July 15, 2024

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Shed Hunting

It’s that time of year again, the time when whitetails  start dropping their antlers.  Here in the Adirondacks the majority of  bucks start shedding right around Christmas. This year they seem to be a little late as I just saw a big 10 pointer last night with a matching set still on his head.  On the 6th of January I spotted a buck with half a rack which means he probably shed the other antler earlier that day or on the 5th.  Antler hunting can have some big rewards and some big headaches. Anytime you find an antler whether it be a spike horn or half a rack, it’s a special moment. Here in the mountains where White Pine and Balsam branches litter the landscape it can be next to impossible to find an antler on the forest floor.  After awhile all those branches start to look a lot  like antlers.

Can you find the antler?

A few years back  I  spotted a huge 10 pt. buck one evening who had just shed his left side that day. I knew it was that day because I had seen him the night before.  I probably spent a total of 40 hours looking for that shed and never found it, to this day I still find myself looking.  While I searched for that shed I passed by another antler at least a dozen times  lying amongst the dead pine branches until I finally saw it. They blend in that well.

A couple of inches of snow can be a big help when shed hunting. Snow does three things for you. One:  it covers most if not all the dead and downed branches. Two: deer are much easier to trail in the snow you can follow their tracks right to their bedding areas  where the probability of finding a shed is the greatest. Three:  dropped antlers show up in fresh snow like a beacon from a lighthouse. On the other hand too much snow especially several inches of light fluffy snowflakes will make it nearly impossible to find a shed.

Your not the only one who’ll be excited to find a shed antler. Rodents and there are many of them love calcium.  It just so happens that antlers are made up of none other than ….. you guessed it, Calcium!  Squirrels, mice, and porcupines, they all love antlers.  If you find an antler that’s been lying around for a while chances are that it has chew marks on it or it has been partially devoured already.

rodent chewed antler

The most important thing about shed hunting to remember is don’t get discouraged. It takes a certain amount of luck to find an antler laying in the middle of nowhere. There are years I turn up empty handed. The great thing is your outdoors with fresh air and sunshine. A little bit of nature goes along way on a winter day.   Enjoy!!