Walking fence lines in many southern states can be nearly impossible because of the abundant growth of privet shrubs, briars, dewberry/blackberry bushes and other vines that grow rampantly.

Shed Hunting Tips for the South

Although the odds are not as high in the south to find the number of sheds found in the trophy producing states of the Midwest, it is not entirely impossible to find sheds in the southern states. Some regions in the southern states with good herd numbers and some areas that have strict deer management principles are prime areas. Here are some tips you can use to raise your odds:

Use game cameras:

  • to help in giving an indication as to when antlers start to drop
  • to keep inventory on the bucks held on the property
  • to pattern travel routes they use after hunting pressure is removed from the property


Plan large blocks of time to walk your property in search of sheds:


  • walk fence lines and creeks, if you can
  • search bedding areas
  • take your time working through thick areas dense in privet shrub, brush, briars, and bushes
  • concentrate on looking for the color and shape of antlers
  • glass fields from higher ground, if possible
  • food plots, green fields, feeders and mineral sites
  • check bedding areas, but only spend a minimum of time there
  • when you find one shed, look close by for the other one, usually within 75-100 yards
  • walk slowly looking at the ground within 10-20 yard zone scanning from side to side, don’t look too far out



What to bring:





An important fact to remember is that the impact of human pressure on the property can negatively affect deer behavior. It is imperative to keep pressure off the property until you know there is good probability or know that bucks have started shedding antlers. Taking advantage of wireless game cameras such as the Bushnell Aggressor Trail Camera is a huge advantage to knowing when bucks start casting antlers on the property you plan to shed hunt on and keeping pressure off the property.
Just recently, Utah enforced a shed antler gathering ban during the remainder of the winter months to help reduce the stress on deer, elk, and moose to help these species thrive through the winter months. There may be regulations put in place or that change in other states in the near future; always research and know the game laws and regulations in the state you plan to shed hunt. Here is an article that could help!


Shed Hunting Dog Training | How to Train your Dog to Shed Hunt

How To: Shed Hunting Dog Training


If you’ve hunted for shed antlers in the past, you know how difficult it can be. Often times it requires the right conditions, a good number of friends or family members, and a considerable amount of leg work to find any at all. Luckily for us, man’s best friend is also a shed hunter’s best asset! All it takes is a little shed hunting dog training to equip almost any dog with the right mindset to hunt down more shed antlers than you could ever stumble upon on your own…


Best Antler Dog?

One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to shed hunting with a dog is, “which breed makes the best antler dog?”  While there is no perfect answer, the question you should be asking is much broader… Being that the shed hunting season for most of us only lasts 2-3 months at a max, consider the following questions before making any decisions about what shed hunting dog breed is right for you.


  • What do you want out of your dog during those 9-10 months you aren’t shed hunting?
  • Will they be a pet first and foremost? (Inside/Outside)
  • Will you use them as a retriever during the waterfowl or upland game bird seasons?
  • Will you use them to track and recover wounded deer or other big game?

In addition to all of these considerations, price, temperament, and space requirement should all be taken into account when narrowing down your antler dog breed options.

The simple fact is that if they have a good nose and a desire to please, they will make a great shed hunting dog. Fortunately for us, this describes most dogs! So, if you already have a dog you are considering training to find shed antlers and they possess these qualities, you’re in luck! If you are considering buying a new dog that is versatile and will make a great shed hunting partner, here are some great breeds to consider…

  • Labs
  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • Setters

How to Train a Dog to Find Sheds

Training a dog to find shed antlers is not hard! The secret is baby steps… Don’t just hide a shed antler in the woods one day expect your untrained dog to seek it out and deliver it you when you give a command. It takes time! Start with small successes in a controlled environment and gradually transition into bigger successes in environments where you have less control. Be patient and work at your shed dog’s pace. Before long they’ll know exactly what is expected and your shed hunting dog training exercises will have been a success!


Retrieving Basics

Start your shed dog training indoors. The idea here is to eliminate distractions and get your dog to focus on the task at hand. As your dog progresses and becomes more focused with age and practice, you can start to work them into environments with more distractions. The field being the end goal…

The first thing to work on is retrieving. For shed hunting dog breeds, the instinct is already there, but it’s up to you to bring it out of them by making it fun for them! For those breeds that aren’t naturally as inclined to retrieve, it’s ok to entice them with a small piece of food. It’s important to make every training session a positive experience for your dog. This, over time, will help them realize that this whole shed hunting thing is actually pretty fun!

