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Shed Hunting! One of Mother Nature’s Most Beautiful Art Forms By Gary Howey

I think we’re all ready for spring, something we have been waiting on for a long time, with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the warmer weather.

As it gets closer to spring, this is when I head to the woods, to do my pre-season turkey scouting.

While I’m out there sneaking through the woods looking for turkey sign, I’m also keeping an eye out for deer sheds, Shed Hunting.

For those of you that haven’t hunted sheds, it’s a great thing to do this time of the year. Sheds are the buck’s antlers from the previous year shed or dropped after the rut.

Bucks shed their headgear/rack/antlers annually and if you can beat the rodents and other critters out there that chew on them to obtain a source of calcium, you’ll have the opportunity to find a shed or two.

A buck’s antler/rack is a lot different from cattle horns, which are hollow, as a deer’s rack consists of honey combed solid bone.

Pedicles, are a knobby nub protruding from the buck’s skull, this is where the new antler/rack grows and what supports the buck’s rack.

When bucks start to grow their new racks/antlers, they’re no more than bony growths covered with skin and hair known as velvet.  They grow incredibly fast in 3 to 4 months, making them the fastest growing living tissue there is.

These pedicles are a permanent part of the buck’s forehead, the point where the antler comes off when shed.

Shed hunting in the spring is also an excellent way to determine if the big buck you hunted last season made it through the winter

If you find his sheds, he’s still around, unless the winter did him in and once you’ve found his shed, you can start putting together your hunting plan for next season.

Once the rut is over, bucks no longer need their racks. They needed their rack during the used to attract and impress the does and most importantly to fight off other bucks trying to draw the females away from his harem.

It’s a known fact that not all of the bucks will drop their racks at the same time. Some will begin to lose them following the rut, when their hormone levels begin to drop.

Generally, deer in the upper Midwest will shed their antlers in February and March.

The amount of daylight in a day, the fluctuations in the deer’s hormones, their diet and stress will have a lot to do as to when a buck will shed.

There are several reasons deer shed their antlers, one allowing the buck regeneration, or re-grow a new set of antlers.

Others believe they shed, making it easier for them to make it through the winter, as winter, with its harsh conditions and less food make it tough for a deer coming out of the rut to survive.

When the buck sheds its antlers: it helps them to conserve energy while eliminating excess weight.

The entire shedding process will take two to three weeks to complete, while the re-growth will take the entire summer.

The first to drop their antlers are more likely to be those bucks, which chased hard during the rut, those that have become fatigued from fighting and breeding during the rut.

If you don’t have an area where you’ve found sheds in prior years, a good place to start looking for sheds would be to drive through the country, looking for those well-used deer trails crossing the roads.

I’ve found heavily traveled trails; those leading from heavily wooded areas, crossing a road heading into the deer are feeding areas to be a good starting point.

A good trail to start looking for sheds would be those resembling a hard packed cattle trail. [Read more…]