Antler Shed Hunting Like Finding a Needle in a Haystack - Or Two

Have you ever found a needle in a haystack? How about TWO? That’s exactly what brothers Kurt and Cilff Kowalczyk did recently while hunting deer antler sheds. Last weekend the Kowalczyks set out to cure cabin fever and look for sheds along with their friend Noah. After a short walk, Cliff spotted an antler in the grass. It was half of a nice 8-point buck – a great find in anyone’s book. The trio spread out in a line,  and continued through the grass. After walking about 80 yards, Kurt found some more bone in the grass. Score! As the three united, they realized that was the other half of the first antler they found — a matching set. Finding one antler in thousands of acres is a great accomplishment. But finding the matching antler was truly amazing. I hope they bought lottery tickets that day.

ANTLER SHED HUNTING TIPS

Deer can begin shedding their antlers as soon as the first week of January. Just like the start of antler growth, the shedding process is triggered by the amount of daylight. Bucks continue to shed their antlers through February and March, and can even still have them attached to their heads through April, but most of them have dropped by then.

Antlers can literally be found anywhere in the woods and fields. But in my experience, the best places to look for them is where deer have concentrated in January and February. So if you can find those “yarding” areas, or areas of heavy concentration, you have a better chance of finding sheds. Bedding areas are great places to look.

I’ve also had good success buy simply following heavily traveled deer trails or runs. Another great spot to look is by fences or logs, where deer need to jump. The action of them jumping a fence can be great enough impact to jar the antlers loose and drop.

A good tactic is look early and often. You can wait until late in March, but chances are that other shed hunters may find them. Or if rodents get to them, they will gnaw on the antlers for their calcium. Next to not finding an antler shed, the next most disappointing thing is to find one that is all chewed up by rodents.

Another tactic that I’ve had success with is to look for sheds after controlled burns, where it’s legal. A controlled or “prescribed” burn is when land managers purposefully light a field on fire to burn it, which promotes fresh growth of native grasses. After the burn, a large grass field is nothing but black, charred ground, making it very easy to spot antlers, even at great distances. These are not blazing fires, but a slow controlled burning of the grass, so antlers are not damaged during the process. I found a shed last year after a burn, spotting it about 80 yards away.

Any hard core deer hunters love collecting bone, even if they didn’t harvest the animal. And finding a nice shed antler is also proof that a nice buck survived the hunting season and winter, and will hopefully still be roaming that area in the fall.

If you find any sheds, email me some pix at danstefoutdoors@gmail.com.

See you in the field!

 

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