February 27, 2014
I can’t remember ever seeing a winter like the one we’ve had. Deep snow before Christmas, bitter cold ever since. We’ve had more than 60 days this winter with a temperature of 0 degrees F or lower. We finally got a warmup for 3 days in late February, but that disturbance in the weather created more than a foot of new snow. Shed hunting is the farthest thing from my mind right now. It’s going to be really tough on the deer. I expect to find a lot of dead ones this spring. It’s February 27 and we’re not even getting above 0 degrees today! It’s almost March! Things are supposed to be warmer and antlers are supposed to be ripe for the picking! Sorry about the negativity, just nothing good here for shed hunting news, although I’ve had a great winter of ice fishing! Hope folks are faring better in other areas. Can’t wait till April here!
February 10, 2014
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Sorry folks. I’ll try to do so more frequently. Of course, it helps if I find some sheds to talk about! It had been quite a while since I found a shed. It hasn’t been for lack of trying. This is always a tough time of the year. My very favorite places are deer yarding areas, and I just plain won’t go there this time of year. There’s no sense stressing out these deer just to pick up an antler. It’s going to be a really bad winter and we are going to lose a lot of deer this year. It was the worst possible combination of weather: deep snow that came early and bitterly cold temperatures ever since. I found a dead fawn and a dead shed-out buck in January already. It’s one thing to lose deer in April, but quite another to lose them in January. It’s gonna be bad! But enough of the gloom and doom. I’ve actually been looking quite a bit, but I’m going in town where there are lots of deer, but also lots of shed hunters. I get tired of walking the same ground all the time, hoping I’ll be the first one down the trail on the right day. It totally burns me out. I just haven’t timed it right. Plus I dearly love to ice fish, and it’s been a heck of a good fishing season with a few poor days mixed in for good measure. But anyway, today I decided to go for a walk, but I didn’t want any more of the same ol’, same ol’. I went to a spot that I’d sort of forgotten about. I discovered it a couple years ago and I even found a couple sheds there that first season, but I hadn’t been back since. I decided to take a little walk and was blown away at the sheer amount of deer sign in there! It’s very snowy and there are tracks everywhere! I was walking along a well-used trail that was heading for a big tree that I just had to check out. Nothing at the tree, so I turned around and came back down the same trail. Now, to be fair, it was awfully sunny today and I had been walking right into the sun. But on the return trip from the tree, there it was, right along the edge of the trail. In face, it’s very possible my pants brushed it as I walked past it - it was RIGHT there! But it was almost completely buried under snow. It seems a lot of our bigger bucks did drop early this year, back in December, and judging by the amount of snow on this guy and the fact that we haven’t gotten any appreciable snow since before Christmas, I’d say this one has been there a while. I’m also using that as my excuse why I didn’t find anymore! But I will definitely be back this spring after the snow melts to look for more. I was pretty excited about the deer sign here!
January 14, 2014
Hi shed hunting faithful!