On this same note, we don’t want to have the dog retrieve anything that may be harmful to them or cause them to have a bad experience. This is a common mistake as most people just starting out with their shed dog hunting training will send their dog out after a real antler and risk the high probability of that dog having a bad experience with the sharp points on that antler. Remember, a dog is soft and sensitive and making them retrieve something hard and pointy comes with a risk. To avoid this risk altogether, start with a balled up sock or a tennis ball and introduce the antler shape over time.


Introducing Shed Antler Shape

Once your dog has the retrieving part down pat, it’s time to introduce the shape and smell of an antler. Wait!! That doesn’t mean we just chuck an antler out there and send them after it. We still need to be careful to make sure every experience that dog has with an antler is a positive one. For that reason, this is where we introduce an antler dummy. The antler dummy will help the dog start to associate the shape of an antler with a reward. There are several products online for this purpose and are an essential tool for transitioning your dog into retrieving hard antlers.

Introducing Shed Antler Scent

Once your dog is retrieving the antler dummy for you, it’s time to introduce scent. Antler scent can be found online and is an essential tool to get your dog to associate not only the shape, but the smell of an antler, with a reward. When your dog is retrieving scented antler dummies on a consistent basis, it’s time to introduce the blind retrieve.

Blind Antler Retrieves

Now that your dog has a basic understanding of what an antler is based on the shape and smell, it’s time to make things interesting… This whole time, they’ve watched you either throw the object out in front of them or walk out and set it down where they can still see it. Starting back in a controlled environment like the house, have your dog sit… Either toss or walk out and set the antler dummy where it is just out of sight for them and give them the command. This is no different from the retrieving they’ve been doing except now they don’t know exactly where the antler dummy is. Over time, make the hiding places more difficult and move outdoors once they understand what is expected of them. Your dog is practically shed hunting at this point!! The key to improvement from this point forward is setting them up for success. Don’t give your dog a task they can’t possibly succeed at. The more success they have, the more fun it is for them and the more shed antlers you’ll find!

Once we’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to start using a real antler. Start to work the real antler into your training regimen until the dog understands that the antler and the antler dummy are one in the same. Eventually, we’ll work the shed dummy out of the equation completely and real shed antlers will be the only thing on his mind


The Real Deal (Shed Hunting with your Dog in the Field)

There is little to no difference between the final stages of shed hunting dog training and actually shed hunting with a dog. The only difference is that there may or may not be an actual shed antler nearby for the dog to find. For this reason, it’s a good idea to start in high probability areas… These include winter food sources, S/SE facing slopes, and thermal cover where bucks are likely to shed their antlers. On the same note, there’s no use hunting when there’s nothing to hunt. While your dog is still building confidence in their shed hunting abilities, hold off from shed hunting until you’re certain there are sheds on the ground to be found. By shed hunting high probability areas when the time is right, your dog’s chances of success are much greater and they’re likely to stay interested in the hunt!

Something else to keep in mind is that your dog will use his nose #1 and his eyes #2 ALWAYS! Work the downwind side of whatever terrain feature your shed hunting and he’ll likely pick up the scent long before he ever finds the antler.

Shed Dog Training Takeaways

There was a lot of information covered in this piece but there are a few important things to keep in mind that will make or break your shed dog training success…

  • Set your dog up for success. They learn by succeeding, not by failing!
  • Don’t let your dog chew on antlers… Ever! Give the shed value by only using it during training and praising him excessively when he retrieves it for you.
  • You can’t teach a disobedient dog to shed hunt… Make basic obedience a priority over shed hunting dog
  • Be patient. This doesn’t happen overnight…

Good luck, and happy shed hunting!!

Photos from Jared Prusia and his Brittany, Buckley

shed antler

Why You Shouldn’t Use Shed Antler Traps

The Dangers and Better Alternatives to Shed Antler Traps


Each and every shed hunting season, many die-hard hunters dedicate a lot of their spare time (including week nights, weekends, and even lunch breaks) to traveling the woods and looking for shed antlers. You’re probably one of them! While shed hunting, walking mile after mile is extremely satisfying and acceptable to simply find just one shed antler. However, in the pursuit of making the process a little easier and more consistent, some folks like to employ shed antler traps on their hunting properties. It seems harmless enough, doesn’t it? It’s supposed to only knock something off that would fall off anyway, right? An antler rack trap can definitely pile up more antlers than just walking through the woods alone. But there’s a dark side to deer antler traps that most people do not realize. If you currently use shed antler traps or are thinking about using them this year, you need to read on below.



