By Brandon Wikman
Gathering ordinary items has never been a serious hobby of mine. Collecting rare coins, ancient stamps and varieties of old books doesn’t compare to the jolt that motivates me to find the priceless antler of a big buck!
There isn’t a better time than now to venture into your acreage or nearby farm field in search for cast antlers. The early spring months are a magical time when bucks drop their headgear that they’ve sported since last August. Hunting for shed antlers is an activity that any passionate hunter should do as a pre-operational and scouting tool for the upcoming fall. More importantly, it is an amazing chance to introduce a newbie into the outdoors.
For the casual observer, cast sheds are nothing more than a discarded bone. To others, they provide as a valuable reference tool. There’s much to discover from fallen bone. Most obviously, it’s a key identifier that a buck is living on your property. Hunters can estimate a rough score and age from antlers. An antler reveals the precise runway a buck may use, which can be effortlessly backtracked into his core area. An abundance of insight is collected from picking up an antler. It gives you a general look at the prospects you have for next hunting season.
Snatching an antler – in my opinion – is the hunter’s version of Easter egg hunting, but without the pretty colors and egg salad sandwich.
Shed antlers can be found in the most unpredictable places. I’ve spotted them dangling from branches, hooked on fences and on the side of a country road. Brisk winter months keep animals to a simple daily routine. Deer save energy by moving as little as possible. The only energy deer will use during these dangerous times is for sniffing-out food. A simple back-and-forth quest for scraps of food keeps them strong enough to survive the hazardous Midwestern winters.
Deer spend nearly half of their life hidden in the tangles of brambles and safe cover. Shed hunting should begin in bedding areas. The bright white snow acts as a roadmap for deer movement. Finding trails only takes a few minutes. Backtracking them to a deer’s living corridor serves as both a safe-haven and a location out of the wind or elements. Bedding areas are always my bread-and-butter, but fields provide you with some luck, too.
Searching agriculture fields and late season food plots can take an eternity. Numerous acres of harvested cropland may stretch for miles. It’s nearly impossible to cover all the ground by foot, unless you plan on probing until summer! Walk the forest edge and boundary lines and finish the rest of the hunt by jumping on an ATV or snowmobile. Not only can you traverse much quicker, but you can also grid the field in no time. Winter food sources play a key role in the success of shed hunting – they’re a locations where deer will concentrate to and the odds of an antler jarring loose are in your favor.
Taking the day to put your eyes to the antler challenge is a rush. The anticipation and wonder keeps your enthusiasm buzzing. Go for a nature walk, burn a few calories and start your 2011 whitetail scouting. Shed antler hunting proves to be one of the most pleasurable sports when hunting season is closed. I urge everyone to lace-up the hiking boots for a great weekend experience that can be done with family, friends or newcomers!