I toyed with the idea of not doing my blog this year. Always so much going on. I’m trying to get a Facebook page going in addition to this blog. Please stop by and like my Facebook page “Goshedhunting.” Please feel free to share your stories on there as well! Shed season is in full swing here already. I’d gotten a question last week whether this Polar Vortex will affect when bucks shed their antlers. I don’t have a real solid answer for that. Stress is a major factor in when a buck sheds. Mature bucks will be worn down from the rut already. When you throw in cold temperatures, which require a deer to spend more time feeding to stay warm, combined with deep snow, which makes it harder to find food, you do have a recipe for added stress. In my area, I have been surprised at the number of large bucks that shed in December and early January. In addition, over that period, I cannot ever remember a winter being this brutally cold. The weatherman was pulling up all these statistics going back for decades over how cold our average temperature was and how much snow we had. In our area, I think it was the coldest December on record and the third-highest snow total. It was downright nasty and we wouldn’t get above 0 degrees F for days at a time. (It was -8 degrees when I got my first shed of the season, but we’ll get to that!) So yes, there was a recipe for stress and possible early shedding. Last year we had a mild December and early January, but from late January all the way to May, we got snow every few days and it was a super-late spring. It’s critical that things start to green up so these winter weary deer can find food. So it started like a lamb and finished like a lion last year. Even so, I saw lots of bucks carrying antlers well into March, including one that had a broken leg! So in a nutshell, I’m not sure what impact this weather has had. It could seem like some bucks are shedding early, but yesterday I saw a nice buck with full headgear. It kind of comes down to the individual deer. On a different subject, I’m on the board this year. I’ve actually got a few sheds to report, but I’ll start with my first fresh one of the season. Every year, I hear of people finding sheds in December. I never had. I kind of toyed with the idea of trying it this year, just to say I did. I went out one day around Christmas and came up empty. On Dec. 31, I thought I’d give it another try. I blanked at the first spot. I headed to another spot, but when I saw people in the area, I decided to go to a different place. I don’t think they were shed hunting, but I didn’t want to advertise what I was doing. I knew I’d either love that decision or regret it. With time running out, I went to an old standby. There was only about an hour of daylight left. It didn’t take too long before I spotted that magic that we all crave. Even though it was downright tiny, I knew what it was. It was just a little 2-point side, but I was pretty stoked! My first December shed, fresh as a daisy. Now I just need sheds in July and October. I’m going to see how many months I can string together here. Good luck out there folks. Even if you can’t get out shed hunting right now, try to identify where bucks are spending the winter so you can get their antlers later.
May 12, 2013
I’ve been kind of itching to get out after some moose sheds. I usually start looking in mid-May. This year with the late snowfall, I didn’t know if that would be possible, but we found some bare spots. My girlfriend Dawn and I headed out to try our luck over the weekend. Dawn got things rolling right away when she found a gorgeous whitetail shed! This thing is a stud! 6 scorable points, plus a sub-legal kicker on the G-2. It rough scored 64 inches and I think this deer is very young. 2 years old or 3 at most. This is a very special buck. He has the genetics to be a Booner if he can live a few years. The shed was one or two seasons old but untouched. We had quite a dry spell, but in the last hour, I managed to come up with a moose shed that is also a year or two old. This one got hit by squirrels a bit, but not terrible. I’ve never tried restoring an antler, but I might try it with this guy. Wouldn’t take much to have him looking pretty nice. We were pretty stoked with our finds. Dawn’s deer is a very special antler. Not many like that out there. And any moose makes my day. We were thrilled to head back out again today. Dawn showed me where she had found her deer shed yesterday. The area looked a lot more moosey than deery, but you can’t argue where they lie. I ended up finding a medium-sized deer antler. Again, it was old, but untouched. Later, I found a moose antler that I thought may have been a match to yesterday’s, but it’s not, although it looks similar. This one got hit by squirrels a bit too. It looked like Dawn was going to get skunked, but late in the day she came up with an old 4-point deer shed. We were pretty happy, although it took a lot of walking for the sheds we got. Couldn’t help wondering where the matches were. Dawn looked HARD for the match to her deer shed and I hoped to find the matches to my moose in the nearby area, but couldn’t. And where were the fresh moose sheds? Plenty of sign. Still a great weekend. I’ve also found quite a few deer sheds lately, but just didn’t have the time to post. Looks like I’ll be shed hunting around here into June. Excited about that! As a side note, Roger, if you’re reading this, my e-mails to you are bouncing back AGAIN, although I got the ones you sent about moose and wolves.
Dawn's awesome whitetail!
Our weekend tally. 3 deer and 2 moose.
A couple moose sheds, but they're not a match.
Because why not?