Why Are Shed Antler Traps Used?

There’s a simple reason people like to use shed antler traps, especially around supplemental feeders: they work. In fact, that combination can be a dynamite shed antler producer. The feeder pulls them in to eat very regularly each evening. The more time they spend there, the more likely they are to drop an antler. But here is where most shed hunters get confused. The reason antlers might lay in abundance around an antler trap is not due to the antler trap design or construction…it’s simply because they were ready to drop and happened to be feeding on the bait when the antler was ready to fall.


While there are plenty of sturdy metal versions you can buy today, a common homemade antler trap involves setting fence posts or cattle panels closely around a feeder so deer have to stick their heads into the area to feed. They may bump them while eating, but they aren’t very likely to knock their antlers off, the reason why will be explained later. For now the take home point should be that antler traps obviously make it easier for a person to find shed antlers, as seeing that they usually involve a hundred pounds or so of deer feed and deer corn. With deer spending time feeding, the likelihood of finding a deer shed skyrockets…and since you have to refill the feeder every week or so anyway, you can simply pick up any antlers sitting around the vicinity! Since feeders are often located in areas where you could simply drive your Bad Boy Buggies® ATV or side by side up to, this is infinitely easier than walking miles of hills in the snowy terrain. It’s easy to see why people might be drawn to an antler trap feeder.


The Natural Deer Antler Shedding Process

Bedding and feeding areas are the two best places to find shed antlers because that’s where whitetails spend most of their days and nights, respectively. They also might lose them along travel corridors between these two areas. But due to probability alone, they are just most likely to be in one of those two areas when their bodies finally reach the hormonal threshold to shed their antlers. As they move around within their bedding area during the day, they may also bump their antlers against brush or the ground to jar them loose. Similarly, feeding deer are likely to bump their heads against the same things as they eat throughout the night. However, they generally will not hit them hard enough against these objects to break them loose before they are ready. What do we mean by “ready” and how do deer shed antlers anyway?




The Science behind Antler Casting


Bucks have two pedicles on their skull – think of them like the bases or seeds that grow a new antler each year. When whitetails eat your nutritious food plots and consume those wonderful minerals you place at mineral sites, their antlers grow and harden throughout the summer. But as winter wears on, their changing hormones as a result of photoperiod cues start to trigger the buck’s pedicles to dissolve minerals along what’s called the abscission line. As their bodies re-absorb the minerals, this layer weakens and becomes a little crumbly – this forms the roughly spherical base you find at the ends of your shed antlers.


If a buck gets his antlers struck or lodged in something too hard before this abscission line has dissolved completely the minerals (as they can do on the market’s many metal-constructed shed antler traps), it can cause a portion of the pedicle (i.e., a part of the deer’s skull) to break loose with the antler! And yes, breaking off a piece of their skull is basically as bad as you think it sounds. This can create grossly deformed antlers for the rest of its life, and that is the best case scenario; the worst is that an infection takes over their brain and kills them slowly.




So sure, you might find more sheds this winter by using shed antler traps, but you could also find a sad-looking buck carcass this summer in return. We’re guessing you don’t want that since you’re probably interested in seeing and hunting those hit-list bucks again next fall. In the end, the risks of using a shed antler trap are just not worth the potential rewards. Luckily, there are safer alternatives to help you find as many sheds as possible this winter without the risks. These also bring several other advantages beyond the trophy of the antler. Let’s look at a few options.


Better Alternatives to Shed Antler Traps

By choosing to shed hunt the old fashioned way and not using an antler trap you expose yourself to looking into different options and tactics. These tactics that go along with shed hunting season paint a more complete picture in regards to your hunting strategy.

Sheds, Deer Feed, and Trail Cameras


Using a supplemental feeder (without an antler trap) is a solid start to draw deer in and increase their chance of being there while they drop antlers. But there are some caveats. Feeding deer may be illegal where you hunt, so check your local wildlife regulations before you start. If deer in your area are unaccustomed to eating highly nutritious Big & J® attractants or even cracked deer corn, you’ll need to start them on it slowly. If you don’t, deer that are primarily adapted for surviving on winter woody browse could starve themselves by eating it. Their guts just won’t have all the microorganisms they need to properly extract all the nutrients they need, so it will essentially pass right through them without nourishing them. Start by introducing just 10 pounds a week or so and steadily increase the amount you give them each week. This should give them time to adapt to the new food source and survive.


