By Tracy Breen
Here we are in the middle of winter. What to do…what to do? The answer is go shed hunting! Now through the middle of spring is a great time to be in the woods looking for shed antlers. Like with hunting deer, the more time you spend in the woods looking for shed antlers, the better chance you have of finding a bunch. The key to success is looking in the right areas. It is true that a buck can drop his antlers anywhere but the chances increase as he spends more time in a certain area.
James “Lucky” Miller from Countryside Kennel in Bad Axe, Michigan knows a few things about finding shed antlers. Miller trains and breeds hunting dogs for a living. He breeds pointing dogs and shed antler dogs. With a well-trained dog, finding sheds is easier than it is without one, but you still have to work for them. The key to Miller’s success is being in the right place with his dog. “I typically spend a great deal of time scouting shortly after the firearms season. In Northern Michigan, deer will congregate where heavy cover adjoins feeding areas. In many cases, if you find the preferred food source close to bedding areas, you can locate most of the bucks in a certain section. I search for heavy trails leading from cover to crop fields. They are easily found when snow is on the ground and the sun is shining. I hunt sheds in areas ranging from Tag Adler swamps to Cedar swamps to low lying areas of heavy brush, preferably if they are close to cut corn fields, soy bean fields or sugar beat fields. The open crop areas provide excellent shed hunting opportunities,” Miller explained.
Miller finds many sheds in clover food plots. “I pay close attention to clover fields which are tucked up next to woods or heavy grass fields. For some reason, deer will seek out clover and rye this time of year and spend a great deal of time digging through snow to eat the tender roots below. In the process of digging around, their antlers fall off.”
If you don’t have a dog and have to find sheds the old fashioned way, you can increase your odds of finding antlers by providing a food source of your own for the deer. A friend of mine out west puts deer mineral on the ground and then puts an old car tire over it. When a buck comes to feed on the mineral, they get their antlers hung up on the edges of the tire. This could be a great tactic to use if you use Lucky Buck mineral year round. There are even contraptions designed for five-gallon pails that get a bucks’ antlers tangled up when he reaches into a bucket to get feed.
The easiest way to find antlers is by looking for them. If you have a good idea of where a certain buck beds during hunting season, he will probably bed there after deer season. Using scouting cameras to determine the daily pattern of a buck after deer season and looking for sheds along his travel corridor are other great ways to find sheds. Probably the best way to find sheds is by employing the nose of man’s best friend.