May 3, 2013
Wow, this has been a year I’ll always remember! The winter started out mild and we didn’t have any appreciable amount of snow until late January. But then it just kept snowing! We got 50 inches of snow in APRIL, and as I type this on May 3, it’s snowing once again! Finally finding some bare ground now, although there is still plenty of snow in places. The last three times out, however, I’ve found at least one shed each time. Nothing of any size, but it’s nice to finally find some. I think I’ll be finding them into June the way the weather is going! Saturday I was done and heading back to the truck a beaten man when I happened to find a little one. I had actually found a shed in that exact same spot a while back! I think it was a real late drop. Sunday I scored 5, including a fresh matched set. Found what would have been a really big one but it was old and broken just past the brow. (I swear, I never have any luck with big ones!) Today I wasn’t planning on going, but I was in an area I had wanted to try, so I stopped for a bit. Found a fresh spike in a textbook spot under one of the few evergreens I saw today. Better late than never I guess. Glad to finally get my chance! Hoping to find some more in the next few days.
Little fork from last Saturday. I'm pretty sure I have video of this guy.
Textbook spot. The match was 10 feet away.
Fresh spike found this morning.
April 25, 2013
April is usually hands-down my best shed hunting month. Not this year! We topped 50 inches of snow this month with a week to go! I haven’t been able to shed hunt around home at all! It is finally warming up and I’m hoping to be able to get out in the sunny slopes within the next few days. Never seen anything like this! I went ice fishing today and we had 36 inches of ice! Our gamefish opener starts in 9 days! Looks like I might be ice fishing May 4! Oh we’ll! I’ve got a feeling once that snow goes, things are going to green up extremely fast. Might be a very poor shed season, simply because there won’t be much time between snow cover and green up. Quite a change from last year! Well, maybe I’ll get a June deer shed. Got a few moose in June, but this could be the year for a deer. Aye yi yi!
April 21, 2013
This spring has been unbelievable! April 18 we got another foot of snow! This is usually the time of year when I’m hitting it hard, and here I sit, unable to shed hunt. I have never seen a winter like this!
Well, last week I took a little trip. It has been a long time coming. I first shed hunted at Bentley Coben’s in Saskatchewan in 2006. I found the shed from the front cover of my book at his place, and to date, that is STILL my biggest whitetail shed. (I also found my biggest muley shed on that trip too.) Roger Hirschland, who regularly posts on this blog, has been bugging me (maybe that’s not the right term ) to join him for a shed hunt at Bentley’s, so this year we did it.
Things were off to an ominous start. Bentley has experienced a winter like the one I’ve, er, enjoyed. He frankly told us not to come until May. But the trip was already planned, so we went anyway. More bad news. With a snowstorm raging, my flight was delayed and I ended up spending 24 hours at the Denver airport. Roger missed his flight too, but got into Saskatchewan later the same day he was scheduled to arrive. It was very snowy there. Roger got a whitetail shed in the morning before he and Bentley picked me up at the airport.
We were on snowshoes for our first walk. It was hard enough just getting around and we could have easily been walking literally right over the top of sheds. But what else could we do? On our first short 2-hour walk that evening I found the skull from a nice mule deer buck. However, you are not allowed to take an antlered skull in Saskatchewan, so after a couple pictures, I left it lay. We came up shed-less on that hunt. That night, Bentley showed Roger and I just some of the thousands of sheds he has found over the years. That alone was worth the trip! Then he showed us photo after photo of all these giant bucks he has on his trail cameras. And then he expected us to sleep after that? We knew we were in a place where the next antler you found could be from a Boone and Crockett whitetail or mule deer. The scouting cam photos proved it. Or the next shed could be a moose. Or an elk. So many possibilities! Bentley said elk had just arrived in his area last year. Just a few weeks ago, he and his brother, Max, spotted a herd of 40 and 17 of them were bulls. Elk shed in late March and into April, so at least maybe these sheds wouldn’t be buried under snow. Bentley said the whitetails in his area dropped in December this year, so those sheds were BURIED!