Read more on feeding deer in the winter in the blog below



While you’re feeding them this way, the idea is to not only get them accustomed to the site but also to get them in front of a camera! By running a trail camera survey immediately after the hunting season you not only figure out which bucks are still around  but also when bucks are shedding not to mention a spreadsheet of information on your property’s  deer population! This can help inform future management decisions by letting you know the deer population number, age, and structure, but it will also let you watch as bucks feed to see whether they have dropped their antlers or not. Bushnell® wireless trail cameras will allow you to keep an eye on them without having to physically pull cards every week. Start with a week of pre-baiting and, in this case, getting them used to the feed. Then run the survey for two weeks by keeping the feeder stocked and taking pictures every five minutes. Plan on having one camera per 100 acres, which should give you a great snapshot of the deer on your hunting property.



Shed Hunting the Hard Way


At the end of the day, the best way to go shed antler hunting is to lace up the hunting boots and hit prime spots at the right time of the year. Nothing can safely beat walking through large bedding areas or winter food plots (e.g., standing corn or soybean fields) for finding shed antlers. Walking these areas in search of antlers essentially equals post season scouting. The information like rubs, scrapes, beds, runs, and high traffic in food sources are great indications into where to hunt come next deer season. This is especially true for the late season as most of the sign you are seeing is directly correlated to the last month or so. If you already have some of these spots on your property, you’re in luck. Start with the feeding areas to see what you find. You don’t want to charge into their bedding areas if they haven’t shed antlers yet, information that is available only if you are running trail cameras.


Without knowing and shed hunting early it could push them to bed on a neighboring property before they drop their head gear. And once they’re on a neighbor’s land, the chance of finding their antlers on your hunting property is about the same as your chances of winning the lottery. As far as when to go shed hunting, it’s really different for each deer because individual hormone levels are different. Many factors such as weather, injuries, and stress from a variety of sources can cause an early drop. But you are usually safe to start shed hunting by late February/early March. Technically, however, deer could shed their antlers any time from December through March.



If you don’t already have many bedding and feeding areas on your property, think about how you can manage your land to increase these types of habitats for next winter’s shed hunting. For example, could you plant conifers and native warm season grasses or do a few small clear-cuts to increase the amount of thick bedding cover that deer require in the winter? Maybe you could plant your own winter food plot or leave an acre or two of standing crops in an existing agricultural field to feed deer during the winter? If you lease hunting the land, you might be able to convince the landowner of doing one of these things too if you approach it respectfully. For instance, the timber harvested from a hardwood section may help pay for the money lost in not harvesting the crops, but be prepared to help offset the costs yourself if you want to take this route.

No More Shed Antler Traps!

As you can see, there are ways to find lots of shed antlers without the risks of using a deer antler trap this winter. Do antler traps work? Of course, they can, but for reasons beyond the trap itself. There are better and more informative options to find sheds while protecting those mature bucks you’d like to see again next fall from a tree stand instead of finding one dead on your property this summer!

Western Public Land Shed Hunting and the Laws

Western Public Land Shed Hunting and the Laws

Western Shed Hunting on Public Land | The Law In Western States


All outdoorsmen are familiar and most likely infatuated with big game seasons.  The season of shed hunting should be on that list.  Western shed hunting on public land is an experience of its own.  We spend hours of our lives, and as much investment as we can afford toward epic quests in the stand or on a mountain.  Many sportsmen spend their vacation time and many other resources around a chance at a coveted tag.  Whether that tag is for a general unit in your own backyard, or for a limited draw unit for a coveted species in a far off western state, one thing is constant…antlers!


Not all folks are trophy hunters, and the majority are concerned with the meat and managing game populations with the harvest of females. For the majority, there is no such thing as antler soup, when the realization that the tenderloins from a young cow elk are much more tender than those of a battle worn bull with gray in his mane.  However, any hunter could agree that the fact remains, a great trophy animal with a huge set of bone on his head is a treasure to behold and a memory that will last forever.


Before you pack up the chevy in search of public land shed antlers, be sure to give this article, and the laws surrounding sheds enough thought!



