It’s hard to believe but we’re already starting to hear about shed hunting. Most of the antlers have been cast and the shed hunters can’t get out there soon enough. You can’t pick up a magazine or read a blog without reading about shed hunting. Hunting sheds definitely is the “in” thing these days.

If you’re finding a buck’s antlers in his core area, odds are you’ll end up hunting him in that same area as well. Compare this situation to the one in the following, where a buck’s presence in an area may be defined by a timely food source.

Unfortunately, little has been mentioned about stressing wildlife by tromping around in the woods hunting for sheds when they are trying to recuperate from a super stressful winter. A few Western states (Wyoming and Colorado) have enacted regulations to protect wintering animals. Other than that, when it comes to hunting sheds, it is open season any day or, for that matter, any night you can get out there.

By and large, this is not an issue in most deer habitats but if your deer yard up in winter or migrate to gentler slopes, you need to think twice before stressing them. You probably pressured them pretty hard during the hunting season and winter can really raise hell with them. Do they really need any more stress this winter?

The first deer to succumb to the ravages of winter are often the young and the weak. Late-born (mid-summer) youngsters can barely break 50 pounds by winter and that doesn’t leave much room for a fat reserve on some fawns. Post-rut bucks are often worn down and even injured by the onset of winter. Either will have all they can do to get through a tough winter, especially when the winter packs plenty of snow and plenty of sub-freezing temperatures.

Now, we have nothing against shed hunting. It’s a great off-season activity and an even greater way of learning about the deer you hunted all fall. When it comes to taking the kids to the woods for some family fun, it can’t be beat. But you might need to stay curled up by that fire if your deer are trying to get through a really long, tough winter. If you are going to run them out of a winter yarding area or the only place within miles that contains any winter thermal cover or food, you may want to do a little thinking before putting the pressure on them.

Whatever way you slice it, shed hunting is a lot of fun, and it’s something that deer hunters all over the country love to do.

Just because the antlers have been cast or someone announces a shed hunting contest, it doesn’t mean the deer in your hunting area are ready to be disturbed again. They may need another month to get over winter. Use your head, or better yet, contact your local deer biologist to check out when your deer are ready for another “hunting” season.

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Craig Dougherty
Craig Dougherty has been a staple of the hunting industry for over 35 years. He has held senior executive and board level positions with multiple archery and firearms companies, and industry organizations. He was Chairman of the Board of the Quality Deer Management Association and was instrumental in the formation of the National Deer Alliance. He has and his son Neil have published books on deer management and hunting, and have written hundreds of articles and appeared on hunting TV and at countless sportsman’s events. The pair founded NorthCountry Whitetails a deer hunting and property management company, where they manage over 300,000 acres of deer hunting property for clients across the nation. visit: