Locating buck areas with the aid of shed antlers
I must admit that I’ve never gone shed antler hunting as the sole purpose of trekking into whitetail woods and fields come late winter, but that may change by the time March rolls around.
There have been plenty of occasions when I’ve been in both woods and fields for other reasons — usually some sort of hunting — and stumbled across shed antlers that a buck had dropped whenever the moment to lose his prideful crown came. I can even recall twice finding an entire deer skull with antlers still in place, a strong verification that this particular boney head piece once belonged to a whitetail that had met an untimely end.
In fact, a couple of times I’ve been hunting small game with friends in Pennsylvania’s elk country when one of my companions came across the shed antlers of an elk, which in itself is really a special moment.
Taking hints from a few friends who do shed hunting, they ordinarily plan their searches in March, when woods have cleared of deep snow, and ideally with a small amount of white stuff still scattered about, which makes for easier sighting of dropped headgear.
Usually, the purpose of shed hunters going afield is to locate a specific area where bucks have shed their antlers, and to search for other signs nearby such as bedding spots, available food sources, and if they like what they see, possible spots to hunt from such as excellent vantage points or trees to climb, if that is their style of hunting.
Often they are looking for antlers that have come from a good sized rack, a strong hint that same deer will have an even better set of antlers come the next fall, and still live in the same area.
For myself, I have a couple areas where I exclusively hunt deer near my home. Through these past seasons I’ve seen some real good bucks at these spots that I never got a shot at as they escaped both my bow, and guns in rifle and flintlock seasons. One, in fact was easily the largest racked buck I’ve ever seen while hunting.
These areas are relatively small spots (the photo above shows one of them, which has a deep hollow at the field’s end), and I can assume those bucks, plus others, will remain in those areas in future times. However, I will not enter those places at the moment for two reasons. One, these areas, however small, still are places where deer are now because of some winter food sources. And I have no desire to cause them to move during these difficult times for all wildlife.
Secondly, the snow is still damn deep, and my trudging through the layered accumulation of both snow and ice may be a bit too taxing for my aging legs and knees.
But when the snow is gone, I just may take a few hours to see if the dropped antlers from those big guys can be found, assuring me that they still live in those spots, and will again make my heart race if I’m lucky enough to see them once more with bow or gun in hand.