By: Brennen Nading (@nadingbr)
Deer season is now closed across most of the country, and will be closed everywhere before long. Over the past several years, fueled by social media (my opinion of course), shed hunting has become a very popular activity amongst deer hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Although it has become very popular, I feel like there is still a lot of unknown variables to the majority of the people that set to the woods in search of these prized hunks of calcium.
It’s late January, is it too soon to start walking for antlers? That is a loaded question. Only because there are SO many variables that come into play. Are you shed hunting private land or public land? If you are shed hunting private land, is there anyone else that has permission to shed hunt there also? These are the questions you must first answer before you decide whether or not it is too soon to start looking in January.
An unwritten rule that I heard when I was younger, is that 20% of deer will drop their antlers in January, 60% will drop in February, and 20% will drop in March. It’s not an exact science, but over the years I have found the “20-60-20 rule” to be very very accurate across the midwest region. That said, today is January 22nd. If you do the math, that means approximately 14% of bucks have dropped their antlers as of today.
Next, ask yourself this. With only 14% of bucks shed out, is it worth blowing up your properties right now when there is a chance you will bump the remaining 86% of bucks that are still holding? If you are walking public land, or somewhere you have competition, maybe. If you have snow on the ground in your area, this is the time to start keeping tabs on the property you’re planning to walk. Check the public land parking lots for signs of others that might be walking, the longer the property is left alone, the better your success is going to be when you decide to start looking. If you are walking private land, I’d say you’re much better off to wait until the majority of the bucks have shed their antlers.
If it’s still too early, what can I do to ensure success when the time comes? There is no better time than right now to be driving back roads and finding out where the deer are herded up. The majority of the deer are going to lose their antlers in the next month, if you want to score in March, it is crucial to keep tabs on where they are spending their time between now and then. Whether it’s driving around on a sunny day and scouting sign in the snow, or driving around in the evening before dark and getting a visual on them when they are food bound.
I think the main thing that leaves new shed hunters scratching their heads is this. A property that might have been loaded with deer in October/November might be a ghost town in February. If you want to be successful in shed hunting, I can’t stress enough, the importance of scouting from the vehicle over the next 4-6 weeks.
If you’re the person that doesn’t necessarily care about finding antlers, and just want to get out in the woods and walk for fun, take this article with a grain of salt and start pounding brush. I don’t fall into that category. I enjoy shed hunting equally as much as I do actually deer hunting. That said, I take the same precautions on my shed season as I do in the fall. I might press my luck early on some public land where I know there will be pressure, but you can count on me waiting until the majority of bucks are shed out before I push into my honey holes.
20-60-20. Keep this mind. Yes, there are antlers on the ground already, no doubt about it. There are going to be a lot more on the ground in the course of the next month and a half. If you’re thinking about starting to walk, just ask yourself if the juice is worth the squeeze.