Shed hunting is a fun treasure hunt as well as an informative activity that can provide insights into whitetail deer movement patterns. Shed hunting is an excellent way to track and analyze deer movement patterns on your hunting property. In this article, we will share some of the best tips and tricks for shed hunting success, as well as the benefits of shed hunting as a technique for understanding deer behavior.
Benefits of Shed Hunting
Shed hunting provides valuable information about deer behavior and movement patterns. By finding sheds, you can determine where the deer are feeding, bedding, and traveling. This information can be used to identify the most active periods for deer on your property and help you create a strategic hunting plan, your playbook. Additionally, sheds can help you identify individual deer based on their antler characteristics, allowing you to track specific deer and learn more about their behavior. More about that here in Whitetail Playbook by Jason Ashe: Let your cameras do the work
Shed hunting also helps you understand the health of the deer population on your property. If you are consistently finding sheds of mature bucks, this can indicate that the deer population is healthy and growing. However, if you are finding sheds from young or stunted bucks, this can indicate that the deer population is struggling, and adjustments may need to be made to improve habitat and feeding opportunities.
Understanding Deer Behavior Through Shed Hunting
Shed hunting can also provide insights into deer behavior based on where the deer are most active and where their antlers are being dropped. For example, if you are consistently finding antlers in a particular area, this can indicate that the deer are frequently traveling through that area or feeding there. Additionally, finding antlers in bedding areas can indicate where the deer are spending the most time and where they feel safe.
Another example of how shed hunting can help you understand deer behavior is by identifying antler rubs. Deer rub their antlers against trees and bushes during the rut, leaving behind signs of their presence. By identifying these rubs, you can determine where the deer are most active during the mating season and potentially track specific deer based on their rub patterns.
Deer Antler Growth
Be sure to see our list of 10 tips for improving your shed hunting below. But, if you’re looking for some killer resources on whitetail antler growth, we’ve got you covered! Check out these awesome articles from some state fish and wildlife departments.
First up, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s got an article called “Deer Antlers: Biology and Growth.” This thing’s got the skinny on everything from the stages of antler growth to what makes them big and beautiful. Find it at https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/WildlifeSpecies/White-tailedDeer/Pages/DeerAntlers.aspx.
Then, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s got “Antler Development in White-tailed Deer.” This one’s got it all, from the science behind antler growth to tips for managing your deer population. Find it at https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/wtd/antler-development-in-white-tailed-deer.
Over in Missouri, they’ve got “Whitetail Deer Antler Growth and Development” from the Department of Conservation. This resource breaks down the different stages of antler growth, the factors that influence antler size and shape, and how to age deer based on their antlers. Check it out at https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-antlers.
And last but not least, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ got “Antler Development.” This one covers the anatomy of deer antlers, the factors that influence antler growth, and how to manage deer populations to get the most out of your antlers. Get the lowdown at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/deer/antlers.html.
These resources are top-notch and will definitely help you understand antler growth better, which is key for any serious deer hunter. Give them a read and up your game. And as always, keep an eye on the Hunting Page’s Whitetail Playbook: Springtime
Here’s our pro staff’s list of 10 of the best shed-hunting tips.
- Scout the right areas: Look for food plots, bedding areas, and heavily trafficked trails. These areas are likely to be hotspots for deer activity, increasing your chances of finding antlers. Additionally, keep an eye out for areas where deer have left tracks or droppings, indicating recent activity.
- Timing is everything: Late winter and early spring are the best times to search for sheds, as this is when deer begin shedding their antlers. During this time, deer move around more frequently, making it easier to spot their antlers. Additionally, make sure to search for sheds after a thaw, as this will help the antlers stand out against the ground.
- Use trail cameras: Trail cameras can help you identify deer movement patterns and where they are most likely to drop their antlers. Place cameras in areas where you have found antlers in the past or where you have seen frequent deer activity. More on that here: shed hunting basics
- Look for antler rubs: Deer rub their antlers against trees and bushes during the rut, leaving behind signs of their presence. By identifying these rubs, you can determine where the deer are most active during the mating season and potentially track specific deer based on their rub patterns.
- Focus on thickets: Thick underbrush is an excellent place to find sheds, as deer often get caught up in it and lose their antlers. Additionally, deer often use thickets as bedding areas, making them a hotspot for antler dropping.
- Pay attention to feeding areas: Deer often drop their antlers while feeding, so look for areas with abundant food sources.
- Understand antler growth: Learning about antler growth can help you better understand deer behavior and movement patterns. Antlers grow quickly during the summer months and are shed in late winter or early spring. We’ve listed some resources above on good antler growth info.
- Check nearby water sources: Deer often drop their antlers near water sources, such as streams or ponds, as they frequently stop to drink.
- Search during the right time of day: Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to search for sheds, as the sun is at an angle that can help illuminate the antlers.
- Bring the right gear: Make sure to wear comfortable and durable clothing, as well as sturdy boots. Bring a backpack to carry any antlers you find, as well as snacks and water to keep you fueled throughout your search.
Remember, shed hunting is an activity that requires patience and persistence. By following these shed hunting tips for understanding deer movement patterns, you can increase your chances of success and gain valuable insights into the behavior of the deer on your property.
Oh yeah, and bring a friend, and we often use a grid pattern if covering big areas. Good luck!