Nick Mundt, Chevy, Turkeys, and Sheds


Public Land Shed Antlers


The antlers of a seven hundred pound elk carried high amongst his harem measuring upwards of four hundred inches of antler are an amazing sight and miracle of nature.  The sun glistening off a powder white eight point rack of a whitetail chasing a doe past your stand on a cold November morning, his whole intention on that female and his guard down for only a short window cannot be easily forgotten.  A mule deer buck in all his ghost like tendencies, a dark chocolate rack with deep v’s of split beams towering high above his wide ears cast an impressive shadow across a sage plateau of a western mountain.  Finally, a giant set of spoons, set wide across the heavy neck and head of a giant moose, the largest of the deer family is at least unforgettable.


Imagine a one thousand pound animal carrying antlers weighing upwards of 50 pounds.  It is truly an amazing display of nature and biology.  While each set of antlers across these species is different and unique to the species, each has one thing in common.  This one thing has become a sort of craze, and set sportsman nationwide into a new big game season.  Elk, mule deer, whitetails, and even moose all shed their antlers when testosterone levels drop after the final female heat cycle.  Changes in the deer’s biology as a result of hormone adjustment due to photoperiods cause the antlers to be cast off (the process of shedding antlers).  As a result, the shed antlers lay in wait for some lucky shed hunter to come along and pick them up.



western-shed-hunting-public-land-laws_pic2Photo Credit: Rob McDonald


Shed hunting has taken the American sportsman by storm.  Looking for and collecting the shed antlers of multiple species has opened up into an amazingly popular hobby for many outdoorsmen.  It’s easy to see why so many are so excited to look for shed antlers.  First and foremost, finding a shed antler is simply cool.  It is fun to find something of value and meaning to you, to work for something and be rewarded!  Second, shed hunting falls between sporting seasons, big game, waterfowl, and upland are wrapped up, and turkey is still a month or two away when bucks and bulls start dropping their headgear.  This creates a lull for sportsmen, a chance to slow down and enjoy moments with friends and family.  This brings us to the final benefit of shed hunting, it is a great way to get outdoors!  Some folks strap on snowshoes to spend a sunny afternoon alone in the great outdoors in early spring.  Others head for the southern slopes of hillsides around farmsteads and ranches, with friends and family members spread out in a line all looking for antlers.  The season of shed hunting has gotten so popular that folks are even training their bird dogs to find sheds.  Whether you are trying to take stock in the remaining trophies that made it through the season, or just an excuse to get outside, shed hunting is a big deal.




The Law: Public Land Shed Hunting Out West


The recent popularity of shed hunting has gotten the attention of many state wildlife agencies, and the Federal Government as well. The resource of public land comes with great opportunity when it comes to shed antlers.  If you plan to try your Backwoods Old Dominion Boots out looking for sheds, be sure you know the laws of the area you plan to shed hunt.  Shed hunting, specifically western shed hunting as a season on public land, has its own set of rules and regulations.   It is not the wildlife agencies responsibility to inform you about the laws in their area about a particular season, so take it upon yourself to find out the law of the land before heading out looking for sheds.


The reasoning behind the regulations is not to somehow prevent people from enjoying public lands or to prevent sportsmen from strapping new antlers on their backpack or saddle.  The laws around western public land shed antler hunting are in place to protect the game animals and the habitat they call home.  The antler drop season is one of the most vulnerable for big game.  Most animals in the west have been pushed down from their summer ranges by snow, and moved to the grazing winter grounds.  A miracle of nature in its own right, large herds of elk and deer spend the plentiful summer seasons in high country pastures and meadows, stockpiling graze for winter at lower elevations.  These winter grazing lands become the spring calving ground before the high country snows come off with warming temperatures.  This is the place that trophy bull or buck three or four years from now will get his start.  Pressure into these areas, at this time, can mean devastation to the animals that are trying to survive here.  Hunting season, the annual rut, and the winter season have all taken their toll on the game populations that we cherish, and to do them an injustice of making the spring season harder than it needs to be for them is not sportsman like at all.


The rules and regulations are also in place to establish a base for Conservation Officers to work from when protecting the natural resources on public lands.  Carrying a deadhead (skull with antlers still attached) down from the mountain out of season could be cause for concern wouldn’t you say?  It is important to think of the rules and regulations from all sides of the table before getting in a fuss about the reasoning.  Antlers are valuable, in terms of satisfaction and trophies for the individual, but can fetch a nice price as well if sold.  This makes rules and regulation important to protect our public lands and the game animals that live there.


Western shed hunting regulations vary state by state, and even sometimes within a state by unit, or on federal property.


