Top Shed Antler Hunting Tips

Top Shed Antler Hunting Tips
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By Lance Banning

Shed hunting in the West is a great way to get into the mountains without an open hunting season. It is a lot of fun, and you can get the whole family involved, kids included. The biggest piece to the puzzle is knowing where to start and your local shed antler collecting rules and regulations. With many western states adopting seasonal closures, checking with wildlife offices for up-to-date information is highly recommended. 

In this article, we will discuss a few tips I give people just getting started, from E-scouting, glassing, and the micro terrain. Shed hunting is something I have done my entire life, and it never gets old. Shed hunting is an adult easter egg hunt. Or maybe I just had a lame childhood. Go find some antlers of your own and let me know what you think!


1. E-Scouting

If you know a thing or two about the species you are after, E-scouting any of the hunting Apps or the state's Wildlife websites will pay dividends in narrowing your search. Flip through the layers of these interactive maps to find the wintering grounds for the species you want, as these will typically guide you toward finding the largest consolidated groups of animals. Think big picture here; you will still need to cover miles, but this gets you in the ballpark. From the winter grounds, start studying the migration corridors, as some of these animals, which are geographically dependent, will be dropping antlers as they begin to head back up through these corridors.


2. Glassing

With shed hunting, we have a saying: “miles for piles,” meaning you will be sure to hit your daily step count, putting on the miles regardless of the depth of your E-scouting homework. But a quality set of binoculars will save you some unnecessary miles in the long run. As you first begin this endeavor, every shiny stick with a branch will look like an antler at a distance. Using glass to confirm or deny a shed at a distance allows you to save those miles to reach the areas you need to check. And once you spot that first piece of brown gold, your eye will become more tuned to the sheen that an antler gives versus the dull brown stick with four branches forked just like that of an antler, but we’ve all been there, and the more you find, the more you will understand what I am talking about.

Shed hunting tips

3. Habitat and Terrain

 After you have done your homework and you are boots on the ground, start looking for a sign that matches the age when the bucks and bulls were shedding their antlers. Again, this will depend on your state, which has laws forbidding the collection of antlers until a particular time. Look at the snow line, where the fresh, vibrant, tender green grass chutes are growing and where the feed was first to pop through the snow melt, usually in the low-lying areas that get more sunlight that time of year. In actual mountainous terrain, it will always be the south slopes. Keep in mind these are just tips for where the majority of antlers will be picked up. I have found sheds on dark north slopes up to my waist in snow, but it is usually not worth burning yourself out grid searching those areas. Once I am in the zone that matches all the above, I glass as much as possible as it is a game of angles and the antlers can hide very well. Every step you take may reveal what you are after. I always pay close attention to fence lines or any terrain that animals have to jump over or steep hills that jar their bodies a bit as that can cause the antler to drop when it is ready finally.

Like anything, shed hunting requires some blood, sweat, and tears to gain a knack for it and, most likely, some blisters. But once you get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun for the whole family, and every shed antler is like your own little trophy. Good trails and happy hunting.