West Central MO near Clinton, MO
Folks have been on the search all across the country since January looking for shed antlers. For most of us, whitetail sheds are the target, and they can drop at various times starting as early as December depending on various factors.
Most areas tend to have an annual pattern when the majority of bucks will drop their antlers. Of course, some will drop earlier, and some may hold much later. The past several years we have had bucks holding into the first 10 days of April, but they were few, and usually very young bucks.
Between our properties in Warsaw and Clinton, MO over the last two decades, the pattern has been very clear. The majority of bucks will drop late February through the first three weeks of March.
That pattern has held true again in 2020. The time is now to be in the woods. According to our cameras, roughly 90-95% of bucks have shed both antlers with just a few stragglers.
I walked a route over our property that reached over five miles today, and I was rewarded heavily with some great finds. Throughout the day, I found six fresh antlers, and four that were at least one year old or more. I also found one dead head, which makes three of those for the year. It’s always unfortunate to find dead heads, but at least you don’t have to wonder anymore when bucks never show up again on camera.
Keys to Success
When it comes to finding sheds, there are several factors that can put the odds in your favor.
First, you need to be looking in an area where the deer like to be in the winter. Many properties don’t have a good year round food source, so unless you offer supplemental feeding with corn, it is likely the deer will migrate to nearby areas that may have food plots, unpicked ag fields, acorns, etc. Private land will offer you your best unpressured area to find sheds, but public land can offer great opportunities as well.
Second, you need to look at the right time. If you start looking too early in January or February in mid-Missouri, the math is already against you. Most bucks will still be holding. The other potential consequence is you may push bucks to a different area before they’ve had a chance to drop. Use trail cameras and observation to figure out when the best time is to look in your area.
Third, use the elements to your advantage. Sunny days and snow are a shed hunter’s worst enemy. While fun to find them in the snow, it makes it much more difficult to see. The sun presents a similar issue, especially in the woods, as it creates many shadows mixed in with bright areas on the ground. If you’re forced to search on a sunny day, keep the sun at your back.
The best conditions for searching are on overcast or rainy days. The perfect conditions were created for today as rain came through overnight and turned into a light mist during the day. The leaves and ground become saturated, creating darkened and matted down debris on the forest floor. Deer antlers often stick out like a sore thumb when this happens, making it much easier for you.
Lastly, one of the biggest advantages I’ve gained in the last year is an app called OnX Hunt. It is especially helpful for public land users, as it shows you all property lines and owner names for private land. It also allows you to mark spots with designated icons like a buck or a turkey and make notes.
One of my favorite features to use while shed hunting is the active tracker, which shows your path as a line on the map as you make your way through the woods. This allows me to carefully grid search an area with precision. Today, I methodically walked well over five miles over portions of our property with the help of OnX. It’s possible I may have missed some antlers, but OnX helps to reduce those misses tremendously. The added benefit is that you can save the track and it will tell you how far you walked and how long it took.
As you can see by looking at my route, I was able to use OnX to precisely cover major portions of our timber. I was able to stay parallel with my previous paths and maintain a close distance so as not to overlook anything in my target area.
All the above tips will you find more sheds, but the moral of the story is you just need to get out and look. There’s a popular saying in shed hunting that “miles equals piles” of sheds. While it’s never a guarantee, you definitely won’t find them if you aren’t looking. Good luck out there and I hope some of these tips help you find a few more this year!
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