By Bob Humphrey
For the serious deer hunter the season never ends. While we can’t hunt deer, we can hunt antlers; and there’s no better time to do it than right now. Besides, it’s a great excuse to get out, whether on foot or ATV, and spend some time in the deer woods.
Think Recent - Begin searching in areas where deer were concentrated after the hunting season. In the north woods that might be deer wintering areas. In the south, west and midwest it could be around crop fields, food plots, sheltered bottoms or south-facing slopes.
Refine - Within these areas, concentrate your efforts around bedding areas, field edges or heavy trails, especially where deer have to cross fences, creeks or other obstacles. Any place a deer has to jump and land increases the odds of antlers jarring loose.
Think Big - Once you’ve covered the heavy trails shift to less used trails leading to thicker cover, where bigger, older deer may be more inclined to go.
Develop a Search Image. Just as an experienced hunter looks for part of a deer rather than the whole thing, the trained eye of a shed hunter searches for colors and shapes, like white against a dark forest floor, or the tip of a tine sticking out of the mud or snow. It becomes easier over time.
Bring the Dog. Training dogs to hunt sheds is becoming more popular. Even if yours isn’t trained, man’s best friend seems to have an innate knack for finding bones, including shed antlers.
Don’t get discouraged. Often the first shed is the hardest to find. In time you’ll develop a search image not only for antlers but the best places to find them. And in the process, you’ll learn a lot more about the ground you’ll hunt next fall.