Some examples of these Western shed hunting regulations include:


  • Federal Property

NO shed antler collecting in any National Park.



  • Utah

USUALLY…Shed hunting in Utah requires an online course to hunt the limited shed hunting season between February 1 and April 15th. No deadheads (antlers attached to skulls).


*However, as of February 2nd, 2016 Utah has officially closed shed hunting on both public and private land until April 1st. Follow the link below for more information.




  • Idaho

Restrictions not found. No license is needed, call ahead to make sure as regulations do exist on access.


  • Colorado

Shed hunting in Colorado, certain units are closed from January 1 to March 14, and others units are limited to between the hours of 10 AM to sunset.



  • Wyoming

Many Wyoming units are closed to shed hunting, other units are closed January 1 to April 30.



  • Arizona and Nevada

Both Arizona and Nevada have regulations making it unlawful to retain antlers still intact to a skull, known in the shed hunting community as a deadhead.


  • New Mexico and Kansas

Both these states have regulations requiring a salvage permit to retain antlers still intact to a skill, known in the shed hunting community as a deadhead.


  • States with Bighorn and Desert Sheep populations

As a general rule it is illegal to take or possess the horns or head of a wild sheep without a tag.


western-shed-hunting-public-land-laws_pic3Photo Credit: Rob McDonald


The links provided here are current at the writing of this article.  Phone calls to several of the wildlife state agencies to determine rules and regulations listed here are to clarify their laws regarding shed hunting.  These laws can be changed or amended, and staying current with the regulations in the area you plan to shed hunt in is ultimately your responsibility.  To be sure, place your own calls to the department before shed antler hunting. As a good rule of thumb, do not take deadheads, antlers still attached to a skull, no matter the species or state.


Shed Hunting on Public Land


The purpose of this article is not to deter anyone from getting outdoors, putting some miles on a pair of boots, and enjoying the springtime afternoon sun on your face.  However, we do hope that when you head out with an empty pack, in hopes of weighing it down with heavy shed antlers, you take the time to find out what the laws are in the area you plan to hunt.  Western shed antler hunting is truly its own season, and any outdoorsmen should be excited to get involved in a season that allows them to be outside and hunt for a set of trophy shed antlers.


Firestone Tires Presents “The Roads We Share” Featuring Michael Waddell

Firestone Tires “The Roads We Share” with Michael Waddell

You know the story of Michael Waddell…or do you? The origins, the values, the stories, and the meaning behind an outdoorsman, all summed up in the area Michael calls home. Booger Bottom Georgia is more than just home, it’s the story of hunting foundations and traditions.


The story of Booger Bottom Georgia for Michael is not distant from the story of Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. The spirit of Harvey is ingrained into the Firestone brand and remains alive today, as evidenced by the brand’s commitment to quality and rich traditions. Over the years, his family has passed down what it means to be an outdoorsman and hunter, and now Michael shares those traditions with his children—similar to how the Firestone brand was built on foundations set out by its founder, Harvey Firestone.

Firestone: “The Roads We Share”




Outdoor Channel’s Michael Waddell grew up in an area of Georgia called Booger Bottom. Over the years, his family has passed down what it means to be an outdoorsman and hunter, and now Michael shares those traditions with his children—similar to how Firestone has been built on foundations set out by founder, Harvey Firestone.


#2: EXTRA MILES: Origins of Booger Bottom



Outdoor Channel star Michael Waddell has always called Booger Bottom, Georgia home. How did the area get that name? Michael reveals the history.


#3: EXTRA MILES: Tools of the Trade



Outdoor Channel’s Michael Waddell explains why Firestone tires are an important tool of the hunt, and why he counts on them to carry him to all his adventures.


#4: EXTRA MILES: New Tires


Outdoor Channel’s Michael Waddell shares his priorities = new tires, new wheels, and a new stereo system. #TruckStuff.


Want more content? Be sure to check out firestonetire.com, Firestone’s YouTube, as well as the Brotherhood Blog and Bone Collectors’ YouTube.



scouting for deer post season | Bone Collector

Tips on Scouting for Deer in the Post Season

Scouting for Deer Post Season | Establishing a Base for Next Year

Now that snow has finally covered some parts of the country, it seems winter is actually here. Unfortunately, its arrival means the end of many deer hunting seasons. Most of these are probably firearm seasons, since archery seasons are usually pretty liberal and open until the end of the calendar year or later. Hopefully your firearm season was eventful this year. If it was, these tips on scouting for deer in the post season will help you to stay at the top of your game next year. If you weren’t very lucky this year, then you really should hit the woods now when the time is right to learn as much as you can. On the other hand, if you’re still bow hunting, you can apply these same principles at the end of your season.

