Have You Found Any Sheds Yet?
My first shed of the year was my biggest. No, I didn’t find sheds for any of my target bucks. (At least, not yet.) But I did find this nice four-point shed. This buck could turn into something pretty special in the next year or two.
I begin my shed hunts by covering the open areas. I found this shed laying right in the middle of a wide-open hay field. Goes against all of the literature saying all the sheds are in beds and along fences, right? Funny thing is, I generally do find more sheds in bedding areas and in thick cover. But this year, I found way more sheds out in the open than I did back in the thick stuff. Fluke year? Perhaps so.
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I found this little guy a few minutes after the first one. It was laying about 125 yards from the larger of the two sheds. But it doesn’t matter how big or small the shed is. They’re all very fun to find. And these little guys are harder to spot, too. If you can find a shed like this one, you should be able to spot a massive shed with ease.
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I found this one in a bunch of warm-season grasses. They’re especially attractive to deer if those grass fields are at least waist-high, are positioned on south- or east-facing slopes, are in an area that received less hunting pressure and/or are close to food sources. Deer love to bed there, and this antler lying in a bed was proof of that.
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I find some of my biggest sheds in the thickest, nastiest cover in the area. I also often find the most sheds there, too. But it’s not easy shed hunting. Thick cover means higher difficulty.
It’s easier to cover more land (at once) out in the open than it is in thicker cover. You can’t do that in the thick stuff. It’s important to make passes (circles or zig-zags) in thick cover. Oftentimes, this means walking within feet or yards of where you’ve already been. It’s harder shed hunting. But it’s the only way to cover everything. And it’s how I found this shed. See how well it blended in?
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Deer love crab apples. It’s a great food source for deer. And I found this shed lying amongst a pretty good stand of crab apple trees. I think this was a shed from the previous season, though. As it was chewed up pretty bad. But the moral of the story? Don’t just target bedding areas to find sheds. Focus on food sources, too.
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Another field find here. I found more sheds in the open than ever before. But this year has been the exception, not the rule. Bedding areas are key. That said, while this shed was out in the open, it was also in a transition area between a big bedding area and a major food source, though. So don’t overlook these types of areas.
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We might have been shed hunting, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t thinking about spring turkey season. We scouted for turkeys, too. And we found both turkeys and turkey sign. Big flocks of hens and gobblers dotted the landscape. Turkey droppings, dust bowls, scratching and other evidence of turkey presence littered the woods, too. It was a great few days of shed hunting and turkey scouting.
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I didn’t own a dead head before this year. This was the first one that I found. It was a nice main-frame six-point without brow tines. We found this buck dead in a small watering hole adjacent to a large cornfield. What killed this deer? I’m not sure. But I found it dead less than five yards from my trail camera. And the plot thickens in the next slide.
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To my knowledge, this was the last day of this buck’s life, as I had trail camera photos of coyotes and buzzards the very next day. As you can see, the buck looks very poor. There also appears to be something wrong with its back and off-side shoulder. Whatever happened to this deer, it resulted in death.
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This was the second dead head I found this year. It was located less than 300 yards from where I found the first one. I’m not sure what happened to this buck, either. It disappeared from our trail cameras in late September, so we just assumed that it had relocated to its fall range. That doesn’t seem to have been the case, though. This buck’s carcass was much cleaner than the first carcass I found (which seems to have died in late December).
As for legalities, when you find these dead heads, you’ll likely want to throw them in the truck with your sheds and take them home with you. But you can’t. At least, not without doing something else first. Most states require you to get a tag for a dead head before you can pick it up and take it home.
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Brad Bowles provided additional insight into the process.
“In Kentucky, you are required to contact your local conservation officer to obtain a carcass tag for any deer head you find and want to possess,” Bowles said. “There are many things in nature that may result in a deer dying. Disease, injury, or a poorly placed shot by a hunter. In most cases, officers will investigate how a person has come into possession of the deer rack. I usually instruct the person to take photos of the deer carcass with their cell phone without moving or altering the location the deer was found. Oftentimes, this will provide some explanation for how the deer died. It also may be helpful if several deer in the area are found dead for our biologists to determine whether there is need for concern with any disease outbreaks, such as the case we recently experienced in eastern Kentucky. After reviewing all of the available evidence, the conservation officer still has discretion on whether or not to issue a carcass tag.”
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I had this deer on camera for two years. I’m not exactly certain of how old it was, but it seemed to be in or nearing its prime. This was a trail camera photo taken of the buck while it was still in velvet before the season opened.
