Hunting Out of Season - Fred Eichlerby Trophy Ridge
I pulled my eye from the spotting scope and marked the location of the big shed. As I walked across the canyon to pick it up, I thought how similar shed hunting is to actual hunting. To be successful you have to be in a good area. Good optics are extremely advantageous and being in shape increases your odds because you can cover more country.
There are a lot of bonuses to shed hunting besides it feeling like Christmas every time you find one. For example, as an avid deer hunter and guide it gives me an idea of what caliber of bucks are in my area. Where the sheds are found also tells me where that buck was spending it’s time when it shed. In my area in Southern Colorado where I do most of my shed hunting it is in April and May that most of the bucks drop their antlers. It varies across the country from February to May. The other bonus is it gets me outside and that is always the best place to be.
One thing I have learned is that just because you find a buck's sheds somewhere in the spring, doesn’t mean that buck spends anytime in that area during the hunting season. Weather conditions, food sources, the rut and pressure are just a few variables that dictate where deer are during the hunting season. So, I use shed hunting as another piece in the puzzle not the whole puzzle in scouting.
For finding sheds my favorite method is to climb high on a ridge and cover country with a 60-power spotting scope. In the relatively open country in Eastern Colorado where I sometimes hunt, that method is the most productive. In the mountains where I live however, that method would be a waste of time. In the thick Ponderosa pines, spruce and oak brush around my ranch the most productive is wearing out some boot soles. In the mountains, I find most of my sheds on south facing slopes or along fence lines. In areas with a lot of fences, bucks often lose antlers when they jar their head gear a little on landing or jumping. Sometimes if I am covering a lot of country, horseback is a great way to cover ground and it gives you a better vantage point in thicker cover.
Sheds are where you find them and the best way of getting fresh brown sheds is to go out and scout where the deer are. Keeping track of where the bucks are hanging out when they are getting ready to drop gives you a big leg up on how much country you have to cover.
Another tip on getting more sheds is to train your dog to get them. We have trained some of our dogs to find them. As puppies all we give them to chew on are deer and elk sheds. They love them. We even use them as retrieving toys, then whenever they are within sniffing distance of a shed they will go and grab it.
Lastly, to keep you out of the hoosegow and on the right side of the law, be sure and check regulations in whatever state you will be in before picking up any sheds. Laws vary on picking up sheds. In some states it is ok to pick them up on public land and in others it’s not. Same with antlers attached to the skull. In some states you can’t legally pick them up and in others you need a license in order to hunt sheds. Besides checking regulations in the state where you want to shed hunt also check with landowners before picking up a shed on a private ranch. Some guys are fine with it and others are avid shed hunters themselves and will not give permission. Another perk to shed hunting is all the cool stuff you can make with them. I have candle holders, jacket hooks, business card holders, a chandelier, belt buckle and countless other cool things made out of sheds. Where it is legal you can also sell sheds to collectors, wholesalers or hobbyists for some pretty good money. Of course, the biggest ones are always kept to look at and wonder where he may be this year. So, if you haven’t tried shed hunting… try it. Odds are you will have a new hobby. Good luck and as always, Have fun!
- Fred Eichler