“Look what I found!” I immediately paused my shed antler search and trained my eyes toward my wife who’d been scrounging around about 80 yards away from me. Despite the distance, I could see her huge smile and wide eyes as she clutched a beautiful, matched set of antlers in her fists. I hustled over to inspect her finds and to share in her excitement. It was the highlight of one of our greatest shed hunting road trips.
Annually, we head westward when the snow melts to explore some vast public lands. Following long Wisconsin winters, we’re always dealing with cases of cabin fever, and nothing blows off the cobwebs like hiking to this nook and that cranny with the hope of finding sheds.
Dissecting the countryside in search of polished bone is becoming increasingly popular. They say that you can’t eat the antlers, but that isn’t stopping scores of fanatics from traveling from state to state hunting for deer and elk antlers. The competition is fierce, so to be consistently successful, we must gain every edge possible. If itching to hit the road in search of “white gold,” here’s how HuntStand Pro Whitetail can offer an edge.
Upgrade to HuntStand Pro Whitetail [Maps & Tools for Whitetail Hunters]
Finding Shed Antlers: Bedding and Feeding Areas
A lot of decisions on where to look for shed antlers are made on the fly while tromping around. But, as with hunting, shed hunting in a new location is difficult. If there are thousands upon thousands of acres to search, deciding where to look can seem daunting. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place before reaching a given destination.
This is where HuntStand Pro Whitetail comes into play. One of the most important things to understand is that, while bucks are liable to drop their antlers just about anywhere, the bulk of them tend to drop in the two locations where bucks spend the most time: bedding and feeding areas. You can make some calculated predictions as to where these locations are on a given parcel of land. Here’s how …
First, reference HuntStand Pro Whitetail’s Whitetail Habitat Map. It provides color-coded overlays that rate habitat. Blue means cold, orange means warmer and red means hot. In other words, the areas of a property with red overlays can be outstanding habitat. Once you identify such areas, then alternate between the Hybrid, Tree Cover, and Terrain maps. The goal is to identify possible bedding areas based on cover and terrain features, such as benches and ridges that provide deer with security, prevailing wind advantage and a quick exit. Pin these as possible places to look.
Factors Affecting Antler Casting Dates [Murphy’s Law On Whitetails]
Of course, a bedding area is only as valuable as nearby food. During the critical months following the rut when deer are recovering, they must eat. This also coincides with the months when bucks are likely to shed their antlers: late December through March. So, the goal is to identify potential food sources that deer might have used during these months. Again, HuntStand Pro Whitetail can help mine this information.
Fields and openings are easy to identify with any of the satellite maps. From there, alternate to the Crop History map. It provides color-coded overlays specific to types of crops. I focus heavily on corn and soybeans. Of course, this info is a year old. For example, an Iowa cornfield that I hunted during the late muzzleloader season was shown on the Crop History map as soybeans. Thus, crop rotations must be considered as you peruse this map. Still, it can help you to home in on agriculture that’s likely to have some valuable food in it. At the very least, it gives starting points for shed outing.
Another option is to utilize the Tree Cover map and then alternate between it and one of the satellite maps. While one can’t positively distinguish between different types of hardwoods, it is possible to tell the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees, which provides a starting point if looking for acorn feeding areas.
Finding Shed Antlers: Travel Routes
With potential bedding and feeding areas pinned on the HuntStand app, predict what routes bucks likely take to connect the dots between the two. While a significant number of bucks drop their antlers in bedding and feeding areas, sheds can also be found in various places between the two. It’s likely that the movements of walking and bounding cause an antler to shake off here and there.
It’s important to note that travel routes can vary throughout the year. In other words, bucks may alter their travel routes based on conditions. For example, I noticed during my 2022 late-season North Dakota hunt that many deer were traveling section-line roads and even across wide-open fields because the snow was too deep to negotiate in the ditches and most shelter belts. I assume that many North Dakota residents found sheds on dirt roads and even driveways this winter because of the deep, impassable snow in places deer normally travel. Knowing that, use the app to look for paths of least resistance that bucks may have traveled due to deep snow or changing food sources.
Learning From Shed Antlers [Murphy’s Law On Whitetails]
Finding Shed Antlers: Connect with Landowners
When you’re on the ground looking for antlers, the HuntStand Property Info map is priceless. Not only will it show property boundaries, but it can provide landowner info to broaden search parameters by gaining access to private lands. Besides the landowner’s name, it lists the property address as well as the owner’s mailing address. Many farmers and ranchers will gladly grant access for shed hunting. Not only can private-land access increase your odds for finding antlers, but it can also lead to hunting access as you cultivate relationships with landowners.
Finding Shed Antlers: Prep & Gear
Overall, be sure to study the regulations, as some states have shed hunting seasons. This is actually very smart; it’s designed to reduce human pressure and the impact it could otherwise have on animals during critical months when they’re already hinging on death and survival.
On select public parcels and wildlife refuges, shed hunting is prohibited. Walk-In Areas (private lands open for public access) open during hunting seasons are typically closed to access during other times of the year, meaning that it would be illegal to walk them in the spring to look for sheds. Again, study the regulations, and if you have any questions or need clarification, go the next step and contact the state wildlife department.
While shed hunting, use the location sharing feature in HuntStand to monitor the real-time location of you and your friends. Always carry a good backpack that you can secure antlers to. Also, carry water, food, a flashlight, radios to communicate with others in your group if cell service isn’t available, a flashlight, and perhaps some basic survival and first-aid supplies. You’d better be safe than sorry when you’re miles from your vehicle and the nearest roads.
Lastly, don’t go shed hunting without a quality binocular. I can’t count how many times I’ve turned what looked like a shed into a branch or stick simply by raising my bino. It’ll save you lots of walking, and sometimes you’ll find antlers you had no idea were there simply by scanning distant hillsides, down into draws or wide-open ag fields.
Why Deer Hunters Shouldn’t Manage for Genetics
Shed Antler Hunting Gear Bag
Wildgame Innovations Encounter 2.0: One of the best ways to time a shed hunt just right is using a cell camera. The Wildgame Innovations Encounter 2.0 is a great option for this. It has 26MP image resolution, 720P video resolution, 80-ft illumination range, and more. It runs on eight AA batteries and is compatible with a 12-volt DC jack for external solar power panel. Keep track of incoming photos with the HuntSmart app. It’s offered in AT&T or Verizon service. MSRP: $149.99
Tenzing Voyager: Shed hunters also need a quality pack to carry food, water, supplies, and even some of the sheds. The Tenzing Voyager is great for this. It offers 2,500 cubic inches, six compartments, three organization pockets, and all in a 3-pound design. It also has oversized side zippers, a front-facing shove-it compartment, and more. Given that shed hunters hike and sweat a lot, the new high airflow trampoline suspension boosts airflow between the back and pack. Molder shoulder straps and a removable waist belt make this option even more comfortable. MSRP: $149.99
HME Fence Jumper: The HME Fence Jumper TP Step is a great tool for those who must cross fences during their shed hunting trip. Sometimes, this is required, even on public lands. Use this to help cross fences that otherwise must be crossed under or through. MSRP: $19.99
Upgrade to HuntStand Pro Whitetail
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