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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.
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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

 

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What to bring:

 

 

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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!

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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…

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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.

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  • 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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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?

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

https://www.nps.gov/search/?affiliate=nps&query=shed+antler

 

  • 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).

https://wildlife.utah.gov/wildlife-news/1804-course-required-to-hunt-shed-antlers.html

*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.

https://wildlife.utah.gov/wildlife-news/1989-shed-antler-closure-expanded-statewide.html

 

 

  • 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.

http://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/BigGame.aspx

 

  • Wyoming

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

https://wgfd.wyo.gov/News/Antler-shed-collection-closely-monitored-statewide

 

  • 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.

deer hunting

Nine Deer Hunting Goals You Should Consider for 2017

How to Develop Deer Hunting Goals

 

New Year’s resolutions are well under way across the country. At least that’s the idea, right? As we reflect on the prior year, it’s only natural to want to improve something for 2017. Whether it’s our health and fitness or something as specific as deer hunting, there’s always something we could do better. While the term “resolution” seems to always flop before we even see the light of February, goals tend to live on longer. For that reason, this article will discuss a few deer hunting goals you might consider for the New Year ahead of us.

 

Now you’re probably thinking how obsessed someone would have to be to actually set deer hunting goals. Isn’t the goal of hunting simply to kill a deer for one reason or another? Not necessarily. Sure, we all want to put some more venison in the freezer or hang a trophy buck on our wall. But there are many other reasons to hunt or ways to push ourselves harder in 2017 besides that. If you’re a passionate deer hunter who thinks about it throughout the year, goal-setting is a great way to achieve way more than you ever have before.

 

nine-deer-hunting-goals-you-should-consider-for-2017-pic-1

 

Setting SMART Goals

To have any hope of really achieving these nine deer hunting goals, it should be what’s called a SMART goal. This is an acronym to help you get the most bang for your goal-setting buck. If your idea hits all of the following points, it is likely a good one to pursue. If it doesn’t, try to refine it a little until it hits the mark. This isn’t just a procedure on paper either. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable to your goals. If done correctly, they can actually help you achieve them too.

 

  • Specific – include as much detail you need to make it happen.
  • Measurable – develop a way to measure your progress to keep you on target.
  • Action-oriented – it should include some clear action to take.
  • Realistic – don’t expect miracles to happen just because you write them down.
  • Time-based – you can choose the 2017 hunting season or longer for bigger items.

 

Nine Deer Hunting Goals for 2017

We’ve compiled a list of nine different hunting goals you should consider adding to your own list. While they all have a slightly different focus, they challenge you to grow as a hunter through learning new hunting skills or sharpening old ones. Additionally, these goals are fairly general in nature to make a point. But you can use them as a springboard to create SMART goals from these topic areas. Think about more specific details, how you’re going to measure their success, whether there is a clear action you can take, how realistic it is for your area, and how long you’ll have to complete them.

 

  1.  Become a Shed Hunting Master

With shed hunting season rapidly approaching us, this is the time to make plans for it. While it’s not strictly a hunting-related activity on the surface, there’s a lot to be learned from it. For example, you can find out which bucks made it through the hunting season and much of the winter by studying their antlers. This is really useful to inform other deer hunting goals, especially if you’re after a certain buck. During this time of year, you can also wander wherever you want to look for shed antlers, which might allow you a glimpse into a secret whitetail hotspot you hadn’t noticed before. Study the terrain where you find a shed antler and follow their trails to see why they chose that particular spot. With seasonal differences, they might not be in the same area next fall. But knowing that in itself is useful for whitetail hunting too.

 

  1. Study Your Deer Herd

You don’t have to be a biologist to conduct or benefit from some simple wildlife surveys. In fact, the more you know about the deer in your area, the better equipped you will be from a hunting perspective. Similar to shed hunting, winter is a great time to run a trail camera survey on your property so you can see which deer made it through another season. All you need are a few trail cameras (one per 100 acres), some Big & J® attractant (if legal), and a little of your time. Spend about a week getting deer used to the bait, and then hang your Bushnell® trail cameras to collect data for 2 weeks or so. Scrolling through all the trail camera pictures will take a while, but we there are worse ways to spend your time.

 

  1. Planning a Hunting Trip

We typically think of these kinds of hunting trips as a “someday trip” – they will eventually happen, just not this year. The danger with this thinking is that we don’t get any younger and none of us is guaranteed another hunting season. More to the point, we often let “someday” turn into never. Whether we let laziness creep in or decide that there are many good reasons to not spend our hard-earned money on a trip like this, we often let them slip away. Not this year. Take time now to brainstorm a hunting trip you’ve never been on. Whether it’s an elk hunt across the country or a safari hunt across the world, make it happen this year.

