The 2015 season is in the books. With warmer temperatures and longer days now here spring fever is in the air. With spring brings the anticipation of what can be in 2016. Spring turkey season is less than a month away and as fellow NBA blogger Harlan Welch writes in his latest update, turkey season can be a great time to get the next generation of archers out to experience the outdoors. Another way to capitalize on the splendor of mother nature is to shed hunt. I'm going to give you a few tips and share some advice from a very good shed hunter about how to make the most of a day looking for whitetail deer sheds.
I'm a firm believer in the old saying, if you can't beat them, join them. I'd like to tell you I've mastered the art of finding deer sheds but that'd be a stretch. So I have turned to seeking out the advice of those who are much more proficient and successful at it than me. When I moved to Lincoln 5 years ago I was introduced to a fellow bowhunter who may be even more passionate about the outdoors than I am. Tyler "The Golden Boy" Fountain as I call him has lived and hunted in Lancaster county his entire life hunting many of the same spots for most of those years. I've not met many people that consistently kill or catch as much as he does. Not only does he repeatedly tag or limit out on whatever prey is in his sights Tyler lays claim to an incredibly impressive man cave filled with large mounts including a 200" whitetail, a 330" Nebraska bull elk, a hand full of antelope, another dozen or so deer, and most recently a collection of legos and nail polish that his young daughter has decided belongs in the trophy den. At first I was amazed at Tyler's success, but then it became expected, hence the nickname I gave him of "The Golden Boy", literally everything he touches turns to gold. That was never more apparent than just a few years ago when he tagged out with 300" of whitetail in about a 20 second span as not one trophy buck but two great bucks found their way under his stand and both felt the wrath of his arrows. Tyler also regularly will send me pictures of the success he has shed hunting and that's why I asked him to share some of his tips and tactics.
Tyler's favorite place to find sheds is along fencelines as they are a natural travel route for deer. He especially likes to follow fencelines that act as a funnel between a bedding and feeding area. This is logical as it's the tactic you might use when trying to hunt a deer in the fall, and that really is the simplicity of shed hunting. The thought is to look for the bucks where they want to be. Tyler likes to scour bedding areas, fence or creek crossings (the bounding and jarring of landing can often cause an antler to come loose and fall), major trails, and thickets where antlers can get knocked off. This is the easy part, identifying target areas to look, the hard part is actually locating a shed antler. Sheds camoflauge very well into a leaf or weed covered forest floor, and that's where some of Tyler's tricks come into use. Tyler says he likes cloudy days over bright sun shine filled days as you don't have to squint nearly as much and that's his #1 piece of advice, keep your eyes fresh. Tyler's process is to break down your area into a grid and work the area back and forth. He likes to take constant breaks to allow for fresh eyes. Tyler stresses stopping to take breaks which allows you to stay focused and fresh. Because deer don't all drop their sheds at the same time hitting a farm more than once is beneficial as you might find something you overlooked before. Also keeping your line of sight inside of 15 feet is ideal. Personally I've had some of my better luck in grassy waterways that serve as a travel area for feeding deer. These can be difficult areas to spot sheds in because the grass is often tall and conceals sheds. More often than not you may step on a shed so pay attention to what you feel under your feet. This is something Tyler agrees with as he found his biggest shed, an 84" 5 point, by stepping on it. A final piece of advice given to me by Mike Lutt was to focus your efforts on south facing slopes as deer will bed on the backside of those slopes to stay out of the cold north winds of winter. While fields obviously will have sheds in them as deer drop while feeding, it can be the proverbial needle in a haystack looking for them as the fields are so big and open and deer can drop them anywhere. Still, if you are up to the task, sheds can be found this way.
An added benefit of shed hunting is learning the ground you hunt. If you are picking up a new piece of property and you want to scout it prior to deer season, the woods of March will look very much the same as they will in November. The weeds are matted down, the rubs and scrapes are visible, and trails are very evident. So take that time to get out and search the woods as a way to learn where deer want to be and what hidden honey holes can be found. It'll have you one step closer to planning out your fall stand locations.
Of course, getting your kids out now is always a great idea and when a kid finds a shed it makes their day. Tyler says that getting your kids out is good too if for no other reason to wear them out for nap time. Now that's smart thinking. Keeping a kid's interest level is bolstered when they have success, so it never hurts to "help" them find a shed even if it means it ends up right in the path they are walking on. Come to think of it I'm not so sure Tyler didn't use that trick on me on one of our outings!
The Budget Bowhunter