Shed Antler Hunting
by Shane Niemi
With Illinois archery season coming to a close, many people, including myself, shift focus to shed antler hunting. I always look forward to shed hunting because it’s a way to continue chasing the bucks on my hit list, and it helps paint a bigger picture of the deer’s behavior and travel patterns. Although it is a bit early, I am already planning a trip next weekend so I can spend a few days walking my farm looking for shed antlers. There are two things I put most of my focus on when I’m shed hunting.
My primary focus starts with bedding areas, and these are the areas I will put a lot of miles on my boots. In the early years that I spent shed hunting, I used to spend a lot of time walking field edges, but that yielded very minimal results. When I started focusing on the primary beddin
g area on my farm, my success rate dramatically increased. So that is why I like to cover as much ground in my bedding areas as possible. Unfortunately, I do bump deer when I travel in to the bedding areas, but this is the only time of year I go walking around in there. To me, the risk is worth the reward.
The second part of my focus comes with a shift in strategy to scouting my property. Not only am I out looking for antlers, but I am also looking for beds, trails, scrapes, rubs, etc. I focus on locating deer sign on the property, so that I can learn as much as possible about the deer’s travel patterns. This provides me with a wealth of knowledge knowing how they are using that particular bedding area, and how they travel in and out of it. This late season knowledge will help me determine where I want to hang stands and how I want to hunt the following season.
Typically, I spend about 6 hours a day walking, which also benefits me with great exercise. This extended excursion time also provides ample opportunity to find out as much as possible about how to hunt the property.
With these long walks, I recommend bringing a backpack with a sandwich or snacks, and plenty of water. After I spend a lot of time in the bedding areas I check my food plots, but quite frankly I haven’t had much success in those areas. This does surprise me with the amount of standing corn and beans we have on our farm, and the amount of deer I get on my trail cameras in those food plots.
This season I have been after two different bucks and have several pictures of them in my primary bedding area during late season, so I’ll be hunting hard for their sheds and making them my #1 targets. Usually when I have quality bucks that I know have survived the season, I will spend a whole day or even an entire weekend in their primary travel areas searching for their antlers.
Historically a lot of the bucks in our area hold their antlers until February and March, so going in early February is a bit of a gamble. However, I am usually more than willing to spend another day or two in the same area if I don’t have much luck on my first trip. I have seen enough deer drop antlers already to make it worth going this early, and to be honest I’m itching to get out there!
I hope you enjoyed the short article on some of the ways in which I focus my hunting tactics for shed season.
We would love to know your tactics and how you approach your shed season:
What areas do you focus on when you are shed hunting? Where have you had the most success?
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