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How and where to look for deer sheds

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Our last discussion focused on the explosion of interest in shed (deer antler) hunting. This week let's talk about locations and techniques, which should increase your odds of finding sheds.

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One of my favorite areas to search is south facing slopes where two different terrains meet. For example, a side hill thicket resting next to a slough area. The advantage of south facing slopes is they clear of snow earliest due to the angle of the sun. Deer like them because of the additional heat captured on clear days and shelter from the dominant cold northwest wind.

An indicator of a good area is the presence of deer droppings. Search carefully in such an area. I mentioned sloughs because they are super spots to find sheds, especially if sheltered from the wind.

Pine tree plantings are great spots to look for two reasons. Mature pine trees provide much needed thermal protection for deer on cold winter days. Such plantings can be two degrees warmer than open areas, plus protection from wind. Pine tree branches are great for knocking off antlers as bucks walk through them.

My concern with these locations this year is our heavy snowfall. Most deer will drop their antlers sometime during January or February. However, I have seen deer with small "racks" in March. This year there was so much snow by Jan. 1 in sloughs and pine tree plantings that I believe made it counter productive for deer to move through them. Due to that concern, I will be focusing a great deal of my time walking deer trails, which are easily seen in the snow.

Shed hunting isn't rocket science. Just get on a deer trail and start walking. Look for areas where two different terrains meet. Search for overhead cover, which would knock off antlers. While walking, look for deer sign, such as antler rubs on trees, old scrapes in the ground, bedding areas and the like. This sign indicates bucks were in the area the previous fall. Look for fields where crops were planted next to wooded areas or sloughs. Better yet, fields where crops were not harvested.

Binoculars are always helpful in shed hunting, especially looking over large fields. Ask around if any cattle farmers have deer visiting their feedlots. Those are wonderful areas to begin looking.

Deer are basically lazy creatures, taking the path of least resistance whether moving or feeding. Look for wintering areas where large numbers of deer spend the long winter months. Another good spot for finding antlers are trails that require fence or creek crossings by deer. Any obstacle which produces some type of jarring movement to a deer's body increases the odds of a buck dropping one or both of its' antlers. Be on the lookout for brushy or wooded funnels (a narrow spot of cover between two large areas) where bucks like traveling through for safety and security. These funnels increase buck movement through them and any overhead cover may be just enough to knock off an antler.

There are more areas to search, but these suggestions should serve you well as you begin your antler adventure. Please remember, it takes long hard hours of walking to find antlers. Your success will be a result of knowledge and persistence.

If you should be fortunate to find some "bone" let me suggest you contact Curt Kozitka. Curt is an official antler scorer for Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young and many other national organizations. He has been scoring antlers for many years and is an avid shed hunter. Even if you have old antlers in your shed or barn, I recommend you call Curt at 218-847-6802. He will score your racks for free. You may have one of those "diamonds in the rough" just waiting to be shared with fellow antler admirers. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.

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