By Alex Comstock
As I sit here and write this article, wondering why I didn't find any sheds this weekend, I started thinking about possible mistakes I made, and mistakes I know I've made many times in my life. I don't think I'm alone in having the train of thought that shed hunting at times can be glorious, but at other times can seem hopeless. Why is it that you can seem to go shed hunting countless times, yet have nothing, or little to show for it? Here are five mistakes that I think can hinder many folks, myself included.
1. You're Looking For Full Antlers: One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make while out shed hunting, and something that has killed me in the past is that you are looking for full, big antlers. The thing is, a lot of the time, antlers are hidden in a way where you will only catch a glimpse of a tine sticking out of the snow, or the roundness of a mainbeam. If you can train your eye to look for bits and parts of an antler, your odds of seeing more will go way up.
2. You're Not Looking in the Right Spots: There is a difference between fall sign, and winter sign. If you are shed hunting an area after snow melt that is completely ripped up with rubs and scrapes, and major trails, that doesn't automatically mean it's going to be a good shed hunting area. Too many times in my life have I spent hours upon hours in an area like this, never to find an antler. Here's why - though these areas might be great spots to hunt during the fall, they don't always hold deer in the winter. What I've found, is that if deer have food in the area that they live in during the fall, they'll stay there, and these spots could potentially hold antlers. But if there's not a good food source nearby, these deer will relocate during the winter. So what kind of sign am I looking for when shed hunting? Fresh poop, fresh tracks, etc. I want hard evidence that deer have been in a given area recently. That's why it's never a bad idea to scout out areas during the middle of the winter to figure out where deer are when they actually shed their antlers.
3. You Don't Focus Enough: I know some pretty dang good shed hunters. I'm talking about guys where if you go shed hunting with a group of people, they're the ones who always find antlers, regardless if the others do or not. What's the key difference with them? They stay focused. It amazes me how many people (myself included) go shed hunting, but can't stay focused on finding antlers. Whether that be you're noticing rubs or scrapes, or how beautiful the weather is, your mind isn't 100% focused on finding antlers. Don't believe me? The next time you head out shed hunting, take notice of the difference in your level of focus before you find an antler to right after you find an antler. There is a noticeable difference. The goal is to harness that focus all day long, whether you are finding sheds or not.
4. You Don't Walk Enough: A two hour walk every other weekend during March and April probably isn't going to end up with you hauling truckloads of sheds out of the woods. Another common denominator I've found in successful shed hunters (and something I've noticed first hand this year) is that you need to put on the miles. The more you walk, the better chance you have of finding sheds. Just remember, miles=piles, or something like that.
5. You Don't Utilize Binoculars: Binoculars are a tool that I'm surprised I don't see more people using when it comes to shed hunting. There are countless times where I think I see something that might be a shed, and instead of having to walk off course to go investigate, I can just pull up my binos, and either confirm or deny whether there is indeed a shed or not. Another great way to use them is to simply scan big areas that can be hard to cover by foot. Whether this be an ag field, a food plot, or an oak flat, I am constantly using my binoculars to help aid in my ability to pick up shed antlers.
Conclusion: There are countless mistakes you could be making when out shed hunting. These five are simply the ones that come to mind first, and are at the top of my list. The less that you can make these mistakes, the more sheds you should find.