When deer season rolls around, I get extremely giddy. Whitetail hunting is my favorite season when it comes to harvesting game. But what happens when hunting season ends? When hunting season ends, shed season begins. Every year it’s the same, we spend the whole summer preparing for fall and as soon as I get in my stand and am waiting on a hit-lister, I am reminded of how much I miss shed season.
When to Start Looking
As most of you know, whitetails will shed their antlers in preparation for new growth. Their testosterone levels will drop after rutting, causing the antlers to fall off. This typically begins mid-January here in Southeast Arkansas. Stress can play a major role in early dropping, so as soon as January rolls around, my husband and I begin scouting the areas that we shed hunt. When determining when to start looking for shed antlers, it’s a good idea to factor in the weather. Have there been harsh conditions? Dramatic changes? We usually see early dropping when big cold fronts move in. Here in Arkansas, it doesn’t get extremely cold, so when it does, the bucks usually begin dropping due to stress. Another good factor to include is food. Is there a plentiful amount of food for the deer in your area? If not, early dropping may occur.
Where to Look
As I mentioned in my first shed hunting blog, I would suggest looking in feeding areas, bedding areas, travel corridors, fence lines, ditches and water sources. Anywhere a buck might go is a great place to look. Another thing I like to do is to get different perspectives. I may walk right by a shed because of the direction I’m going or because of the placement of the antler that would stick out like a sore thumb if I happened to be walking the opposite direction. With that being said, I like to pause while I’m out in the woods, take a minute to scan a 360 degree circle around myself and make sure I haven’t passed on up. If you are fortunate enough to shed hunt places that are ATV or vehicle accessible, it helps to drive the same areas you walk. You just never know what you can miss—an easy find--from a different perspective.
How to Find Big Numbers
Two years ago, my husband and I found 204 sheds. Last year, we picked up 119 [I was 8 months pregnant with our second daughter in February, so you can see how that made it a little difficult to walk as much]. We are blessed to be able to shed hunt in a region where deer are prevalent. I know that’s not the case everywhere, so for that, I will say, all you have to do is ask. Ask a farmer. We have only been turned down once from a farmer, and that was because they had already given someone else permission to shed hunt their property. Shed antlers are a problem for farmer’s tractor tires, so they are usually eager to get them off their land. Ask other landowners for permission to shed hunt their property. You may get told no a time or two, but a lot of the times, you’ll get a yes. It’s beneficial to the land owner, because they will be able to take inventory of the bucks on their property. They may have some conditions for you to abide by, such as keeping some of their hit-lister buck’s sheds, but that’s a small price to pay for a pile of bone. Plan an out of state trip. My husband and I love going to Kansas to shed hunt, and are planning more trips in different states in the future.
What to Do With Your Antlers
People that don’t shed hunt as me all the time, “What do you do with all of your antlers??” They probably think I’m crazy when I respond with, “I look at them.” For me, having a big collection is just so much fun. I decorate my whole house with them. We’ve made lamps, curtain tie backs, cabinet handles and knobs, and soon, we will make a chandelier. My good friend, and fellow Huntress View team member, Sarah Honadel, makes the most gorgeous jewelry with shed antlers at her company, ArrowRidge Creations. I know people that make cutlery, and I’ve seen tables, mirrors, front door entrances, wreaths, and all kinds of neat things made from antlers. People even purchase shed antlers to use for their businesses. The opportunities are endless. All you have to do is get out there and find them.
If you put all of these factors together: when to start looking, where to look, and getting more land to shed hunt on, you will be successful.
Cajun Bradley is a lifelong lover of hunting and the outdoors, especially waterfowl hunting. Follow her in Instagram at @cajunbradley.