My first full day we began with a 3-hour walk in the place where I’d found my big whitetail shed on the last trip. The reason for searching there? Not only were there lots of deer there, but more importantly, there were some low ridges that had melted off. It was one of the few areas where you could see bare ground. Even so, 90 percent of the landscape was covered in snow. Our search was focused on not where we necessarily wanted to look, but where we physically could see the ground. Of course, this usually meant southern exposures, which is a good place to look anyway. But it sickens me to think how many sheds we missed because they were under knee-deep snow. Any forested areas served as snow fence and the snow piled up there 4 feet high. Obviously there were sheds in these places, where deer could bed in cover, but there was no way to get them. On that walk, after 2 hours, I hadn’t found a thing. I was getting frantic, and that’s NOT how you want to shed hunt. I tried to force myself to chill out. Finally, as I reached a slight slope that had melted off, I saw tines. It was a fresh, medium-sized 4-point whitetail shed. I needed that one pretty bad! I was doing a little filming as I picked it up, and I say right on the camera, “Oh, for a minute there I thought I saw an elk shed!” As I was standing there with the whitetail shed, something about 50 yards away sure looked like an elk antler on the ground. After filming, I decided to walk over and look at it, and it actually WAS an elk shed! This one is pretty cool. The elk must have had a broken pedicle, which seems to be fairly common among elk. The antler has a 90-degree bend at the base. Those two sheds were all I found, and Roger got a small mule deer shed on that walk. Max got a pretty nice muley shed. Later in the day we tried to go to a couple other places, but the snow was really too deep. We poked around a little but came up empty.
The next day we tried another spot. There were hundreds of deer wintering there. We saw lots of deer and found lots of dead ones. It was going to be a tough winter in that spot. Again, more snow than we wanted, but we were able to find bare spots here and there. We went for a 2-hour walk and were supposed to be back at the truck at 12:30. I finally found a whitetail shed at 12:25! Roger got one too, and Max, who sat in the truck for all but 20 minutes, picked up 2 in his short walk!
That afternoon it was back to the place where I found the elk shed. We took snowmobiles to the base of some small foothills. These areas had the least amount of snow of any areas we had seen. Max and I were literally parking the snowmobile to start searching when I spotted an elk shed up on the hill! It was a gorgeous 6-point side and we did some serious whooping and high fiving! We had to get Roger’s and Bentley’s attention. It was a pretty nice find and it encouraged us that there could be more! After grouping up to look at the shed, we split up, energized to find some more. I followed the elk’s tracks in the snow, hoping to find the other side. Within 10 minutes, I found more bone: this time it was two antlers lying 3 feet apart. I was filming and not really paying attention to what I was seeing. I just assumed it was a set. As it turned out, it was two right sides, one from a mule deer and one from a whitetail! Later on I found my smallest-ever, unbroken shed. It’s a spike that measures less than 3 inches long. Booners running around, and I find a tiny spike? Go figure! I found a smaller one once, but it was a shed that had broken on the buck’s head just above the base. I believe there was still blood on it. That last walk was nice because at least there was a decent amount of bare ground. Roger got a couple deer sheds and Max got one too. Max also found the match to the elk shed I’d gotten the day before. We confirmed it looking at scouting cam pics. The highlight of the walk, however, was Bentley’s find. He had been sitting in the truck most of the time, holding back on us. Finally he got out and took a little walk and had a big score: A matched set from a 7×7 bull elk! They were about 100 yards apart.
