The addiction of shed hunting is real, exciting, frustrating, and at the same time worth the experience of being the first human being to lay hands on an antler. It’s that time of year again and one of my favorite times of the year. The spring air, new country, and the excitement of seeing the first shed of the year.
First, find where the elk are wintering, feeding, bedding, and drinking and you will find more sheds in that area than randomly walking through the forest just because the area looks good. It seems simple but this can be challenging every year based on your state and the type of precipitation it can receive. In the state of Arizona, most elk will not migrate unless we receive heavy snowfall. Every state will be different but scouting and glassing in the winter to early spring will give you better odds of finding more sheds. Be sensitive to the animals this time of year as many of them are recovering from a rough winter, predators and the constant pressure of the hunting seasons.
Second, use your resources to find good areas where elk would winter such as canyons, ridgelines, and water sources. North and South facing slopes also play a factor depending on the snow levels each year. I like to use an app called Gaia GPS, it’s cheaper than onX Maps but I love the features of both of them. I like to download an area that I want to shed hunt before I go into that area so I can save my battery and use the maps in airplane mode. Using google earth and these different apps will help you track and find areas over time where you can continue to go back year after year to find sheds.
Third, just put the miles in and start walking, glassing when you can and looking behind you from time to time. Many times, I just try to pick a good area where I know elk are wintering and there is recent sign of them in the area. If there isn’t any recent sign of elk, deer or whatever type of antler you are looking for then you need to pick another area. I only use this tactic when I am looking for sheds in March, April, and May. After those months, it doesn’t really matter as the sign will be old. The fun part about shed hunting is you can do it all year long especially in Arizona, but some states have shed closures or weather conditions that prevent it. So be sure to check your local regulations before heading out.
Fourth, if you are new to shed hunting, don’t get discouraged on the first few times you go out and you don’t find anything. It takes time to train the eye, focus on where to look, and finding areas that hold animals during the winter. Don’t go alone unless you know the area really well and you have told people where you are going. Be prepared just like a hunting trip. Weather can still turn bad quickly and I can’t tell you how many times I have been caught off guard with bad weather and not having the right gear.
I hope these few tips will help you find more antlers this season. It’s so fun to get out with friends and family during the spring weather and enjoy the memories of finding sheds together. Whether you shed hunt for the money, memories, or the experience just remember to have a plan, use your resources and put in the miles. Nobody sees the crappy days I have out there, the miles I put on, or the hard work and sweat I dedicate to hiking around in the forest because I don’t post much about those days. We live in a world now of social media and posting pictures of giant sheds, but most people don’t understand how much time and effort some shed hunters put into their craft.
Yes, you might think this is silly to say because sometimes you get lucky and that is true. Sometimes I find the easy ones, but it makes up for the rough days of putting on 15 miles with nothing to show for it. There is an end game and goal but the challenge of finding a needle in a haystack is what all shed hunters enjoy, it keeps us coming back time and time again each year. Don’t forget to have fun out there and enjoy this unique time of year searching for that brown gold.