“The biggest thing is you need to have a concentrated food source,” Kisky said. “Pay attention to the winter you had. This winter was brutal, meaning all slopes that are out of the wind will be key spots — usually East or South. And look on a rainy day. The rain will soften the glare of the leaves and grass but will enhance the antler so they shine.”
2 | Expert: Heartland Bowhunter’s Michael Hunsucker
“It difficult to pick a single week that would be the best to shed hunt every year,” Hunsucker said. “There are so many factors that contribute to when deer will drop their antlers and those factors vary year to year. On our private ground, we keep a close eye on our trail-camera images and typically wait until the majority of the bucks have shed before we disturb the area. It seems that usually happens to be middle of March. These deer are not highly pressured and typically have sufficient food sources throughout the winter months. It seems deer begin to shed their antlers every year as early as mid- to late-December and continue all the way through April. I would venture to say most whitetails in the Midwest drop their antlers during the month of February.
“On public ground, deer are typically under more stress and disturbance, and a lot of times, shed earlier,” Hunsucker continued. “Not to mention you are competing with other shed hunters to find the antlers before they do. In those cases, you can’t afford to wait until the majority have dropped, because then you may have missed out on your window of opportunity.
“Locating the late-season food sources, or where legal, creating one to help keep the bucks in the area allows you to find the sheds in a more condensed location,” Cianciarulo said. “Don't think there is a special day that many of the racks drop. If you’re running cameras, you can see when they start dropping. If you have squirrels around, you might want to go soon after you see some dropping. Remember this is high-protein and calcium for many critters (including deer). So, in other words, you are not alone — all critters love shed antlers.
“We’ve seen in the past when we have miserable winter storms after season, with a lot of ice and snow, we tend to find more sheds earlier rather than later in the season,” Cianciarulo said. “Pay attention to your weather. It might allow you to get your sheds early. Focus on fence crossings, creek crossings, travel routes to and from late-season food sources, hedgerows and anywhere they may have to jump to cross anything on a regular basis. The shock on the landing will help to shed the antlers.”
“Also, for me, you need to go slower and give your eyes a chance to adjust to looking for that tine sticking out of the snow, or just the shed blending in with the forest floor,” Andrus said. “And another thing, bringing optics into the equation is a definite plus. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I saw a shed in the distance only to have it be a branch or whatever. Optics have helped me a lot on that. Lastly, get your hunting buddy, wife, girlfriend or child involved. It’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors together.”
5 | Expert: Heartland Bowhunter’s Michael Hunsucker
“After picking up one side to a shed, oftentimes we will grid search the area looking for the other side somewhere nearby,” Hunsucker said. “From my experience, however, if it’s not laying within 100 yards of the original side, it could be anywhere. It’s interesting to monitor deer over the years and see how some cast their antlers side by side, while others will hold onto the opposite side for days or even weeks. Imagine how much ground a deer covers in one day. It could be anywhere.
“Thoroughly cover ground,” Hunsucker continued. “The more ground you cover thoroughly, the more sheds you are likely to pick up. Also, the more time you spend out shed hunting, the more you’ll learn. It seems once you find your first shed of the day, your eyes are better trained, and you have a better idea of what you’re looking for. If time is limited, focus your efforts on areas that have proven productive in the past.”