Updated: Jan 18
Shed hunting is a popular hobby among hunters and naturalists alike.
It’s an activity that can offer many rewards, from finding prized antlers to learning more about deer behavior in the wild.
And while it’s not always easy, with the right knowledge and tips, you can be successful at shed hunting.
Let’s take a look at what shed hunting is, why it’s important, and how you can get started.
Shed Hunting Basics
What is shed hunting?
Shed hunting is the practice of searching for antlers that have been shed by antler-bearing mammals such as deer, elk, and moose, during the early winter months.
When do deer shed their antlers?
There are a variety of factors that affect when deer shed their antlers. However, they are usually shed from January to March.
Bucks, and other antlered animals, naturally drop their antlers each year when their testosterone levels drop after the breeding season has ended.
By finding these discarded antlers—or “sheds”—you can gain valuable insights into deer behavior in your area, as well as pick up some nice mementos or trophies of your target buck along the way.
Is shed hunting legal?
Generally speaking – yes. However, each state and wildlife agency has its own specific rules, regulations, and restrictions in regard to shed hunting.
For example, most states outlaw taking a dead head, or deer skull with antlers still attached.
Other states also have rules and regulations against antler traps that aid in the harvesting of deer antler sheds.
As with all things hunting, refer to your state's wildlife agency rules and regulations in regard to the legality of shed hunting in your state.
4 Tips for Successful Shed Hunting
Shed hunting isn't necessarily easy; if it were, everyone would be doing it!
But there are some tips and tricks that you can use to increase your chances of success.
Here are a few things to remember when shed hunting:
1. Location, Location, Location
Know where to look. Start by scouting areas where bucks are likely to hang out during winter months—this includes areas with plenty of late-season food sources like cut agricultural fields, acorns or grasses, and places with good cover like thickets or wooded areas.
If you already have prior knowledge of their feeding and bedding areas – those places would be great places to begin looking.
Other great locations to search for deer sheds are places where deer have to jump. These include fence crossings, creeks, embankments, or fallen trees.
2. Look Carefully
Once you’ve found the location you want to shed hunt - take your time looking around each spot. Don't just walk through without really taking a close look at the ground below; carefully and intentionally hike through these areas.
Also, pay attention to fallen tree branches or other obstacles that might be hiding sheds from clear view.
Seasoned shed hunters have also noted that shed hunting with a light dusting of snow or after a recent rain is best. The snow and wet leaves provide good contrast to a deer antler laying on the ground.
3. Pay Attention to Signs of Recent Deer Activity
If available, look for tracks in snow or mud, deer scat, browse signs on vegetation, and areas with buck rubs or scrapes.
These tell-tail signs will indicate that deer are around and may have dropped their sheds nearby.
4. Learn from Others
Don’t be afraid to ask experienced shed hunters for advice on where they find sheds in your area.
However, just like hunting spots, they may have secret spots that they don't want everyone to know about!
Also tap into local resources like your rod and gun or sportsman’s club, social media, or regional websites, forums, or Facebook groups dedicated to outdoor activities.
You'll often find people who are willing to share their experience and give helpful advice so you can start finding those prized antler sheds.
Get Out and Shed Hunt!
Whether you're an experienced hunter looking for some additional information on shed hunting, or someone just getting started in this hobby, we hope this post has given you valuable insight into what shed hunting is all about and how you can get started finding those elusive antler sheds.
With enough patience, persistence, and dedication, anyone can become an avid and successful shed hunter.
For more content related to archery and bowhunting, visit the rest of our Alpine Archery blog archive.