The time of year has finally arrived when the whitetail buck begins to drop his antlers. The sheding process is caused by a buck’s low testosterone levels, the photoperiod, and the natural cycle that begins anew in a few weeks allowing a new set of antlers to begin growth.
While sheds can be seemingly impossible to find, some people have mastered the technique and find many antlers every year. Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for shed antlers that will increase your chances of success.
The first tip is the most straightforward, and that is to spend your time searching areas where there are actually deer. While this sounds like a nonsensical statement, the deer densities can vary tremendously throughout the state and sometimes there just aren’t enough bucks in a given area to drop a substantial amount of sheds. Of course you cannot predict where a deer will travel or drop its antlers, but you can increase your chances of finding antlers when searching areas that are known for producing healthy deer.
The second tip is to scout food sources, bedding areas, and the areas in between the two. Late winter whitetails kick it into conservation mode after the rut and spend much of their time bedding and feeding. By recognizing these areas and scouting them properly, you have once again upped your chances of finding more sheds. Rarely does a shed hunter find two matching sets of antlers on the forest floor side by side, but it does happen. I have found 4 sets of antlers lying not 3 feet from one another. Every one of these sites were in bedding areas and I presume the buck dropped them while resting in his bed. Many people will tell you to look near creeks because the antlers can be jarred loose when a buck jumps. While this sounds good in theory, and probably happens to some extent, I have only found a few sheds on creek banks that I suspect dropped in this fashion.
Last year my golden retriever, Creo, who is trained to find shed antlers, located the right side to a 115″, 8-point buck in a funnel connecting a picked soybean field to a bedding area full of privet and devil’s walking sticks. Fallow fields and freshly logged timber are also great places to comb for sheds. The lack of a forested canopy allows sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, providing warmth. The weeds and logging slash also block the wind and provide security, making them deer magnets. While these aren’t the easiest areas to walk, they can yield huge results before the new growth becomes too dense to walk through. The first year or two after logging are the best times to search these areas.
Now that you know the basic places to search for antlers, let’s touch on what you are actually looking for. If you are searching for a full antler lying on the forest floor, you probably won’t find many. The key is to search for parts of an antler. The tips of the tines usually will be the first things you see. The actual main beam of the antler may be covered in debris. Lastly, be sure to check out everything that resembles an antler. Even though this will result in much more walking, it could help you find more antlers. I once dismissed a possible shed as a stick. It wasn’t until the following year when I noticed the same stick lying in the same location that I became suspicious. It was actually the left side of a small 6 point buck with a broken tine.
In the past 4 years I have found 45 shed antlers. Understanding where to look and what you are looking for will result in more found sheds. It is referred to as shed hunting, so take a hunt-like approach to searching for them. Be meticulous and systematic in order to increase your shed hunting success.
- Andrew Walters
- Andrew Walters is an Edgecombe County native and spends much of his time pursuing wild game and fishing across eastern North Carolina with his family and his fiancé, Noelle. His passion for the outdoors was the driving force that led him to North Carolina State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Science in 2014. He was the President of the NCSU Quality Deer Management Association club and continues to be an avid member of QDMA. After graduating, he earned his real estate license and joined the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms team in Greenville, NC. He is a freelance outdoor writer and has had a number of featured articles in the Wildlife in NC magazine, as well as, Mossy Oak Gamekeepers. Andrew is also a major contributor to the Mossy Oak Properties NC Land and Farms weekly blog, the Management Minute. His extensive knowledge of wildlife management coupled with his ability to identify plant and tree species provides him the unique ability to help clients not only identify, but manage their property to maximum potential. Andrew’s enthusiasm and knowledge enables him to properly navigate the channels necessary in “finding your favorite place” outdoors, as well as, developing a wildlife management plan specifically tailored for your piece of ground. Contact Andrew today to find out how he can help you find and manage your next dream property.
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