Updated: Sep 21, 2020
So, you've read all the tips and tricks ever written and have put on more miles than anyone you know, yet the elusive white gold of spring time has continued to elude you, and shed envy is at an all time high. Here are 5 reasons why you likely have not found your first shed antler of the season.
1. You're Too Distracted
In today's world, distractions are all around us, and unfortunately, we sometimes can't even escape them when spending time in God's Country.
The obvious distraction is the device in your pocket linking you to the world. Whether you're spending time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or even sending texts, constantly looking at your phone is not going to help you stay focused enough to routinely find sheds.
The only pass that I'll give you here is using your device for mapping purposes, ensuring that you're staying on public land and to help identify potential searching locations. Even then, you should not be looking down while walking.
If you need to look at your phone, make sure you do so while taking a break and while stationary so that you don't walk past the shed in plain sight. Besides the obvious distractions due to our electronics, distraction can also come in other forms. Often times I catch myself scouting more than looking for tines of white bone sticking up.
Shredded trees, torn up scrapes, and muddy trails can all grab our attention much quicker and the thoughts of how you can use this information for the next hunting season can consume your mind.
When shed hunting, try to stay focused to just that, finding sheds antlers. If you find yourself being distracted, be sure to slow down, and check the area over again before moving on.
2. You're Going Too Fast
Sometimes, the more ground you can cover when in the woods is good, this is not one of those times. When searching, its very easy to walk by any shed that isn't 80" due to several factors, including they're obstructed by cover or the sun is hitting them just right to conceal their location.
Slowing down, taking your time, and continuously scanning is going to allow you to be more efficient in your search efforts instead of blowing right past a hidden antler. Think of it this way, if you dropped your binoculars in the woods, and you had a general idea of where they could be, are you going to search that area as quickly as possible? Or slowly and thoroughly as to not miss it?
The same logic applies to shed hunting. It's also worth mentioning that you should be looking for "pieces" or an antler rather than a whole antler as you imagine it. Look for the curve of a main beam, tines sticking up, etc.
3. You're Going Too Far
In line with going too fast, many shed hunters often spend way too much time in areas that are not going to yield many shed antlers. Walking 8 miles or for 8 hours is great, but if 7 of those miles or hours are spent in areas that are not giving you high odds of success, then you're wasting precious time.
Slow down and search high probability areas before moving on to other areas. You're better off taking 4 hours to search a small tract with a lot of deer present than to spend 8 covering as much ground as possible where deer might be.
Refer back to your tips and resources where sheds are likely to be found, and focus your efforts in those places. On the flip side of this argument, on highly pressured public land, sometimes you have to put on the miles before reaching some high probability areas that others aren't willing to walk to.
Use the same principles you know for finding unpressured deer on public land to find areas of unpressured shed hunting ground.
4. You're Too Late
Some years, this factor is out of your control, whether it be due to weather or work and family related commitments. But, the fact of the matter is, as soon as those antlers drop, its a race against time before the rodents or other hunters come across the same thing you're after.
An area of woods with a high squirrel population can result in an antler being chewed up to dust in a week or less. If the weather permits, begin your shed hunting as soon as you think the majority of your local deer population has dropped its antlers.
For me in Pennsylvania, my goal is always to be in the woods the first day of March without significant snow on the ground. But, you can bet my bow I'll be out in early to mid February if the weather cooperates, checking some easy to access, high probability search spots.
If you don't make it out before most shed hunters and until weeks after the snow melts, you're likely going to miss out on sheds you could have and would have found.
5. There Are No Deer
In other words, you're spending your time searching in areas that in theory should be good, but the deer just are not there for one reason or another.
You could grid search every thicket on a south facing slope, ditch/creek crossing, or creek bottom that you know of. But if you are 3 miles from the nearest food source, the odds of you finding a shed are going to plummet.
Sometimes you think that you're in good areas, but the deer have been run out due to pressure, or you're missing some piece of the puzzle that deer need to survive the winter, such as the aforementioned food source. Another mistake that shed hunters often make by accident is by searching areas where the deer were in the fall, and not where they are in the winter.
If you do not have a good late season hunting spot, then you likely don't have a good shed hunting spot either. The deer are either there or they're not, and it's often up to you to find the spots that deer migrate to come winter time.
Shed hunting can be frustrating to say the least, even when you do all your homework to increase your odds each spring. Hopefully these tips will help you find success in the remaining weeks of shed hunting, and we look forward to hearing how your shed season has gone!
As always, if you need any further tips or assistance to help you find your next shed, don't be afraid to contact us and ask for help!
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