How to Find Deer Antler Sheds
Tips for Finding a Deer Antler Shed
Deer populations have exploded across the country in recent years. In many areas - and especially in the Northeast where we live - the populations have grown to the point where they are routinely found in yards, parks, fields, wooded lots and even in the grassy borders along roads and highways. Every buck grows and sheds their set of antlers every year so if there are deer around, there will be at least a few antler sheds. If you know where to find deer, you might be lucky enough to find a shed antler or two.
Follow a Deer Trail
Deer are creatures of habit, and they move around their territory between their various feeding and bedding areas on a daily basis. In suburbs with fragmented tracks of wooded land and overgrown fields, the herds routinely use the same travel routes. Deer often move in more or less single file, with the lead and trailing deer on alert for any potential danger. Their repeated travels through the same areas can create noticeable pathways through the woods: tracks, nipped saplings and brush, scratched ground and narrow pathways trampled through the leaves.
While small groups of does and yearlings are often seen browsing among the trees and shrubs in our neighborhoods, it's much rarer to catch a glimpse of a buck, especially the older veterans capable of growing impressive racks. Large bucks are solitary and skittish, and they are less likely to move through open areas than the groups of does and yearlings that they will often follow.
Look for Scrapes and Bedding Areas
One easy way to find these deer "highways" is to head out into the woods after a light snow. The tracks will be easily visible in the new snow, and you might even find where the herd spent the night. They will often bed down together in a protected area, out of the prevailing wind and under any available cover such a cluster of mountain laurel or a stand of pine trees.
After the snow ends and they leave the cover in search of food and water, the spots where they bedded down will be bare ground surrounded by snow. You will probably find lots of tracks and scrapes in the ground where the deer are rooting through the snow and leaves in search of fallen acorns and other bits to eat. Make note of these bedding and feeding areas; bucks will use these same spots, and when the timing is right, can shed an antler when they enter or leave the brush surrounding their bedding sites. Once you find the deer runs and their bedding areas, you have also found likely places for finding sheds. Searching these areas repeatedly throughout the late winter and early spring might just yield an shed antler.
Increasing Your Chances of Finding a Shed
Bucks drop their antlers at different times throughout the late winter and early spring: some will drop their antlers in late January, others in early March, or anytime in between. Finding a shed antler is a matter of luck, but you can also increase your chances by walking slowly along the deer trails and looking for bits of white contrasting among the leaves, branches and twigs. The curved shape of the fallen antler often stands out from the surrounding forest floor, though I've often spotted what I surely thought was an antler only to pick up a bleached-out branch.
Where you ducked under the overhanging branches, a passing buck might have caught his loosened antler in the same branches that just snagged your hat or scraped your head as you ducked underneath.
Found One? Look for its Mate!
If there are any obstacles along the path where the deer may need to jump over or across, such as a fallen log, stream, ditch, or even a roadway, the deer's landing can jar a loosened antler enough to cause it to fall to the ground. Where ever you find an shed, give the area a good look around -- you might be lucky enough to the find the other one to complete the matched set. As soon as one antler falls off, the buck often tries to knock the other antler off by brushing it up against a tree or low hanging branches.
It's often worth checking the same areas again from late winter through early spring. You might just find a shed in the same trail that you walked through just days or weeks earlier. Time in the woods can pay off, and it's fun too!.
On a hike through the woods behind our house, we can across the scattered remains of a large buck. Along with a few bits of gnawed and fractured bone, we found a pair of antlers still attached to a bit of skull. The photo shows the 10-point rack right where we found them.
Tips For Finding Sheds
- Hiking through the woods after a light snow will make it easier to find deer tracks, trails and bedding areas. Deer are creatures of habit, and will travel through the same areas in search of food and shelter from the weather.
- If you find an antler, search the area thoroughly for the other. Bucks often lose both antlers within a short distance of each other.
Have You Ever Found A Deer Antler Shed?
Have You Ever Found A Deer Antler Shed?
White-tailed Deer Facts
Did You Know?
White-tailed deer lived in wooded areas from southern Canada and throughout most of the continental United States except for the Southwest.
The white-tailed deer is named for its signature tail. When alarmed, the deer sprints away from danger with its tail raised upright. The white underside of the tail flashes like a flag, warning others of the potential dangers.
Deer typically feed in the early morning and late in the early afternoon, bedding down in cover for most of the day. They eat fresh grass and green leaves during the spring and summer. During the fall and winter months, deer scrape away the snow and fallen leaves from the ground in search of acorns and nuts. They also browse for twigs and buds.
Creatures of habit, white-tails routinely use the same trails to travel between feeding and bedding areas. The size of their home range is usually about one square mile.
Deer are herbivores, and only eat plants. In suburban areas with high populations, white-tails will raid yards and gardens to eat shrubs and perennials.
Only the male white-tailed deer grows antlers, which it sheds each year. A large male can weigh up to 300 pounds. Females are smaller, typically weighing between 90 to 150 pounds. They can run up to 30 miles per hour, and can leap a six-foot tall fence. Deer are also excellent swimmers.
White-tailed deer mate in late fall and early winter. After a six month gestation period, the females give birth to spotted fawns. Twins are common, though single births and even triplets are not unusual.
Newborn fawns can walk shortly after birth, and they run within a few hours. The mother deer lick the young fawns to remove most of their scent, making it difficult for predators to find a hiding
Build a Deer Feeder to Attract Wildlife
Build this deer feeder to attract deer, turkeys and other animals into your yard. This deer feeder box is quick and easy to make from a 1 x 12 pine or cedar board, which is readily available at any home center or lumberyard. A single 6' long pine board provides enough material to complete this project.
The deer feeder is a box with a slanted front panel to create a bin for storing the food, and with a lower tray for feeding. The removable lid makes it easy to fill the feed box with cracked corn or a wildlife specialty mix.
Deer Feeder Box Plans
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna