Why I Love Hunting Sheds

Believe it or not, when it comes to introducing a newcomer to our hunting ranks, hunting sheds can be better than hunting the animals themselves.

My sister and brother-in-law moved to Wyoming a few years ago. As Californians, they did not have deer near their house. Now there are whitetails and mule deer all over their property.

“Try looking for sheds,” I told them the following spring. “It can be fun.”

All I got were blank looks. I realized those guys had no idea what a “shed” was. I explained that deer, elk, moose and other antlered species dropped their racks in late winter or early spring, and that a sharp-eyed snooper could find these shed antlers laying around. I also told them that deer are especially prone to drop their antlers while jumping a fence, due to the jarring impact when they thud down on the far side. There are lots of fences near my sister’s new house.

A week later, I received a phone call.

“Wow!” my sister exclaimed. “We found six whitetail sheds along the fences today!” I could hear the excitement in her voice. Before the winter was out, my sister and brother-in-law had fresh shed antlers all over their house.

I usually find several dozen sheds each year while hunting elk, deer, moose, caribou and other antlered species. I find even more each spring by deliberately looking in high-use deer and elk areas. Much of this looking is through binoculars from ridge lines and other vantage points. Sheds tend to be light in color, and often show up well on distant hillsides.

I usually cart sheds home. In a few states, picking up sheds is not legal. But that’s an exception to the rule.

While backpacking for caribou in Alaska a few years ago, I found more than 2 dozen big moose sheds in one little valley. The darn things probably averaged 20 pounds apiece, and I was 10 miles from base camp. I reluctantly left those sheds behind.

The ultimate find is a matched pair of sheds. Antlered animals occasionally drop both sheds close together, but you usually have to scour large tracts of ground to find both. Most often, you never do. Deer and elk sometimes drop one antler, and then wander for several days before they drop the other one.

What’s The Point
I enjoy hunting sheds for two reasons. First, I can discover the presence of big bucks in my area—even when those deer are mostly nocturnal. Second, shed hunting is excellent off-season fun.

For a great time this spring, go look for shed antlers. Time is winding down, but it's not too late!


North American Hunter Top Stories