By: Brennen Nading (@nadingbr)
Valentines Day? Nah, I’ve always looked at this date as “opening day” for the shed hunting to get serious. The drop is in full effect right now, and if you’ve been doing your homework, payday is near! In the past 10 days I have gotten out and done some walking in both Iowa and North Dakota. With much different terrain, weather, and snow depths in these states; this is what I have to report right now.
In North Dakota, the deer were grouped up in winter herds as you would expect in the seemingly arctic environment. The snow was deep, it’s hard to say exactly how much was on the ground due to drifting but if I had to put a number on it, I would say the overall average right now is somewhere in the 12-16″ mark. Due to the high winds and open terrain, there are areas with much deeper snow, and there are also fields with bare spots where the snow has blown off of them. These spots are where most of the deer were congregating and feeding, even in the midday hours. This made it fairly easy to get eyes on the deer and get a solid report for the bucks that had shed out, and the ones that were still carrying.
From what I could tell, I would say somewhere around 75% of the bucks were shed already. The main objective of this trip was coyote hunting, but Mike and I did find a little time to sneak in a quick walk for sheds. We found a large deer herd, used BaseMap to find the landowners house and went and knocked on his door. He gave us permission to walk the woodlot behind his house along with the surrounding fields. In just a short walk, we picked up 3 fresh antlers laying on top of the frozen snow. The next day, after a coyote set up, we did another quick walk and scooped up a couple more antlers on the way back to the truck. There are definitely antlers to be had in North Dakota right now, but it will only get better when the snow levels start to go down.
I’ve spent a few days now scouting/walking public land here in Iowa. I was looking in areas that I have been to in the past and had success. I would say there is approximately 4-6” of snow on the ground in a lot of the areas that I checked out. In areas where the sun hits most of the day, the snow is near gone, or completely gone. These are the areas that I focused on. South facing slopes, cedar thickets, hedge orchards had the best sign and the most bare ground. I didn’t spend too much time in the areas with a lot of snow yet, I will check those again once it melts down more. As expected, most of the public land I walked showed sign of other people out shed hunting already. Boot tracks were found in/around almost every food source that I checked. However, I was still able to find antlers that were either missed or had dropped since the last person had walked these food sources.
I also took the main deer trails back towards the bedding areas and was able to score a few sheds in these areas as well. A fresh inch of snow blew in and shut me down. I will continue to put pressure on my public land spots over the course of the next couple weeks up until I start walking some of the private land that I have permission on towards the end of the month. From what I found in Iowa, and from the deer sightings I encountered, I would guess that approximately 30% of bucks are shed out in the southern half of the state with 70% still carrying.
The middle of February is definitely when things start to get interesting if you’re a big shed hunter. More and more antlers will continue to fall each day now. If you are planning to do some walking, even if not in the near future, it is important that you get tabs on the deer right now. Where the deer are right now is where you are going to want to focus on when you start walking. If you’re walking public land, stay persistent, don’t let boot tracks deter you, and work harder than the next guy. If you’re on private ground, waiting just a little bit longer will likely be in your best interest. Let the majority of the deer shed out before you start blowing into the bedding areas and risk running them onto the neighbors with head gear still in tow. Good luck to everyone that is hitting the woods!