Thursday, March 11, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Deer Shed Hunting

by Naomi K. Shapiro


What could be better than a walk in the woods in early spring? Answer: Walking in the woods in early spring and getting a big load of "deer sheds" --l as in "antlers." Deer shed "hunters" have been pursuing these natural prizes for generations. Indeed, family or affinity groups can do a thorough area-wide "checkerboard search" gleaning every shed antler in the area. Usually led by one or more very experienced deer hunters, these groups -- or individuals -- use some simple rules for maximum reward.

What you want to look for are deer herding and wintering areas. It's early spring. The deer are still bunched up in their "safe" bedding areas. Drive around, if you're not familiar with a particular area (still best to be with someone who KNOWS the area inside-out), and look for any remaining food source -- usually some ag fields that have produced corn, alfalfa, or beans. The deer will herd up and winter bed near and around these areas. If the area you're looking at doesn't have a lot of agriculture, or is a hardwood area, then look for an oak ridge, a cedar swamp, or, really good -- a freshly clear cut area. Loggers leave all the tops of the trees and small branches in these clear cut areas, and they're perfect forage for deer. And, yes, loggers do clearcut in winter.

Once in the general area you're walking, look for deer trails, and the foraging spots just described. You'll see sheds all over. Indeed, if you're out real early, when the snow has just left, the antlers stick out like "sore thumbs." Real easy to spot. Bring a back pack – or something to carry the sheds with you, as they can be cumbersome. Some real nice sheds are always found, and they're used for many purposes.

Here are some things that people do with the sheds, or the way they insure they get them. I cannot attest to the fact that these methods in any particular state or area are legal. You're urged to VERY CAREFULLY find out your state or area regs before you do any shed hunting, or indeed do any thing I'm about to describe.

Some people save the sheds as souvenirs or decorations. People buy them -- if such sales are legal in that particular jurisdiction. Artisans use them to construct lamps or chandeliers -- whatever. We've all seen some absolutely gorgeous bric-a-brac produced from sheds. Affinity groups gather the sheds and then have a "sale" to benefit a charity or something akin to it. All kinds of things... and what always struck me is why more folks don't go out and get these sheds. Friends have seen some enormous sets of antlers -- and grumbled that they didn't get the buck that wore them during the season!

Some savvy shed hunters use a special method to harvest sheds (again -- this may or may not be legal in your jurisdiction. Check your regs out carefully! Don't call us from the hoosegow for bail!). First off, there are many jurisdictions that don't allow deer baiting. If you're in one that DOES, you MAY be in luck. Again, we urge total and strict compliance with all laws and regulations. The following method is something that we've heard about that we want to share with you, but can't be certain of the legality.

Shedding usually begins in early spring, when the sheds are ready to drop or close to it. Shed hunters will set out an old bed spring, or contraption which will "entangle" a deer's antlers -- but have large enough "holes" so that the deer won't become stuck (I cannot in all honesty attest to this). They "seed" the old spring or contraption and surrounding area with corn, and when the deer goes down to feed, the antler will be caught, and a quick twist by the deer will cause the shed to drop – usually quite easily. It sort of like a real loose tooth being pulled out without any effort.

(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article)

Read More About Whitetail Deer Shed Hunting On the Foremost Hunting Website

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