Shed Hunting 101

By Dustin DeCrooDecember 27, 20124 Comments

LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015

As most hunting seasons across the country begin to wind down, bowhunters everywhere will soon be looking for a way to fill the “hunting void”.  For many, there is no better way to accomplish this than to hunt for shed antlers.

The Need For Antlers

Why shed hunt?  Shed hunting provides not only some cool antlers from the bucks you may have been chasing throughout the fall, but it can also provide valuable information in a multitude of arenas.  For example, it can reveal what bucks successfully survived the hunting season.  Ever have a buck disappear in the middle of the rut and think he’s gone forever and then find his shed after the close of season?  Only shed hunting can provide that type of elation for many hunters.  Often times shed antler hunters will come across the sheds of deer they didn’t even know existed, which is another exciting event. 


Searching for antlers in the off-season has numerous benifits.

Aside from these two happenings, shed hunting allows you to venture into places that you normally wouldn’t go traipsing around during the hunting season. These include bedding areas and “sanctuaries” if your property contains one.  And, with the colder temperatures and snow that much of the United States will experience in January, February and March, the deer will be pounding food sources during daylight hours; leaving the bedding area for you to find antler gold without pushing deer.  Exploring these bedding areas may provide you with valuable information that can be put to good use the following fall.

Location, Location, Location

Where does one look for sheds?  Well, deer are fairly simple creatures, especially when they aren’t being pressured.  Thankfully, when the antlers start falling the deer have typically moved back into a feeding/bedding pattern.  And unlike November, when a buck could be anywhere in a three mile radius, they will shrink their home area and spend the majority of their time either feeding or bedded down.  For shed hunters, this pattern makes success easier to attain by narrowing down the search areas. These include: Bedding areas, food sources and the travel routes in between.  Grass and CRP fields are also excellent places to find shed antlers from big deer as are winter food sources. Also, don’t forget that creek crossings and fence crossings are worth a look as sometimes the impact of landing will jar the antlers loose.


Without a doubt, elk sheds are easier to find than those of a whitetail.

The Time Is Right

When should you start looking for shed antlers? Depending on where you are in the country the answer to this question can vary by as much as three months.  In the majority of the United States deer will begin losing their antlers in December and January with most bucks being bald sometime in February.  The Southern part of the country tends to start shed hunting later in the year as many bucks carry their antlers into February and March.  If you’re one of the fortunate people that live in Elk country, the bulls will typically begin dropping in the month of April before leaving their winter ranges for higher elevation.  There have been numerous reports of deer shedding their antlers as early as the first week of December this year (2012).


When used in conjunction with trail cameras, info gathered from shed hunting can provide the final piece of the whitetail puzzle.

More Filled Tags

How can shed antler hunting benefit you next hunting season?  We have briefly discussed this but the main benefits are: knowing which bucks survived the season and are still on the property, discovering bucks that you didn’t even know existed, and learning valuable information about particular bedding areas and deer travel routes.  The most useful of these is definitely learning more about the bedding areas and travel routes within your area.  As a result, you may find a spot that you can hang a stand near the bedding area on a given wind that you didn’t know about.  Or, you may find a trail that deer always seem to use and be able to hang a stand to kill a buck on his way to a food source during the early season.

If for no other reason than to keep your sanity during the “down months”, shed hunting provides both useful information and some excellent “man cave” decorations.  Shed antler hunting is also great exercise and is super kid friendly.  All in all, there isn’t a better way to get the family involved in the outdoors than bundling up your kids and hiking around your hunting ground in search of antler gold!

Dustin DeCroo
Hunting Guide at Big Horn Outfitters
Dustin is a professional hunting guide and owner of Big Horn Outfitters in Buffalo, Wyoming where he lives with his wife and 2 children.
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