 

  1. Get Access to More Hunting Properties

Most of us aren’t blessed with hundreds or thousands of acres of private land to hunt on. In fact, many of us depend on public land hunting each year. This year, one of your deer hunting goals should be pushing yourself outside the old familiar comfort zone and hunting somewhere new. Contact your state wildlife agency to find additional public hunting land within a few hours of you. Or maybe this is the year you finally ask a landowner if you can hunt on their property. Many farms readily accept hunting requests, simply because deer damage their crops. But to get their approval, you need to be ultra-respectful and should probably offer to help with something else in return. If you do get access, make sure you always deliver on what you say you’ll do. Having access to multiple properties, especially a mix of private and public land, is a great way to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature next fall. If the conditions aren’t right for a certain property, they might be perfect on another one. If you’re hunting a mature buck, it’s also a good way to hedge your bets by casting a wider net, if you will. Finally, hunting on a new property will teach you things that hunting on the same old property can’t. You’ll realize you don’t know everything, and there are still skills to learn.

 

  1. Improve Your Property

If you are a landowner, we realize you’ll still primarily hunt your own property before driving hours to the next spot. One of the best deer hunting goals you can do to push yourself and make it a more effective hunting property is to plant food plots or do some deer habitat improvement work this spring, summer, or fall. Luckily, this is the best time to plan all of those things from the comfort of your couch. Pull up an aerial map of your property and identify a few areas you’d like to target for planting food plots or some oak and apple trees. Once you figure out how big the area is, you can calculate how much equipment and supplies you will need.

 

 

  1. Try a New Weapon

Maybe you’ve always hunted with a rifle and that’s been your chosen hunting weapon. This year, why not try something new? Hoyt® bows are a high-quality brand you can trust to get you from the beautiful early season bow hunting conditions right through the bitter cold late season. Thompson Center® muzzleloaders will help you with the late season hunting over your new food plot. Different weapons will allow you to extend your hunting season through much of the fall instead of only having a few weeks to fill your tag. And in some cases, you can also get multiple deer with those weapons.

 

 

 

 

nine-deer-hunting-goals-you-should-consider-for-2017-pic-3
 

  1. Be a More Strategic Hunter

We get it. It’s easy to fall into the same hunting routine. You get up in the morning and go to the same tree stand each day, following the same pattern. Within a matter of days, deer will have your activities and location patterned and you’ll likely face some boring sits in the woods. This year, make a goal of becoming more strategic about what you do to keep the deer guessing. Hang a few different Hawk® tree stands around your property (or on several properties) to switch things around. If the wind isn’t good for a particular hang-on stand, you can always use a different location where it’s in your favor. Having multiple options means you get to wait for the perfect conditions for a particular stand without feeling like you’re missing out on hunting. Not to mention, this also provides you with a much-needed scenery change once in a while.

 

  1. Hunt Harder

Along with being more strategic, sometimes you just need to work harder to get it done. Whether that means sitting in the tree stand longer throughout the day or hunting more days than the prior season, the more you’re in the woods (to a point), the better chance you have of seeing and killing a nice deer. Work harder to find new hunting spots and be willing to trudge through a swamp to get to the perfect tree stand (if the conditions are right). If you’re on public land, the effort is almost always worth it just to separate yourself from others.

 

  1. Kill a Mature Buck

You knew it had to make the list. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us do want to put a high-scoring buck on the wall. Unfortunately, some properties and geographies are simply missing the right components to really create and hold a 180-inch whitetail. But most of us would be happy enough to take a mature buck too. If you put the other deer hunting goals above to good use, finding and killing a mature buck somewhere should be within your reach.

 

Get Busy!

Best of Bone Collector Season 8 – 2016 in Review

 

While we listed out nine ways to become a better hunter, don’t let this list stop you from trying new things. Really think about what went well in 2016 and what you would like to accomplish in 2017. Chances are there are plenty of other deer hunting goals you’d like to finish this year. Go crush them and make 2017 the year of becoming a better hunter!

7 Deer and Turkey Management To-Dos | Bone Collector

7 Deer and Turkey Management To-Dos | Bone Collector

7 Off-Season Turkey and Deer Management To-Dos

In the final days of February and on through the month of March, cabin fever can really start to set in and one one may start to wonder, “Will this winter ever end?” There are food plots to be planted, sheds to be found, and spring turkey hunting right around the corner, and just when it seems like Mr. Winter might finally be on his last leg, he finds a few more inches of snow to keep us just on the verge of insanity. Fear not! Winter does have an end and it is very near. Just beyond these last few cold, cloudy days await blood red sunsets and songbird mornings. But before they arrive, here are 7 deer management and turkey management to-dos to yield prosperous 2016 deer hunting and turkey hunting seasons!

