Shed Hunting Quandaries
On the Trail with Mark Kayser
Judging from the comments section posted from last week's shed hunting blog, a few of you are in a shed antler quandary. If you're having problems finding shed antlers as suggested by some readers, here are a few reasons you might be coming up short.
You simply may be looking in an area with an overall low density of deer or an area that wintering whitetails avoid like the majority of the Hollywood elite avoid hunting. Winter scout for the highest density of wintering bucks. Study their patterns. Invade the area when you feel as if the majority of antlers have dropped and the stress won't harm the animals.
TOO MANY SQUIRRELS
Squirrels pose a true threat to the existence of shed antlers. If you live in a zone where there are more furry, original tree huggers than trees you might be fighting a losing battle. Squirrels gnaw and literally eat antlers for the minerals embedded in the bone. I've found everything from fresh whitetail to elk antlers attacked and disfigured by the fluffy bone grinders. To get a jump on the squirrels go early, but be careful to follow laws and again, don't stress wintering game by bumping them.
Like squirrels, coyotes also gnaw on antlers, but unlike squirrels, they pick them up and move them to different locations to chomp away. A friend of mine recently shared a story with me about his friends putting antlers in front of scouting cameras. Nearly every camera captured coyotes stealing the antlers and none of the antlers were found again during later, successive shed outings.
This is getting more and more common, especially in Midwest big buck zones. Other shed hunters are sneaking onto property and scooping up the antlers before you even finish unwrapping your Valentine's Day gift. I have friends who set up scouting cameras to capture would-be thieves. I've also heard rumors about public areas where game wardens plant GPS-chipped antlers to capture trespassers and burglars on regulated public land.
Thick cover, early farming practices, other eager hunters and the old adage of looking for a needle in a haystack also come to mind for those of you afflicted with antlerless days. Remember, if you're in the Madison, Wisconsin, area this weekend (April 1-3), stop by the Alliant Energy Center
(www.deerinfo.com) for my shed antler seminars. Until then, good luck!