Know When To Hold ‘Em

Even though shed season is here, it might be in your best interest—and in the best interest of deer and elk—to sit tight for a bit.

A quick scroll through Facebook tells the story that serious shed antler hunters are out and about, especially in deer country. Deer of all species have started to jettison their antlers, and the temptation to bust in to deer habitat and scrounge for a fresh, brown set is as tempting as the last brownie in the pan.

But should you make that trip into deer country?

In some cases, your pursuits are warranted. This could be true if the deer drop their antlers a distance away from their sanctuary in a feeding location they only visit at dark. Unfortunately, in most cases you should hit the brakes and hold off. If you need more convincing, read on why your intensive gridding of an area for antlers could affect how many you find—and your hunting next fall.

  1. All big game species go into winter in poor shape and have a difficult time maintaining a healthy state as the winter progresses. Southern deer fair better than their northern counterparts, but even they suffer because of depleted nutrition sources and harvested crops. This means any added stress, such as you pushing through bedding cover, could lead to additional stress and even death. A buck that dies in the late winter isn’t available to pursue in the fall. It’s that simple.
  2. At this time of year deer cozy up to any refuge where they feel secure. That doesn’t mean they won’t call a moving van and up and leave in the middle of the night if you pressure them. Again, this adds stress to deer, plus they make take their antlers with them and drop them across a fence where you can’t cross.
  3. If you shed hunt on public areas you might even be breaking the law. More and more states are imposing access regulations, closure dates, certification and even shed hunting seasons to the books. Be sure to check access regulations to all federal, state, county and city properties. You don’t want to get a ticket when you can wait for a warm-weather adventure within the law.
  4. Finally, you can hunt for antlers, but at a distance. Sure you want to be the first to snatch a fresh shed, but you can observe bucks from a distance using your binocular. I put my Nikon Monarch 7 to work along with my EDG spotting scope all winter watching bucks. By watching them from afar I eliminate stress on the animals, yet I’m able to mark the approximate area where antlers could be found later. When the environment is a bit more tolerable for man and beast, I put my Cabela’s boots into action to pile up some bone.

P.S. If you’re attending the Louisville, Kentucky, Deer and Turkey Expo this weekend, stop by and visit. I’m also at the Columbus, Ohio, Deer and Turkey Expo March 13-15, 2015. I’m looking forward to talking with North American Hunter members at either event.

And as always … I’ll see you in the field!

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