TSI

One of most detrimental shortages a property can experience is a lack of cover. Not that the land it self is suffering, but the wildlife residing there surely is! Don’t think cover is necessary where you hunt? Here is how it works…No cover = No deer. No deer…Poor you. So, the lack of cover is a land management issue that must be addressed to ensure quality whitetail habitat and enjoyable hunting for years to come, and what better time to tackle the job than the stagnate months between deer season and turkey season?! TSI stands for timber stand improvement, and it may be the single most effective land management practice you can implement on the property you hunt. All you will need is a chainsaw and a general knowledge of tree species in your area. The latter may be more difficult to come by, so consult your local forester before taking to the saw with a chainsaw like a madman…or woman. The idea is to cut down the non-desirable trees to accomplish a number of management objectives. First, by bringing some of the forest canopy to the ground, you are providing the wildlife both food and cover.

timber stand improvement | Bone Collector

The amount of food provided by your TSI efforts may be dependent on your decision to implement hinge cutting. This method involves cutting smaller diameter trees most, but not all, of the way through, allowing some of the outermost layers of the tree to remain. This will keep the tree alive and your wildlife fed longer than simply cutting the tree down. In addition to providing food and cover, TSI will allow sunlight to hit the forest floor and spur new growth that is advantageous to all wildlife.

Frost seeding

There may still be an inch or two of snow on the ground, but that’s no reason not to get started on your deer and turkey food plots! Frost seeding is a method of planting that utilizes the natural freeze/thaw cycles that occur during this time of the year to achieve great seed-to-soil contact without the use of equipment. Typically, this method works best with perennials, especially those with small seeds and shallow planting depths. Most common amongst food plotters are, clover, chicory, and other similar food plot blends. When it comes to deer food plots, learning how to frost seed clover is your first step toward better food plots and better deer hunting.

Frost seeding | Bone Collector

Food Plots

Unfortunately, you can’t frost seed everything. But don’t let that stop you from starting to plan out your 2016 food plot strategy. The perennials you can get out and frost seed are important and have proven to be deadly during the hunting season, but they are a small part of a much larger food plot strategy that requires just as much thought as it does work. Food plots require time, money, and a bit of trial and error before any result is yielded. One of the deer hunting tips we can give you in regards to food plots is this…Start small. There is no sense blowing your savings on the best food plot equipment or on food plot blends that don’t match your management goals. Some of the best food plots don’t even require the use of equipment! Put the time in BEFORE YOU BREAK GROUND to plan out your food plot strategy and how it coincides with your hunting strategy. If your goal is to hold deer year round, consider planting food plots that will get your deer through, February and March, the two toughest months of the year for a whitetail. Fall annuals are your best bet for filling this gap and are easy to plant successfully. The combination of perennials, annuals, and potentially some grain crops over time will lead to better deer nutrition and better hunting, so start planning now!

Trail cameras

Today’s trail cameras can really take a beating, but pulling them at least once every year can really make them last. In addition to pulling the card and replacing the batteries in your trail cameras, check for any rust on the battery springs that may have formed over the year. There are cheap rust-away treatments you can use to prevent this from getting any worse. If the springs look good, wipe down the inside of the camera with a damp rag to get rid of any dust or dirt that may have worked it’s way inside your camera. Your trail camera is a machine, and any machines worst enemy is dirt. By cleaning them at least once a year, your trail cameras will last longer and perform better. Bushnell’s the new Trophy Cam™ HD takes the harsh outdoor elements and provides a tough reliable camera that shuts out such elements.

As far as trail camera strategy this time of year, it really just depends on what you’re looking for… Are you still waiting for that buck to shed his antlers and trying to monitor his food source so you know exactly where and when to start shed hunting? Or maybe you’re already scouting out birds for spring turkey season. In which case, strut zones near roost trees or food plots may be your best option for where to hang trail cameras. One of the best spring turkey hunting tips we can give your prior to the season is to keep your trail cameras running on food plots and large fields to get a better idea of how the birds use those locations. This will give you a big advantage going into opening day. The difference in where to hang trail cameras in winter and spring is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have all the whitetail pictures you were hoping for this season, pull them, clean them, and start thinking turkey trail camera strategy.