Take A Note:

Take these tips on scouting for deer in the post season with this thought in mind: “The most valuable information/scouting you truly have is the observations and data collected during the season”. While post season scouting directly after the season can translate into crucial information relating to the late season, it does not directly correlate to activity during the early season and the rut. Observations/scouting/intel is the most valuable to the time they are made.

While most hunters start scouting for deer to find new tree stand locations, much of this occurs in late summer, well before firearm seasons open. Because of the timing, deer activity patterns are usually far different from what they will be later in the season. While some of these patterns will hold true, it’s not the most reliable or current information to trust. That’s why scouting for deer, or writing down and keeping track of your observations during all parts of the year is important. For the purposes of this article, scouting for deer in the post season can help you find valuable information for next year’s late season. Let’s look at the what, where, when, why, and how of scouting for deer after the season closes!

Why Scout After Hunting Season? 

So why is scouting for deer hunting a good idea after the hunting season closes instead of before it opens? Well, it’s important to scout either season for the same reasons. Sure you might be running trail cameras during the off season, but by walking through your hunting area, you can learn a lot about deer and how they interact with the local landscape. You can find new tree stand locations based on the information you collect, which will help you tweak your hunting approach each year to be more effective.

scouting for deer post season binoculars | Bone Collector

But the real magic of post season scouting is that you can get real-time information about the deer you hunt. You’ll be following their trails and observing their habits immediately after the hunting season, which means you will know more about their patterns for next year’s hunt. It’s important to compare observations from pre-season and post season scouting trips so you know generally what they will do at the same time next year when they transition. While in-season deer scouting would provide information you could use to hunt deer in the current year, there’s also a high chance you could spook them out of your life forever.

Another nice thing is that you can wander anywhere you like without fear of spooking deer. In fact, you’re hoping to bump deer from their beds while you’re doing this, so you can pinpoint exactly where they’re located during this time of the year. If nobody can hunt them anymore, it doesn’t matter if you scare them off to a different property for a few days. They’ll have plenty of time to cool down (almost a year) before you hunt them there again, so it does no lasting harm.

When to Start Scouting for Deer 

Really, as long as you’re done hunting for a given season or location, it’s time to get out there and burn some boot leather. It’s ideal if the season itself is closed so you don’t interrupt every other hunter’s opportunities or inadvertently chase “your buck” to another property owner’s firearm blast. But as long as you can get out there and dedicate some time to walking the property without affecting your hunt or long-term success, that’s as good a time as any to do your deer scouting mission.

If you hunt during the late season or in northern areas, you have an additional advantage over early season or southern hunters. Late fall or winter deer scouting works so well because the cooler temperatures will have frozen wet areas, allowing you access to some remote swamps you would never want to step foot into otherwise. That’s often where mature bucks like to hide out. You also typically have snow on the ground to help with tracking deer movement. You can easily see where they have been congregating (e.g., feeding, bedding, etc.) or using specific travel corridors to get around. Additionally, the trees and underbrush are bare of leaves this time of year, which allows you to see further and find more deer sign without having to walk every square foot of forest.

The ideal conditions are after there has been a fresh snow of a couple inches. Wait 2 to 3 days to let deer move about on their daily routines, and then get out in the woods to track. The trails will be obvious to follow, and the snow depth is shallow enough to easily interpret a wide and long buck track versus a doe or fawn track.

What and Where?

In an obviously general sense, you should look for deer sign (e.g., tracks, trails, beds, rubs, scrapes, evidence of feeding) while you’re out on a post season scouting trip. But similar to pre-season scouting, you should also look for basic deer necessities, which include food, water, and shelter. Food sources are a good spot to start your search and might include food plots, agricultural fields, oak trees, apple trees, young woody growth from a clear-cut, etc. Water sources are more important if it’s still a very hot time of year or if it’s a drought year, and you will often find a focal point of deer traffic near creeks, rivers, or ponds. Finally, shelter gets more important as the winter rolls on and deer need to escape from winter winds. Good late season deer bedding areas can include dense conifer plantations, natural spruce or cedar swamps, tall CRP fields, or remote cattail islands. If you can find these areas, you should be able to find deer sign somewhere.

