What Is Shed Hunting?

You’ve probably heard of a number of hunts by now, from night hunting to coyote and wild turkey hunting, but have you heard of shed hunting? You might actually be surprised to learn that shed hunting isn’t the traditional type of hunt you’ve grown accustomed to.

So, what is shed hunting? We’re here to answer just that.

Shed hunting isn’t new by any means. It’s been around for quite some time, and it’s quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities!

Shed hunting isn’t the type of hunting you’re thinking about. Even more so, it doesn’t imply carrying a rifle.

Shed hunting is the search for antlers that have been naturally shed by antler-bearing mammals such as elk, deer, moose, and caribou.

The dropped antlers are referred to as “sheds” or “shed antlers” (think about a snake shedding its skin! Makes sense, right?) and are sometimes worth big bucks!

Most people opt to use them as decorations in their homes or turning them into tools. 

How do you go shed hunting? 

There’s not a lot of prepping to get into if you’re planning on going shed hunting. The main things you should be keeping in mind are ensuring you’re wearing the right clothes for the environment and weather you’ll be spending time in, and having a big enough backpack to help you carry home your prizes!

What do I need to know about shed hunting? 

Most of the time, it’s just about hitting your hunting grounds and keeping your eyes on the floor, but there are still a few tips and tricks that you could use to your advantage!

  1. Don’t go off looking for the whole antler. Keep your eyes peeled for the tip or for small ivory-colored objects. Training your eyes to look for these things will help you find more sheds than if you were looking for the whole thing.
  2. Take your time, but don’t waste time! A lot of forest-dwelling creatures are after those antlers as much as you are. The more time you put into this, the more gnaw marks you’ll be noticing on the edge of antlers. And, if the animal competition isn’t motivating you enough, keep in mind that other hunters are doing the exact same thing as you are!
  3. Be patient. You’re not going to find sheds as often as you find mushrooms. They’re not exactly rare, but it might take hours before you find even a single piece.
  4. Check food sources! It makes sense to search in the places that animals are most likely to spend time in.
  5. Check the major trails. They’re great places to find shed antlers. A great idea is to also grid sections on a map and work them individually, making sure that you’re not missing areas. Work smart, not hard, right?

Who let the dogs out?

Shed hunting is a lot easier if you’ve got a trained dog, but training the dog is another challenge in itself. If you’re really interested in shed hunting with man’s best friend, you have to start by choosing a dog. 

While any breed can be taught to find shed antlers, retrievers are a good and reliable pick.

That doesn’t mean that you should be going off and buying a puppy. A lot of shed hunters use their dogs for other types of hunting as well. It’s just a matter of teaching your four-legged friend some new tricks.

In fact, training an older dog to find sheds can sometimes even be a little bit easier than training a pup!

Where is the best place to find deer sheds? 

To find the best places, you obviously have to look at your hunting grounds and try to see what trails the deer use the most.

A few other good tips are looking for creeks, fences, ditches, roads, and thick overhanging branches. 

As we’ve said above in the 5 tips, your best bet is to study your terrain and start gridding sections on your map.

What is the best time to shed hunt?

Too Early Shed Hunting

There are a few things to consider here. Let’s start with what happens if you choose to shed hunt too early;

The more you walk through an area, the higher the chances that you’ll begin to stress local wildlife. Shed hunting in an area where deer or elk are known to struggle through the winter could become detrimental to their survival.

This is one of the main reasons that more and more western states are beginning to have shed hunting seasons! 

Best time for Shed Hunting

The one thing you’ll be on the lookout for is the actual calendar date. Antler shedding is mostly driven by dropping testosterone levels linked to changes in daylight. You might be wondering, when do deer shed their antlers? For the Midwest, the peak of whitetail antler drop is in early February through early March.

Things like the harshness of the winter, available nutrition, or the health of individual bucks can also all contribute to how many sheds are dropped.

At the end of the day, it’s easiest to monitor these things through trail cameras. It’s an easy and convenient way of keeping tabs on the peculiarities of the local deer in your area.

What about shed hunting too late?

That’s also a possibility. 

If you’re living in an area with high squirrel and rodent populations, chances are you’re risking significant damage to your antlers!

The longer they sit on the ground before you get to them, the higher the chances of damage occurring.

There’s always the possibility of other hunters picking them as well!

What are deer sheds worth?

Whitetail sheds that score 60 inches or less can be purchased in bulk for $12 to $15 per pound. Antlers like the ones described above are usually from bucks 3 ½ years old and younger. For the same money, a buyer could purchase 70-inch mule deer drops in bulk. 

If we’re talking about whitetail antlers that go beyond 60 inches, though, the prices can skyrocket pretty quickly!

Deer antler sets scoring over 180” can usually be sold for a decent amount as well. A 180” can bring you anywhere from $120 to $200, depending on the look and characteristics of the set.

Final thoughts.

Shed hunting is one of the most peaceful methods of hunting out there. All you have to do is walk and keep your eyes open. It’s also challenging, and it’s also a great way to find some truly spectacular antlers if you’re lucky enough.

You just need the patience and the time to go over things one step at a time!

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