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We deer hunt for many reasons. But in part, it's so we can chase old warriors like those that I found dead. This is a deer my family and I knew of and hunted for a couple of years. I didn't dedicate my 2017 Kentucky season to this deer because I was chasing a big droptine buck that I was blessed to take early in the season. However, I was hoping to chase this giant eight next fall. But as I searched for his sheds, I found him dead in his bed instead. Thoughts of what might have happened to this buck ran through my mind. Only Mother Nature knows. And she can be cruel.
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This was another dead buck I found. (You can tell it’s a buck due to the pedicles located on each side of the skull.) Interestingly enough, this buck seems to have met its demise after shedding its antlers but prior to re-growing the next set. This tells me the buck must have died in late winter or early spring, which is during that period when winter kill can be a factor.
I did not pick this deer up, though. Rather, I left it as I found it along a big creek bottom. The moss-covered bone certainly looks cool, though, doesn’t it?
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Bucks aren’t the only deer you can find dead. I found this old doe skull while shed hunting, too. As previously mentioned, I left this one laying as well. I’m sure it’s still lying there on that side ridge littered with dried oak leaves. My curiosity had me wondering what happened to this old gal, too.
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This is an old wooden treestand that I built with my father when I was a small child. Surprisingly, it appears to still be structurally sound. Climb up a few steps and you’ll quickly realize that is no longer the case. I don’t expect it to hold up for too many more years.
I had a lot of great memories in that stand, though. I killed my first doe from that perch. I used my great grandfather’s old Remington .243. I also released my first arrow on a whitetail from that stand. And while I didn’t find that velvet five-point buck (it was a high, non-lethal shot), the memory of that hunt will last a lifetime.
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This old wooden stand is located just a short distance from where my father and I built our own. This one obviously pre-dates the other one. But hey, if this tree could talk, I bet it’d tell a story or two.
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I didn’t know what this thing was until I showed a photo of it to my father-in-law. He informed me that it was a tree burl. Apparently, these things are pretty desirable and sell for a pretty good price if in good condition. This one was seemingly a rare find, too, as it was a ways up the tree. Most are located near the bottom of the trunk.
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A big part of shed hunting is post-season scouting. I always try to make note of the sign left behind by deer. This here was a large buck bed up against a log. It was located in a thick grassy area with a lot of briars and blow-downs. Needless to say, this buck had a pretty good spot to rest and detect danger from.
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I found this giant rub in a transition area between a bedding area and massive cornfield. I followed the rub line this one was connected to and it eventually led to a big buck bed. I think I know where I’ll be hanging a stand for next season.
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One of two things caused this. Either a doe family group bedded here or a buck beds here a lot. That said, I’m leaning toward a group of does because there weren’t any rubs around this bed. Generally, when you find a big buck bed that is frequently used, it’ll have at least a rub or two positioned close to it.
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This one was a buck bed for sure. We found this bed up on the crest of a ridge amidst a bunch of saplings that were littered with rubs. When I sat down in this bed to take in my surroundings, it was no secret why a buck was bedding here — it was like a fortress. There was no way in for a predator that wouldn’t lead to the detection by the deer first.
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This was another rub line that I located. This was another well-used travel corridor by bucks during the fall months. Finding a strategic location to hunt along these routes can prove productive during certain times of the season.
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This is a major trail the deer were using. I’d never noticed it before. Either it was fairly new or I’d overlooked it in the past. That’s the great thing about post-season scouting and shed hunting, though. It puts you out there where the deer are and allows you to find things you wouldn’t otherwise know about if not for the many miles you put on your boots this time of year. This is another location I’ll certainly be hanging a stand for next season.
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When shed hunting and post-season scouting, keep track of everything you find. Mark the whereabouts on a map. It’ll paint a picture. You’ll also get a better feel for where to hunt in the future.
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Deer love the thick stuff. Busting through thick cover during the post-season to find their preferred bedding areas can provide valuable information for future hunt plans. This was a network of trails and tunnels we found while shed hunting this year.
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Apparently you don’t just find sheds and deer sign while shed hunting. You find other stuff, too. This toilet seat might be the weirdest thing I’ve came across while in the field. And no, I didn’t pick that thing up.
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I pulled most of my trail cameras down in early February. However, as we went out in search of sheds during #ShedRally, it quickly became apparent that not all bucks had shed their antlers. We bumped several bucks with headgear. A few were good bucks, but it was predominately young bucks who were still holding onto their head gear. Had I left my cameras up, I’d have known some bucks were still carrying them. That’s one reason to run cameras year-round.
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