Start with something exciting and engaging, like shed hunting. Right now, male deer, “bucks,” are dropping their antlers. Looking for them is like an Easter Egg hunt in the woods.
If you want to hook someone into hunting, you need to make it fun. Sitting still for hours on end in the freezing cold, hushing them to be quieter, is likely not the best way to build a hunter. Start with something exciting and engaging, like shed hunting. Right now, male deer, “bucks,” are dropping their antlers. Looking for them is like an Easter Egg hunt in the woods.
Sheds show up everywhere. I once found one in the middle of a gravel road. A buck must have jumped the fence and jarred it loose right there. And that’s a good tip. Look along fences. Fencerows are often successful spots because deer follow fences when traveling. Also, antlers fall off when bucks hit the ground after jumping over a fence. Ditches are the same way.
Picked agricultural fields are prime because deer spend a lot of time feeding in them throughout the night. Bean fields are better than corn fields, because sheds are way easier to spot in flat bean fields. Corn stubble makes it tough to differentiate antler tines. Pastures are worth a look, too. Especially if they are green, because light brown and white antlers shine against the contrast in color. Tall grass bedding areas are tough to search, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, but they are likely to hold a number of antlers. So go on, plow through them. Bedding and feeding areas are prime because this is where deer spend a majority of their time, so it’s where you need to spend your time looking for sheds.
Antlers could just as easily fall off while a buck is traveling to or from these areas. Walking major trails on the property you’re shed hunting may turn up some antlers. Mature bucks usually stick to traveling in the thickest of cover, even in the off-season. Be sure to work your way through the tight spots on your property.
South-facing slopes attract deer during day light hours looking to take advantage of the sun’s warmth during cold months. If you can locate a bench - a level shelf of land running through a declivity on a south-facing slope - you’ve located a high probability shed hunting location.
Sheds are great for decorating. I have shed elk antlers on the mantle above my fireplace, shed whitetail antlers on my desk at work, and a pile of shed mule deer antlers on top of my gun vault in my man cave. Some turn them into chandeliers; others throw them in the rocks outside their house. My neighbor has a chain of sheds hanging on his front porch. A nice set can be used as rattling antlers, too.
They are also great for educating. Sheds let us know which bucks made it through the season and help keep us motivated until next September. Four hours into a freezing cold late season sit, many of us fall under the impression not a single deer made it through the season. Sheds prove they did. Find a promising shed and I guarantee you’re more likely to put up a trail camera come August and plant a food plot in June.
Big antlers are a main reason why many people hunt. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is the truth. The antler craze just seems to just keep growing. Well, in Missouri you can only kill two antlered deer a year (with the exception of any special hunts), but you can pick up as many shed antlers as you can find. So, if trophy antlers are your thing, then strap on your boots and put some leather to dirt. You never know what you might come across.
See you down the trail…
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