On April 16th, 2022, I ventured to the property where I often deer hunt. On my solo trip, I was on a mission to fill my feeders with feed and minerals to help with future antler growth. After filling the feeders, I walked over to the edge of the field and looked along the fence line for any possible shed antlers hidden in the fresh green grass. After looking around for three to four minutes, I returned to my truck and headed home for the day. Before getting to my truck, I looked down and saw the white glow of a shed antler peeking through the taller grass.
After finding the antler, I immediately thought my wife wouldn’t believe it. Even though it was a smaller buck that had dropped part of his rack, she would be in disbelief because we had spent the past few weekends looking and searching a large area of the farm without any trace of any antlers. My wife wanted to find her first shed antler so badly that I knew when I told her I had found one without even really looking, she would be jealous.
Finding shed antlers during the winter and early spring has become an annual ritual for many hunters. Many people venture out each spring to find one of mother nature’s finest hidden treasures. Hunters make an effort to search because of scouting efforts and to see what bucks made it through the season. After finding sheds, they can measure how many inches of bone a buck has grown each year. For non-hunters, they find ways to use the beautiful antlers they have found as part of their craftsmanship on furniture, cabinets, and home décor.
If you’re like my wife and me, your efforts at finding shed antlers may not always end with the anticipated results you hoped for. To help with the struggle, below are the three best places and times to look when trying to find these deer gems.
Most bucks begin to lose their rack during February and March. However, bucks have been known to shed as early as late November and as late as May. Typically bucks spend much of their time in the winter feeding heavily to stay warm and replenish the body fat and strength they lost during the rut. With the increase in needed food, in and nearby crop fields, food plots, and other late-season food sources are some of the best places to find shed antlers, simply because that is where they spend most of their time.
Moments before the antler falls from the head of a buck; they become loose and fragile. Because of the absence of a secure attachment to the head, any sudden movement or jolt to a buck's body can result in the antler falling to the ground. One of the best places to look for fallen antlers is along fence lines and travel routes. When a deer jumps a fence, its body hits the ground with a sudden intensity; often causing antlers to finish their final dismount.
Supplemental Feeding Areas and Game Cameras
As with my experience of feeding deer in the early spring, supplemental feeding areas can often be great locations to find shed antlers lying in easy sight. In areas where crops or late-season plots are unavailable, substituting with feeds can draw many deer to one designated area.
As a bonus, hunters can use a cellular game camera to help monitor the exact time that bucks drop their antlers when feeding deer in one specific place.
By closely monitoring buck pictures, the hunter gains knowledge of when they lose their antlers, which helps provide a starting point of where to look, knowing that they are most likely not far from the feeding site. Knowing when antlers have fallen also allows the hunter to find them before they are made into a meal by squirrels and other critters who love the taste of the calcium-rich bone.
Often referred to as “finding a needle in a haystack” for the many who struggle each year with finding bucks’ sheds, hunters need to remember it can be difficult but not impossible. It is not unheard of to find more antlers while turkey hunting or scouting rather than when on the hunt for sheds. However, I have found that when I started paying attention to the three locations above as well as always being open to the possibility of finding sheds outdoors anytime, my findings began to increase, and my obsession with shed hunting surged.