Trail cameras | Bone Collector

Minerals

One thing that is easy to forget about this time of year is supplying your deer herd with the essential minerals they need to thrive on your hunting property. Most hunters wait till mid summer to get mineral out as a means of getting some cool velvet pictures, but the reality is deer crave those minerals as early as February or March. Does need it to supplement their diet for healthy fawning and lactation thereafter, and bucks to supplement new antler growth almost as soon as their old set drops. Make sure the mineral you put out is made up primarily of Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, and Sodium, as these are the key nutrients whitetail deer need this time of year. The CUBE, by Big & J Attractants provides these minerals and much more in terms of protein with its supplemental feeding and long range attractant products.

Try to keep mineral stations in one spot. As they break down, minerals leech into the soil and make that area attractive to deer even after the mineral block has dissolved. Moving it to multiple locations will give the deer too many options and you will have a more difficult time getting trail camera pictures over your most recent location. Get your minerals for deer out early this year and your whitetail will benefit for the rest of the year!

Minerals | Bone Collector

Prescribed Fire

Another management practice that is perfect for this time of year is burning. Prescribed fire has tremendous effects on early successional habitat and has proven to be one of the fastest ways of increasing soil ph. The dead plant and grass matter in conjunction with still moist soils beneath make this time of year one of the best times to use prescribed fire to improve your hunting property. Whether you are burning off switch grass, successional habitat, or plant matter on a new or existing food plot, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions before hand. Fire, while it can be extremely useful, can be very dangerous. Use caution, plan ahead, and use the seasons advantageous burning conditions to do some good for the wildlife where your hunt!

Shed Hunting

Hopefully somewhere amidst all the work that needs done, you’ll find some time to shed hunt this spring. Shed hunting is a great way to see the whole property, potentially build some history with the deer you’ve hunted all season, and observe first hand the benefits of your habitat management for deer and turkey. There are several techniques to improve shed hunting success, but sometimes the best way to answer the questions “When do deer shed antlers?” and “Where to find deer sheds?” is to put boots on the ground and get to walking. Work some time into your busy schedule this month to get out with friends and family and search for some sheds!

Shed Hunting deer management | Bone Collector

So much to do, so little time! Sometimes it seems like the work never ends, but on the other side better is quality deer and turkey habitat and a lifetime of better hunting. Don’t try and do it all at once. Each of these projects takes time and deserves your full attention, and some more time than others. Consider where the biggest needs are for your property and use one or more of these management practices to potentially remedy that need. Decide which ones you want to take on this year and get going!

Find Deer Sheds | Bone Collector

Bone Collector Definition | Top 3 Places to Find Deer Sheds

Top 3 Places to Find Deer Sheds

If you haven’t laid your hands on his antlers yet this season now is the time! The deer will not be attached, but the reward of finding his prized jewels can give you some closure for the year. At most you will know he is alive and hopefully bigger next year. One thing is for certain, there isn’t too much else to do during this lag time for the die-hard whitetail enthusiast, so why not jump back into the woods and look for some deer sheds.

Shed hunting can be extremely satisfying or can be awfully difficult. Some hunters get a slap in the face for a second time, without finding a single shed! Most of the time those hunters aren’t looking in the right places.

You have to treat shed hunting like you would deer hunting, there’s not really a difference except the habits of the deer during late winter. For that reason you have to know when to look, and even more importantly where to look.

Right around now, late January- March, deer begin dropping antlers. The majority of a whitetails day during the winter months is trying to soak up all the warmth it can get. We praise the sunrays on those cold late season sits, deer are the same. This is why bedding/cover especially of southern orientation are number one on the list for shed hunting. It’s almost as if deer switch from mammals to reptiles and bask like a snake, warming up until they are finally ready to make feeding excursions.

Where they go is next on the list. Beans, corn, brassicas, and browse are all winter food sources. Trails leading to and coming from a standing bean field are a shed hotspot, in the food itself is also worth checking out. If the crops are cut learn, scout, and hypothesize what food sources are available and test your theories.

If both of these areas are fruitless, check obstacles in funnels where deer are forced to jump or duck. Creeks, fences, ditches, roads, and thick overhanging branches are all great places to find sheds hanging around. Often that little jolt or bump is all they need to drop.

Here are some last minute tips, when you begin to find sheds start your circles, working your way out further and further because you often find numerous sheds in one area. If you have multiple properties start with the least pressured spots as they often become deer havens once the shooting stops. Get out early, you don’t want to find a half chewed antler or even worse the tracks and imprint of a shed recently picked up by a trespasser in your favorite spot. Finally, get out period, too many let laziness and the cold winds keep them indoors. Sheds are white gold, prized jewels of the buck you’ve been chasing all season. Don’t let him slip away again. Start in the best spots, likely places where you will find you very own goldmine, and get rich in bone!