Skip to main content

5 Shed Hunting Strategies

How to find deer antlers where the competition is stiff

5 Shed Hunting Strategies

Shed hunting in all of its glory as of late, is similar to actual deer hunting in a few ways. Participation on parcels that are open to the public is high in both activities, and most of us who tread that ground follow predictable strategies. For example, if you’ve got a chunk of open-to-all ground with an agricultural field or two on it, you can pretty much guess where most of the hunting pressure will be concentrated. Ditto for shed hunters. The key to being successful in either endeavor is to plan to outthink - and outwork - your competition.

Here’s how.

The Right Routes

Whether I’m on a piece of private ground or shed hunting public, I tend to start the day with a rough plan. This usually involves a bit of mapwork via onX or some other service, and just allows me to look at likely antler spots and be as efficient in my walking as possible. It also allows me to check out all access sites on any given parcel and plan around where the other shed hunters are most likely to originate from, and where they’ll end up once they get going. I also like to record my tracks when I’m shed hunting so at the end of the day I can see where I walked, and more importantly, where I didn’t. We tend to believe we cover some serious mileage when we’re in the woods, but oftentimes we don’t travel as far as we think. And almost without question, we miss good spots.

The 10-Yard Difference

At the end of a shed hunting day when you look back at all of the field edges, fence crossings and bedding ridges you traversed, think about all of the places you didn’t go. Even on a small parcel it takes Terminator-like dedication to cover every acre adequately.


shed deer antler in field
Plan your routes, track your routes, and go where others don’t when you’re shed hunting to find more bone on pressured dirt.

I’ll never forget a few years ago while shed hunting with a buddy of mine when he whooped it up over finding a beautiful five-point side. We figured the match must be close and started scouring the snow-covered woods nearby. We gave up once, only to talk ourselves into walking the patch again. It wasn’t until we’d invested serious time in our grid search that I spotted a row of tines periscoping out of the powder, and we matched up the set. We had walked within a few yards of that antler multiple times and missed it every time. If shed hunting pressure is intense in your spots, remember this: you only need to be 10 yards off of where the rest of the hunters go to succeed where they failed.


Timing, Timing, Timing

While it’s tempting to try to be the first one in the shed woods each season so you can post selfies with your early finds, the bulk of the antler drop probably won’t happen in your neck of the woods until at least mid-February, perhaps much later if you live down south. This means that while some antlers are scooped up early, a lot of them are still riding around on bucks’ foreheads.

Time your shed hunts when you’ve got the best chance of running into the most antlers. And remember, even if you didn’t find any bone today in your best spots, that doesn’t mean three days from now there won’t be an antler with a bloody pedicle waiting for you.

Optics

Two instances where I carry binoculars that I never thought I would are when I’m blood trailing any critter and when I’m shed hunting. Last March I was walking through a snow-patched alfalfa field and spotted what looked like a single tine poking out of a depression. It was 50 yards away and with the naked eye just looked a little out of place. With my binos, however, I could see not only that tine but another one.

shed deer antler in field
Good glass is a shed hunter’s friend, so carry your binos and use them to be more efficient in the woods this spring.

It was the second biggest shed of my 2018 season and barely visible, due to where it fell. I’d say that maybe 25 percent of the antlers I find are spotted via binoculars. Carry your binos at all times and don’t be afraid to glass up some bone.


Hit The Brakes

Ask anyone who has spent time in the woods with me about how fast I walk, and you’ll probably see them roll their eyes and start complaining. I’m just naturally a fast walker who is easily distracted, so I leave people in the dust all of the time. I also have to tell myself to slow down constantly when I’m shed hunting.

The thing about good antler hunters is not that they are adept at spotting a bright white antler in a brown field but that their brain will register the slightest detail that’s out of place on the forest floor. This job, as you can probably guess, gets a lot easier when you’re going slower. Find your ideal shed pace, which will probably be slower than your natural gait.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist witnesses a hen trying to destroy one of his decoys while hunting turkeys in Kansas.

Texas Hog and Whitetail Hunt

Texas Hog and Whitetail Hunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek sets up for some hog and whitetail hunting at Canyon Ranch in Texas.

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Bowhunter team member Rudy Bachraty gets his chance to take an elk with Cross Mountain Outfitters of Colorado.

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

High Country Colorado Turkey Hunt

Danny Farris and Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters are hunting turkeys in Colorado.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The public needs to understand the value of harvested and consumed wild game.Understanding the Value of a Wild Game Harvest Industry

Understanding the Value of a Wild Game Harvest

Dr. Dave Samuel

The public needs to understand the value of harvested and consumed wild game.

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when choosing heavy vs. light arrows for bowhunting.How to Choose the Best Hunting Arrow - Heavy vs. Light How-To

How to Choose the Best Hunting Arrow - Heavy vs. Light

Curt Wells

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when...

Take your hang-and-hunt to the next level with a Trophyline Tree Saddle. Look to Tree Saddle Hunting for Fall Success Treestands & Blinds

Look to Tree Saddle Hunting for Fall Success

Brian K. Strickland

Take your hang-and-hunt to the next level with a Trophyline Tree Saddle.

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing full protection for your glass.Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System Field Tools

Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System

Joe Bell

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing...

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

Map out killer stand locations using map-based tools. How to Find Public Land Hunting Spots with Apps How-To

How to Find Public Land Hunting Spots with Apps

Darron McDougal - October 30, 2019

Map out killer stand locations using map-based tools.

Blood-trailing game after dark is made easier with the right tools.Tips for Successful Nighttime Blood-Trailing How-To

Tips for Successful Nighttime Blood-Trailing

Curt Wells

Blood-trailing game after dark is made easier with the right tools.

Here's how to go from longbeards to big bucks on public land in the same season.Scout for Whitetails While Turkey Hunting How-To

Scout for Whitetails While Turkey Hunting

Tony J. Peterson

Here's how to go from longbeards to big bucks on public land in the same season.

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now