Lance Roberts, with Tines Up, was born and raised in Southern Utah, where he was surrounded by some of the best hunting and shed hunting in the state! His shed hunting passion began as a young boy and he hopes to pass this same hobby on to his kids. He has guided for the past 18 years, with mule deer being his favorite.
It's addicting... and something you will look forward to almost as much as the regular hunts each year!
People often ask, “Why do you shed hunt?”, and our response is almost always the same... “It's fun to do, it's rewarding, it gets us outdoors, and it's something everyone can do, without having to draw a tag!”
Just like hunting, people shed hunt for different reasons:
1. To stay busy and stay in shape over the winter
It's a great excuse to beat the wintertime blues, by getting outside scouting for deer or elk in hopes that you may get lucky enough to pick up their head gear. People simply love the shed hunt itself and the bonus of finding that “Brown Gold” (the shed antlers) is icing on the cake! Lastly, it's an enjoyable way of exercising to help you get back into shape for the fall months that lie ahead.
Shed hunting can be a fantastic scouting tool, allowing you to acquire more knowledge about the animals that you may be hunting the following season. It helps piece together the traveling pattern of where that animal may spend its time, and if you're lucky enough to watch it during the summer and fall months, knowing where they winter helps you put the whole thing together.
3. Make some extra bucks
Shed antlers are worth money! A lot of people sell their antlers each year to antler buyers that make their rounds across the country. While this would probably be hard to make a living off of, it can help offset the cost of gas and supplies used to locate and watch them through the winter months.
We have been fortunate enough to pick up the sheds and harvest the same animal years later and it's awesome to see the growth and changes these animals make in a few years’ time. A lot of people become pretty attached to the antlers they find, especially if they are large or have other significant value to them, and then they won't sell the antlers, but keep them for decorations or bragging rights.
To be more successful at finding more sheds, you really must be determined and willing to put in more time than the next shed hunter during those crucial late winter and early spring months (January-March). It goes without saying that if you’re willing to put in more time, your success with finding shed antlers will go up immensely. It’s no secret that quality time equates to success.
Just because you’re out there putting in more time than the next guy, doesn’t mean you’ll be guaranteed to find more. Shed hunting can be difficult and there are days when you go out ready to conquer the world and end up coming home empty handed. On the flip side, you will also have days when you luck into that big one or get lucky and match up a big set from one of the mature bucks/bulls you’ve been watching.
So, where do I start?
The best place to start is anywhere that has a good, healthy population of big game that you are looking to find the sheds from. For deer antlers, that is going to be a different area than it would be for elk, most of the time. A couple of standards that usually don’t change for both are:
1. Find feeding areas
The animals must be where they have fed, and this is usually more on the south-facing slopes where the sun has been able to melt off all or most of the snow, leaving more food sources available to the animals.
2. Deer and elk are easier to pattern in the winter
Deer and elk don’t usually move a long way in the winter because at that point, their bodies are worn down from the rut and the long winter months they have just had to endure. This makes patterning and watching them a little easier if they don’t get pushed by someone or something else.
3. Look for bedding areas
Bedding areas can also be a great place to look. As stated earlier, the animals will get into a pretty good pattern from bedding areas to where they feed, and vice versa, so when it comes time to actually search for shed antlers, be sure to look in both places as they could very easily be in either one.
If you really want to learn an area that you are going to hunt in the future, then put in some time watching the animals in the winter and as you shed hunt. This will allow you to become more familiar with the area and could also help you narrow down an animal’s specific travel pattern.
Deer usually start shedding their antlers in January and February, while elk are usually later, from March through April. By the first part of May, most of the deer and elk will have shed their antlers and started into their new head gear.
Each state has their own set of guidelines and rules that you must follow for shed hunting—some states have specific dates of when you can start to look for and gather the sheds, while others are more open and less restrictive. Be sure to check the state’s guidelines before you head out on your next shed hunting adventure because you don’t want to end up getting a ticket or fine.
Gone are the days of being able to shed hunt wherever and whenever you want to. Because the animals are at their low points for body strength and stamina, it is crucial that we don’t put more stress on them during these months; shed hunt with the wildlife in mind. Give animals time to recover from the tough winter and even then, if you do come across them, leave the area or be cautious to not bump them out.
This saying goes for shed hunting in many instances. Find a good vantage point and use your glass (binoculars) to scan the area and save yourself some footsteps by scouring the area before you go hike through it. You will be surprised how much more successful you can be by putting your optics to work, rather than your legs/feet. Covering a lot of ground is always a great thing and will help you be successful, but why not put that together with glassing, and find even more.
Make a plan to get out more—you won’t regret it and you may even get lucky and stumble onto something great in the process. Shed hunting can be a fun family outing or something you do alone, but it will help you get into shape, learn more about the area/animals, and it gets addicting. Good luck in your upcoming shed hunting season.
Explore some of the shed hunting packs and gear featured in the article.