Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Alas! Mid February is upon us and shed hunters across the country are chomping at the bit to put in those miles for piles. But before you lace up the boots and head out to your shed hunting hot spots, its a great idea to make a plan to make your time afield as efficient as possible!
The first step in creating a plan is to scour over aerial and topographic maps of all the areas you're interested in shed hunting, both old and new.
We suggest downloading a mapping app and in our personal opinion, you can't beat HuntStand as it has all the tools needed for both scouting and hunting.
When unpressured, deer will be conserving energy this time of year and will spend nearly all of their time in two main locations, food and cover.
So first, identify likely feeding areas such as standing crops, oak flats, greened up fields, or heavy natural browse. Deer need to eat now more than ever, and close to half their day will be spent in these feeding locations. If you did your homework after reading our early season shed hunting suggestions, you've likely already found the top food sources in your area, so this will be a breeze.
Secondly, you'll want to take a close look at all south facing slopes and likely prime bedding areas. South facing slopes are preferred for bedding in the winter because they receive more sunlight and thus are warmer than their north facing counterparts.
Next time you're driving down the road between 2 hill sides in the winter, take a good look. Chances are one side will have less or no snow than the other and this the effect of a southern faced slope in action.
While south facing slopes are ideal, some other bedding areas will also be prime locations such as cedar creek bottoms or flat lands with good cover such as pines and/or tall grass. Anything that shields deer from winter weather and is close to food/water will be used as bedding by your local deer herd (without human pressure preventing them otherwise).
When you have both of these areas and terrain features figured out, use HuntStand's shading feature to outline these areas with two different colors so they are clearly marked. It's amazing how some simple coloring can make a map more appealing to the eyes, as seen below on a map with and without shading.
Here we have a clover field in light green and 2 known bedding areas in blue/green for reference.
What this simply does is give you a visual to help identify your high percentage areas that will yield the most results.
With bedding and feeding identified and boots on the ground, find the beaten trails between these areas and start your search there. Gradually fan out from these trails as sometimes critters will drag antlers away in pursuit of the minerals they offer.
What this does is help organize and concentrate your walking into small, high yield sections rather than aimlessly covering ground that most likely won't have sheds.
While it's true that a deer can shed "anywhere", its best to start where the deer are spending most of their time.
Put it this way,
if someone told you that they lost their cell phone, would you hop in your car and drive all over town first? Or start in and around their home where they spend most of their day?
What we recommend next is doing this for all public areas in your hunting range. Food sources will be easiest to find fast so find them first, then breakdown where deer are likely to bed if and when they're using that food source.
Shading each section as you go. What this does is creates a large mapped out area of several places to potentially shed hunt and organizing where you should focus your efforts. As you start hitting these locations, you should quickly realize how much deer are using the land you're shed hunting.
If you walk around a field you thought was a good food source and find no deer tracks or trails going in and out, the likelihood of finding sheds will be very small. The last thing you want to do is spend hours walking around a dead zone of deer activity and miss out on hitting another spot that could be loaded.
As you map these areas out, it will be easier to devise a plan to hit them all in an organized manner so that when in the field you can go from one to the next without much thought. I can't tell you how many times I had a general idea of where I wanted to shed hunt but ended up spending way too much time checking areas that weren't prime locations because I didn't have a set plan in mind.
Remember, effort and efficiency work best together.
You can put in a lot of effort and walk everywhere in a bad area and come up empty handed just as easily as you can by not having a good plan or execution in a good area.
While it's important to put in the "miles for piles", make sure those miles are being tallied in high probability areas before anywhere else. Check your best spots and locations first then you can go back and thoroughly cover the rest.
By making a plan ahead of time, you become more efficient and cross areas off your list quickly by not wasting time figuring out your next move. Do your online planning now, then get out there and find those sheds!
**HuntStand app is free to use for nearly all features, and you even are allowed several parcel checks per month. But by upgrading to the full PRO subscription, you get more map layers, more features, and unlimited parcel information for the whole country for less than $30. Even better, coupon code ARCHERHS at checkout on their full website will get you an additional 10% off. Enjoy!
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