But if you’ve hunted the property a fair amount in the past, use this time as an opportunity to explore new areas. Focus on finding hidden or remote places you can’t normally access or sneak into without alerting deer. This might allow you to find a new mature buck bedding area or a cluster of white oaks that could rain down acorns earlier in the fall. Remote bedding cover and food sources are often targeted by bucks that try to escape hunting pressure during the season, and they are often used during daylight hours versus large agricultural fields. Your trip also might expose a travel corridor you would have never guessed that deer would use. Sometimes they will surprise you in the wandering paths they take just to stay out of sight.

How to Scout for Deer? 

There is really no wrong way to go about your post season scouting, provided you’re walking around the woods and learning something new about the area. But if you’re a little confused about how to find whitetail deer, you can start walking on a main trail or through a large destination feeding field until you cut a deer trail. It shouldn’t take long in most places. While it’s a great learning exercise to follow any deer trail (just to see what they do and where they go), you’re probably interested in overall herd patterns and buck movement more than following a single doe trail. Try looking around for a larger trail that’s well-used by several deer or a lone trail that has large tracks (3 to 4 inches across and 4 to 5 inches long). You’ll either follow the main doe herd to their bedding area or a buck to his bedroom, respectively.

scouting for deer post season trail camera | Bone Collector

Post season scouting is a good tracking exercise in itself and an opportunity to observe the secret habits of deer in the woods. You’ll often find their trail veers off to follow an interior forest edge you would have never even noticed, or they stop to browse on a certain type of tree/shrub more often than others. Keep an eye open for natural funnels or pinch points along the trail that would work well for an ambush site. Similarly, you should look for potential trees that would work well for your tree stands.

Eventually, you should be able to follow their tracks to a bedding area. If you were really quiet and stealthy, you could even get close enough to jump them from their beds, but there’s really no point to sneaking around the woods for this kind of post-season deer scouting. You want to cover as much ground as possible to learn the most you can in the shortest amount of time. When you do find a bed, take a moment to examine it closely and even hunch down to view the area from a bedded deer’s perspective. It might sound crazy, but you can learn a lot by doing this. Viewing it from their perspective might show you why they choose a certain spot (e.g., good visibility from the ground, cover behind and upwind of them, etc.). Loosely size up the bed to see if it’s likely a buck or doe bed. A buck’s bed will typically be alone, over 40 inches long, and may even smell like a rutting buck, depending on the time of year. A doe or fawn bed, however, will be smaller and usually clustered with other beds nearby. Take a look around at the habitat and surrounding cover. If a single buck chose to bed here, it’s likely others will do the same in the future or at other similar spots you find.

Don’t Forget the Cameras!

A big mistake many hunters make each and every year is pulling their trail cameras down days after the season closes. Don’t! Instead get some bait out in front of the cameras (if legal in your state) and wither run a trail camera survey, or keep tabs on your hit-list bucks and whether or not they have shed their antlers.

Post-Season Scouting: Don’t Miss It

If you’re done archery or firearm hunting for the year, don’t miss out on the opportunity to do some post-season scouting. You can learn so much about deer and their habits in the current season you’re hunting them, which will make you a more efficient and calculated hunter next year. Use the deer scouting tips above to make the process even easier.


Bone Collector SHOT Show and ATA Show Recap

SHOT Show and ATA Show Recap with the Bone Collector Crew

Show season is finally slowing down. The Bone Collector crew had a great SHOT show and ATA show, connecting with partners and checking out the latest gear to hit the outdoor industry! The crew made their way around the 2017 ATA and SHOT shows, making sure to bring you along on the most exciting products and news! Check out the videos and pictures below to see the highlights of the shows.


Live Videos

Over the course of both shows T-Bone, Nick, and Michael went live from the Bone Collector Facebook page. Below are some of the biggest highlights from the live video feed!

Outdoor Channel

Old Dominion Boots

Check out Old Dominion Boots!


Hawk Tree Stands

Check out the new Hawk Tree Stands!


Havalon Rebel Knives

Check out the new Bone Collector Havalon Rebel Knives!

Dead Ringer Bone Collector Sight

Check out the Dead Ringer Bone Collector Sight below!

Knight and Hale

Check Out Knight and Hale Calls!

SHOT Show and ATA Show Gallery

The crew was busy checking out the products and shooting live video, but they did make their way around the show floors to show you the most exciting products from the sponsors and partners. If a live video didn’t capture it, one of the cameras did! Check out the pictures below in the show gallery.