I decided years ago that shed hunting wasn’t an efficient use of my limited time outdoors. This is mainly because the majority of the time, bucks that I am following in the mountains do not shed their antlers in the areas where they spend their time during the hunting season. Typically deep snow and harsh conditions drive deer out of the higher elevations by late December or early January. Retreating to lower elevations generally offers warmer temps, better winter browse, thermal cover, and often supplemental winter feeding.
Shed hunting a wintering area miles from a bucks fall range doesn’t have any payoff come November. I don’t deem it as a good use of my time in the deer woods if I’m not learning about a buck in his fall range. Which is ultimately closing in on my goal of killing old, big woods, mountain bucks. I have limited time and must use it wisely. That being said I LOVE finding sheds and like many, am infatuated by antlers.
This winter was a very special one. It seems that bucks from miles around spent the first half of the winter high up on a SE facing point in one particular area on a mountain. The mild snow depths coupled with the thick spruce thermal cover above them and mature oak timber below them provided adequate food, cover, and sunlight. It seems that this pocket with its ingredients was the perfect combination that allowed deer to uniquely spend time here well into the new year. They didn’t end up vacating this area until the first few days of February. The results of this are sheds littered in this pocket on the mountain.
Based on some cell camera pictures we had been getting after the season, Ross and I suspected that this was happening high on the mountain in this area. I made my way up to this area to scout access and a new stand location for next fall. As I worked my way up I had it in the back of my mind that I may find some sheds along the way. I didn’t expect this access/stand scouting trip to quickly morph into a full blown shed hunt. What transpired next was the best hour of shed hunting of my life. I was able to find 5 sheds, all off of bucks we are familiar with. Three of which, given they survive, will be 7 year olds this upcoming season. The most surprising aspect of the whole experience is that 4 out of 5 sheds were laying within 15 feet of each other just 50 yards from the camera we had been getting their post-season pictures on! I’m not sure I’ll ever have a shed hunting day like this in the northeast again but I sure did enjoy it!
The funny thing is, even though they did in fact shed in an area where they spend time during the fall. Finding the sheds themselves had no value for our fall strategy. We already knew these bucks made it through the season and that they were in that area late season. If I had to answer the question, “did this scouting trip turned shed hunt provide any utility for the 2022 hunting season?”, I would have to answer “No”, but it sure was a treat!