Shed Hunting | Top Mistakes Made by Shed Hunters
It has been a mild winter thus far. Sunny days and high temperatures have thawed out the deer woods, literally giving way to spring fever. The warm weather is tempting bored and restless whitetail hunters off the couches and into the woods. They are prospecting for white gold, priceless trophies to any outdoorsmen or women, but most will not find even a single shed. Why? We can give you 7 mistakes you are making while shed hunting, and tips to correct them.
The biggest mistake made by far is shed hunting at the wrong time. If you are not finding antlers chances are you are too late or too early. Eager hunters bust deer off the property before they drop their antlers and get discouraged early, keeping them out of the woods later, when the sheds are actually there to be found. Waiting to late is even worse. Trespassers or squirrels have beat you to the sheds. As much as you hate to hear it, trespassers can and will take advantage of the off season. Thinking you are most likely not on the property in the cold weather means a buffet…and it’s not just sheds. Trail cameras, stands, and sheds are all in danger. Waiting to late might also spell some damage on the sheds, as squirrels with gnaw on them within hours of the shed dropping. There is a lot to be considered and learned when it comes to when bucks drop their antlers. If your eager to learn the best time for shed hunting dive into our article on when whitetails shed antlers.
Next to looking at the wrong times, searching for sheds in the wrong places is a big error among shed hunters. Sure “miles= piles”, but you will wear yourself out, need an IV of Sqwincher, and be back on the couch before you stumble upon the right place. Why waste time? Hit our top three places to find sheds first. Then start your combing…
You didn’t scout
The winter whitetail buck is an entirely different beast from his younger November self. Weekend warriors make this mistake often. They shed hunt in areas according to their pre-rut and rut observations. This is a big mistake. The cause of a buck dropping his headgear is again drop in testosterone, this effects his home range as well. By this time bucks will reduce the size of their core area with only three things on their mind.
- Security – Bucks have been pushed and shoved, shot at, mangled, worn out, and are now completely fed up with hunters. They will select a portion of the property with the least amount of human pressure. This selection also relies upon the other two factors.
- Thermal Cover– Quality bedding is a must this time of year. Bucks will need a bedding area to themselves. This means plenty of side cover, thick vegetation to block wind, but open enough for escape routes and to let the sun in. Often these will be extreme thickets on ridges and south slopes.
- Food- Late season food sources like standing corn, beans, and brassicas are all utilized by deer heavily this time of year. With that said a lot of hunters forget what their main diet consists of this time of year…woody browse. Bucks will select quality thermal cover and a bedding area close to a food source, but his bedding area is also food. Blackberry, black raspberry, green briar, saplings, and recently dropped or hinge cut trees are what often constitute a thicket, but are also preferred browse for whitetails this time of year.
If you are behind on scouting it’s not too late to start. If legal, start introducing some attraction on your property can tempt bucks in front of your trail cameras. Placing a bag of Big and J Long Range Attractants in front of a camera will pull bucks in and allow you to see exactly when bucks are dropping, and give you a better idea of where to look.
No sheds to be found
In the very unfortunate situation, you may be wasting your time completely. Some properties, at least what you are limited to on property boundaries, simply will not hold deer over the winter. This means there are most likely no sheds to be found, period. No matter how long you look, how many hours you spend, you simply will not find sheds. So this winter might be hopeless, but don’t make the mistake twice. There are several projects you can tackle to increase your chances of finding sheds and ultimately your deer hunting opportunities. Habitat Improvement and planting the right food plots are the two things you should be worried about right now. And yes…this has a higher priority than finding sheds!
You are blind
You literally may need glasses…but, assuming you already have them, you might have a complete lack of focus and an absent mind when searching. You wouldn’t slack at your job would you? Maybe…bad analogy, but you get the point. Shed hunting requires complete focus! You glanced over that clump of grass, that stick in the snow, or that particular corn stalk…unfortunately they were all sheds! When in doubt, double take. Maybe you need to train yourself? Throw small and big sheds alike out in the woods and memorize exactly what they look like. We didn’t all become expert blood trackers without trailing deer did we? Practice makes perfect.
On the other hand that clump of grass, that stick in the snow, and that corn stalk may be just that…grass, a stick, and a stalk. Congratulations, you just wasted 5 minutes walking to it. This can get old fast so grab a pair Bushnell Binoculars and look before wasting your time. Glassing for sheds eliminates wasting time and gives you some reach.
Not using a dog
Having a lot of friends out shed hunting at once is a great way to find sheds…but the rule applies, finders keepers! This can really put a damper on finding your hit list bucks prized possession. So how do you have the same odds without the negatives? Your true best friends have your best interests at heart. Your dog doesn’t beg to keep the antler and he has better instincts for searching. Use this to your advantage. It’s not hard to learn how to train a shed hunting dog.
White gold has that name for a reason, it’s a prized possession. Don’t just stare at the piles of sheds on Facebook, get out and make your own pile. You won’t make the same mistakes this year.