By far one of the most effective ways to scout and learn your hunting property is to hunt for sheds.
While searching for shed antlers, you should also be taking note of the obvious deer sign that has now been exposed from the previous fall travel patterns. In fact, the sign that you will see during shed hunting might very well be the most important information that you can learn about the whitetail travel habits on your farm!
Cover is down, trails are easily defined and your disturbance will soon be forgotten by the mature bucks that have made it through the hunting season.
Here are some tips that will help you make the most of your shed hunting and post season scouting trips.
a. Don’t scout and shed hunt too early. Yes some sheds drop here in the Midwest in late December and the month of January. However, to cut down on disturbance, I recommend waiting until the vast majority of the bucks have lost their antlers. In my area of Southern Iowa, most sheds are on the ground by about March 1. Making the month of March, prior to spring green up the best month to shed hunt and scout.
b. 90% of your sheds will be found in about 10% of your ground. Hunt for sheds smart. Look in the area’s that bucks spend the most time in during this time of the year. This is usually near or right in their destination food source. Bucks love to lay down near the food and chew their cud throughout the night. This is where they spend most of their time, so this is where you will find more of your sheds. Pay close attention to grassy area’s just on the edge of the food source- especially the South Facing side. That is where the sun beats down on the cover more-so they will seek the warmer cover to lay down in.
c. Check fence jumps, trail creek crossings, ditch jumps, trails, bedding areas, transition area’s (thick cover meets open areas) and small food plots as well.
d. Take note of trail junctions, in particular ones that have big rubs nearby. This is a classic sign a mature buck was working that area. Bring a roll of Fluorescent Orange Survey Tape with you while scouting. This way when you find those great looking pinch points, funnels, travel corridors- you can mark which tree to possibly hang a stand in. If you don’t, you might not find that same tree as everything will look different in the summer or early fall!!
e. Bring a good pair of Binoculars and don’t get discouraged. Binos will save you a lot of walking when you notice a possible shed antler in the distance. You can glass the object to see if it’s even worth checking out. And don’t get disappointed if you are not finding sheds. Sheds are simply hard to find. You can spend days walking and find very few and at times none. But at least you are discovering new information about your farm that will come in handy this fall!!!
f. Be sure to check out the Whitetail Tech mobile app for more tips like this to help you better understand whitetail deer behavior and improve your ability to call these incredible animals.
This article was written by Steve Stoltz, the expert featured on our whitetail deer hunting mobile app, Whitetail Tech. Steve is a full-time firefighter and known in the outdoor industry as “the working man’s hunter.” Steve is on the Woodhaven Custom Calls and Mossy Oak pro staffs. His hunting footage has most recently been featured on Drury Outdoors’ deer hunting platform Deer Cast and Scott Ellis’s show, Hunt Quest.