February brings with her the end of another whitetail season. It also ushers in the beginning of another unique season. Along with all the other critters we can hunt during this month, I personally like to hunt for antler sheds.
The cooler days make it easier for us to take a hike. In August, there is no way I would prefer an exhausting walk in the woods to an afternoon doing just about anything else. Plus, you get the extra benefit of a good workout while doing something you enjoy.
I always wonder if the buck that eluded me so many times during the season made it safely through another year. If I find his sheds, then I am positive and it gives me a renewed hope for the next bow season. If I come back home empty handed, well then I would spend the off season dreaming about that big boy and assuring myself that he will be around next year, or one just like him.
Should you decide that a walk in the woods is for you, then be sure you take your time while you search for those sheds. Most hunters look on the forest floor for that trophy shed, but you can find them almost anywhere. I once found a shed quite by accident. As I combed a thicket, I was bent over for a considerable time and never saw a thing. It was when I stood up to stretch my back that right in front of me was my prize. There in a tangled web of thick brush was a nice antler. I almost walked right by it. Another time, while hunting a ranch in west Texas, I found a beautiful shed of an 8-pointer right there in the wide-open prairie. I guess what I am trying to say is that you can find sheds just about anywhere. I would not be surprised to find them on the front seat of my truck. You have to understand my hunting friends sense of humor.
This time of year is also good to locate heavily used trails. It usually is not as dry as it is in the later summer months and early scouting might be a good idea. It is much easier to locate a nice big track or many of them giving you a clue as to where you might want to hunt next year. Look for an escape route that the whitetails prefer. You may find a trail that brings them to a bedding area or their favorite food source.
Remember not to leave out any deer sanctuary if you are shed hunting. I always stay away from these areas just prior and during the entire bow hunting season, but now that it is all over for the year, I like to take a hike and explore the inner parts of that sanctuary to help better understand what deer are left in my area. It might be a good idea to get those game cameras out again for a while. Most hunters take them down after the season or just before the season, but I think that right after the season is a golden opportunity to examine the whitetails on your lease. I would put them in or just outside that deer sanctuary I spoke of earlier. You have the added security of knowing that most hunters are out of the woods during this time of year and your cameras should be safe from any unscrupulous characters. I would suggest that you remove your cameras from the core sanctuary spots well before the season begins and well before any of those unscrupulous characters I spoke of venture out in the woods, just in case.
One good thing about shed hunting is the fact that you really do not have to worry at all about leaving your scent everywhere. The deer will have plenty of time to forget about the human scent in their core area. Things will calm down nicely for next year and you will have a nice jump start on your scouting.
If I am out walking around my hunting grounds, I always like to take this time to check my stands. Some places I hunt I feel comfortable leaving the stand in place for the following year. Other spots I have I make sure they get taken down right after the season. But if you are one of those bow hunters that prefers to leave the stands year after year, then now is a good time to inspect them and take the time to loosen the straps just a little. It is a good practice to get into. Remember, the tree will grow and you will be amazed at how much it will grow. In one or two short years, the tree will grow right around the metal where your stand meets the tree. It will be difficult at best to tug the stand loose when you need to move it. The straps that hold the stand in place will become so tight around the tree that it could be a safety hazard and snap when any weight is put on the stand.
So take a few days this off-season and visit your favorite hunting spots. Looking for sheds from the past season will not only be rewarding, it will prove to be very educational for the next hunting season. I look at it this way, it is better than sitting on the couch like a couch potato. Have fun, take a hike and introduce yourself to a whole new hunting season, hunting for sheds, I love it.