Food for Thought
It’s mid-March and warmer weather has arrived so it’s time to think about spring food food plots for white-tailed deer. We all know that supplemental plantings can increase deer body condition and antler growth in bucks, but food plots are also great places to hunt for shed antlers. The fall is great because of hunting season, but spring is fun because shed hunting can be a social, group effort with my buddies and I. We also get a chance to work the ground and do a little turkey hunting, too.
We make it a point to look for shed antlers at fence lines, creek crossing, road crossings, ditches, bottom of draws, downwind side of food plots, downwind side of spin and protein feeders, stock ponds, water troughs, woodlines, and areas where we observe deer naturally feeding. A good idea when searching for sheds around fences or ditches is to look away from the structures some distance since a buck will sometimes hit the ground hard in a spot and antlers will jar loose then fall off after a few bounds or after running a bit.
The above mentioned sites are great, but spring food plots can pay off big when shed hunting in the early spring. It all depends on when antlers drop in your area as well as local environmental/habitat conditions. Antlers tend to drop earlier when conditions are worse than normal. This is because bucks are in poor body condition, which results in a drop in testosterone, which leads to antlers dropping. No time to worry about breeding/rutting when your physical condition is going downhill, fast.
Plotting Your Shed Hunting
It also never hurts to check out fall and winter plots. Many times the planted items will be old and rank, but often there will be cool season forbs sprouting and growing within the plot. Forbs are high in protein and will draw deer like a magnet. This is especially true if the food plot was also fertilized before planting or shortly after being established. It also doesn’t hurt that most food plots are located along woodlines, so even traveling deer are rather lazy (but careful) and will prefer to walk along the edge plot rather than within dense woods and/or brush. Antler traps also work well near food plots if additional feed stations are in close proximity.
It’s a good idea to carry binoculars when shed hunting. You are going to see a lot stuff that looks like dropped antlers, but that are not. The binoculars will save a lot of wasted time walking to would-be sheds. You can also hunt for shed antlers from an ATV, UTV or from the comfort of your vehicle when looking over well-browsed food plots or well-grazed pastures. You can cover a number of acres by slowly scanning. Big sheds will stick out.
Find Food & Water, Find Antlers
We mentioned that white-tailed deer need water. Other shed-finding hot spots can be where there are feeding areas or food plots adjacent watering sites. Looking around water troughs that are heavily used by deer are great, especially, and you will find more around the water sources in dry years. This is particularly true at lower latitudes where temperatures can heat up before antler drop.
Properties with a lot of ponds and creeks, lots of water make it more difficult since deer seem to be more spread over the whole property. Focus on the inflow side of tanks when rainfall is sparse, which should mean grass and forbs should be limited as well. It’s nearly impossible to find shed antlers in tall, lush vegetation.
Locating food and water are key for finding shed antlers. When to look? Well, that all depends on when whitetail bucks shed antlers in your part of the world. Do look around post-prime winter food plots as well as newly established spring plots. Wherever there is soil disturbance there will be plants growing that deer love to eat. Bring some water, a sense of humor and cover as much country as possible.