Growing up each winter my dog and I would bundle up and head out into the New England snow packed mountains to hunt down deer sheds. I’d load up my daypack (here’s what I use now) with food for the both of us and spend the day following game trails. There are a variety of ways on how to find deer sheds, some are more time extensive than others. How I did this in the past, following game trails aimlessly hoping to stumble over a shed, was definitely the hard way.
Method 1: Free Forging
I coined this tactic ‘free forging’ because ultimately you are forging through the snow and woods hoping to find those dropped sheds. This method gets you the best exercise but isn’t the most effective use of time.
There really isn’t much direction for this method aside from find a heavily used game trail and follow it. The belief is that if you follow enough trails eventually you’ll get lucky and find a shed should the buck drop in the middle of the trail.
If you plan of taking this route to find sheds make sure you’ve got some great foot gear on because you’ll be covering a lot of ground. Quality boots and good insoles are key to preventing foot problems which over time can really keep you out of the woods.
Method 2: Scan the Beds and Rubs
If you know of an area where deer bed down quite often, check there. This usually is close to some conifers or brush due to the coverage it provides them from the snow.
You should be on the lookout for trees that look as if the bark has been scraped off. In the winter buck will rub their antlers on these trees to expedite the process of removing the antlers.
Make sure the rubs are fresh. You can do this by sight or feeling the bark; fresh rubs will be a lighter color than older ones which have dried over time. Buck do rub earlier in the year around the rut to spread a scent that emits from their sudoriferous glands located on their forehead. Don’t waste time looking around old rubs since bucks’ motive for rubbing then wasn’t to drop their antlers.
If you’re in a thicket full of fresh rubs you probably have a pretty good chance at finding a few sheds.
Method 3: Homemade Deer Shed Trap
I know spending hours in the woods hiking for sheds is a good workout plus allows you to get a little breather from the world behind, but at times wouldn’t it be nice to get those sheds without heading out in the cold? I’ll teach you how to find deer sheds without following game trails across mountain after mountain.
What I’ll share with you is a little trap I’ve coined the ‘Shed Snatcher’ (if you can’t tell I like making up my own terms for these tactics, I’m hoping they catch on). A simple feeder that anyone can build and let the bucks’ hunger do the work for you.
What you’ll need:
- Chicken wire
- Corn or other feed
- 4 wooden stakes (at least 3″ in diameter & 4′ tall)
- Zip ties
Before setting up your shed snatcher make sure the regulations in your state permit you to start feeding the deer. Most states have restrictions on when you can bait.
- Once you are allowed to start baiting, throw out feed in a spot alongside a game trail. Make sure you place it in the same spot each time so they consistently return to the same spot.
- Throw bait out for a couple weeks without setting up the shed snatcher. We want to make sure the trap is only set up during the time of the year when their antlers are ready to come off (usually starts mid January and runs to April depending on location). If you set it up too soon when the antlers aren’t ready to come off they’ll get caught in the wire and you’ll have one hell of a day getting a kicking buck untangled from the trap.
- Once the antlers are ready to fall it’s time to set up the trap. Take the four stakes and hammer them into the ground in a rectangular pattern (see image below for spacing). Pound them about a foot into the ground leaving 3′ above ground. You can also do this earlier in the year when the ground is softer, just don’t wrap the chicken wire around it then.
- About a foot up from the ground, wrap the chicken wire around each of the posts enclosing the rectangle. You’ll need that 1′ gap so the deer can reach the feed. Hold the wire in place with either staples or use zip ties to connect it to the posts.
- Place your feed in the center of the trap and wait for sheds to fall!
How to find deer sheds and the effort placed in doing so is up to you. I’ve laid out three methods that’ll hopefully help you get a few nice sheds for your collection or that to-be antler lamp. Good luck shed hunting!
Post your finds on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bestcamoreviews, I’d love to see them.