It is the beginning of February and finally a moment deer hunters can break away from cabin fever and once again return to the woods, February and March are the months that make up shed season! February marks the beginning of the average dates deer begin to lose their antlers, some will be earlier in December and January and maybe even later in April, but February and March are when most deer lose their headgear.
So when the best time to find deer sheds?
This answer of when do deer shed their antlers, is more easily given by explaining the actual shedding process. Like most aspects of a whitetails life the actual antler shedding process is mainly determined by photoperiod or the amount of daylight in this time of year. The photoperiod signals testosterone levels in a buck and just like the rut affect their behavior and physical attributes. Photoperiod and the resulting testosterone levels are why there is a mean or average period when most deer drop their antlers, but what about the outliers in January or April?
It comes down to There are several things besides photoperiod that can affect the actual date of the drop and when you should start shed hunting. It’s not necessarily changes or pressure on the antlers themselves but environmental factors affecting a bucks testosterone levels. Social stress, number of does, injuries from fighting or getting shot, poor nutrition, and sometimes severe winter weather can all lead to stress and result in lowering testosterone levels. For later drops in late march or even April, you might have an improperly managed doe population (skewed sex ratio). In these situation a doe will not be bred during her first estrous during the main part of the rut, maybe not even the second, causing her to come in December or even January. Too many does and not enough bucks can cause this. First year fawns will also come into estrous during their first winter if they gain enough weight, and both late does and doe fawns will amp up the bucks testosterone levels and delay the shedding process.
Once the testosterone drops below a certain level the osteoclast layer of cells between the skull and the antler absorbs calcium (and other minerals?) from the antlers….once absorbed the antler is rough and porous and will separate, remember this happens fast the antler will not come off by being torn off, it takes this process for a deer to shed its antler.
Typically once an antler is shed, the other will come off anywhere from a couple seconds, minutes, to a couple hours, and in some cases a couple days or even weeks, finding a match set is sometimes very difficult. Shed hunting is fun, but hard in some cases, all the more why we are happy to supply these shed hunting tips and tactics. In the next video we will share with you the top places to find deer sheds. But now is the time to start looking, February is again where most bucks begin losing their antlers, if your concerned about being the first in the woods now is the time to get out and collect the early droppers.
Stay up to date with our videos as we dive into shed season and cover more topics like the top places to find sheds, antler traps, and bring you along on some shed hunts.