While the deer hunting season closed in January, it doesn’t have to end if you take to the woods and fields in search of antler sheds.
According to Pennsylvania resident Bob Foulkrod, a RedHead Pro Hunting Team member, outdoor TV personality and outdoor writer, “From a practical standpoint, hunting sheds is a tremendous aid in hunting the deer that grew them. Finding shed antlers in your hunting area in late January and into February and March, can tell you a great deal about the number and quality of bucks you are likely to see during next hunting season.”
Shedding can start to occur in late December as famed wildlife photographer and author Dr. Lenny Rue III indicates in his new book, Whitetail Savvy (a sensational encyclopedia on whitetails available from Rue at www.ruewildlifephotos.com). Says Rue, “With the ever increasing amount of daylight after December 21st, the melatonin is suppressed by the end of March and the luteinizing hormone allows enough testosterone to be produced to start the growth of the buck’s new antlers.”
In his chapter on sheds, Rue writes that finding cast antlers may help hunters to be more successful in locating a good buck the following deer season. Sheds, he contends, also make good knife handles, door pulls and chandeliers.
Rue goes on to say that even more important, cast antlers give definite proof which bucks made it through the hunting season, how large the bucks are and where they might be found next season.
He adds that although bucks may not live in the same area in which they spend their winter, hunters who live in an area where deer do not yard up, can find sheds that indicate home range.
And as many shed hunters know, if you find one antler you may or may not find the other one. Rue says that most of the time a buck will lose one antler and not drop the second for another hour, day or week. And if not found a short time after they’re cast, they’ll be consumed by rodents and other animals desperate for minerals.
Trying to spot antlers in a forest littered with leaves and sticks could be tough, as they don’t stand out. He writes about an Indiana farmer who had two of his tractor tires punctured by a shed as he was driving in his hayfield. “That cost him $600 to have the tires replaced.”
But for shed hunters, finding large ones could bring big bucks of the monetary kind. Rue points out that if finding a large 150-195-inch B&C class shed could bring the hunter upwards of $2,500 or more.
As for locally in the Lehigh Valley area, Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield and an avid shed hunter since he was a kid, says shed hunters should check hillsides and ridge-tops with a southern exposure as bucks like to warm themselves during past cold and bright winter days. He also suggests checking winter deer bedding areas.
Danenhower contends, as does Rue, that bucks may drop an antler then keep shaking its head to drop the other that may or may not fall at that time.
For novice shed hunters looking for a public spot to hunt, Danenhower suggests walking the Lehigh Valley Zoo (the Trexler Game Preserve to us old timers) lands as he did and as he used to find many sheds there. And if you’re shed hunting takes you to an unplowed field, you may not only an antler, but an Indian arrow head as a bonus.
So to lengthen your deer-hunting season, give shed hunting a try. It may pay off handsomely.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.