That was all the time we had. I missed out on a whole day because of my flight getting cancelled. From a pure shed hunting standpoint, it was a tough trip. We didn’t find sheds in numbers like we had hoped, but when the snow is knee high, you can only look in so many places. The sheds were definitely there. We saw the deer in the fields and the trail cam pics to prove it. Wish we’d have come a month later! The thing about this trip though, more than anything, was the fun. I said over and over while I was with the guys that I couldn’t remember ever having so much fun on a shed hunt, even if finding antlers was tough. Max and Bentley are top-notch guys and Roger is a real class act. He was even polite enough to laugh at a few of my really poor jokes! Bentley’s wife Dianne is a sweetheart and a great cook. You don’t lose weight at Bentley’s, even if you can walk all day! I really want to thank Roger for making this all possible (and for getting me the pics shown below). And thanks to Max, Dianne and of course, Bentley. We found sheds and we had a great time. What more can you ask? The best news? Those elk antlers were too big to fit in my bag. I had no choice but to leave them at Bentley’s. I guess that means I have to come back next year to get them!
Bentley getting ready to give me a ride. Too snowy to be ideal shed hunting conditions, but you don't see any glum faces here!
Our first successful walk. Max Coben, myself and Roger Hirschland. Note the strange base on the elk antler. Roger's muley shed had trouble shedding and left a lot of bone at the base.
Roger, myself and Max Coben with a 6-point elk shed.
Our last walk. Deer and elk antlers. Note the tiny spike shed in my hand!
April 8, 2013
Just got back from my second shed hunting trip to Montanaand it was a blast! I went with my friend Dan Hess. Dan is great for getting contacts. He is the man with the info! We shed hunted a few ranches, one of which was owned by Art Hayes, who appeared in my second DVD. Art is truly one of the best shed hunters I’ve ever met and he was doing it before it was “cool.” He let us stay the night at his place. We really appreciate his hospitality and the access to shed hunt his ranch. We also shed hunted another ranch with the hope of coming back this fall for a deer hunt. So many things I could say about this trip. Don’t know where to begin! I’ll some it up by saying we found 82 sheds in 4 days. We got antlers from mule deer and whitetails. Highlights were my 75-inch mule deer shed and Dan’s 67-inch whitetail shed. I really got lucky on the mulie. I saw a cool rock formation and decided to walk over and take a picture. It was the only reason I walked to that place. When I peeked over the edge, there it was! Dan’s shed was a stud. It was a 4-pointer with great mass! I wish I’d have taken better close-ups. Should have gotten a lot more picturs. Dan also got a brown 62-inch whitetail and I got a matched set of brown mulies that went 65 and 67. Those sheds were 4 feet apart. I found three sets on the trip, all of which were laying just a few feet apart. I rarely find them like that at home! We worked cover from riverbottom cottonwood forests, to sage brush flats, to all-out mountain climbing and we found antlers in all these places. It was a great time! I really appreciate Dan’s effrots. He made the whole trip possible! Plus it was great to find 60-degree weather instead of the fresh 5 inches of snow that fell back home while I was gone! If you ever get the chance to head west, give it a try!
Dan Hess gazes at the mountain we were about to climb.
Walked over to take a pic of this rock formation and found a big mulie shed below. Can you spot it?
Brown mule deer set. I found three sets together and that never happens for me! Both these sheds would make the record book.
My big mulie shed. I don't know why we didn't think to take a nice outside pic!
March 28, 2013
Did you ever just have a great day? Man, yesterday was one of those days! I got a check in the mail worth more than I expected, found out I have to fill out less paperwork for my taxes than expected, got some good news via a few emails and plus, it was just gorgeous out! It’s amazing how a 40-degree day in March feels so much warmer than a 40-degree day in October! I felt so dang good, I decided to take a little walk late in the afternoon. I took a pretty hard walk a couple days ago and was floored at the amount of snow that is still out there. Since I’ve been shed hunting, I can’t remember seeing this much snow this late in the year. Today I went to an old standby spot. I know lots of deer were in there this year. I had scoured most of this area pretty good, but the deer had shifted their movements closer to some houses. I don’t know if the people who lived there were feeding them or not, but it seemed like a possibility because these deer were hanging out at the edge of their back yards. Park land borders these yards. I always feel strange and awkward walking around at the edge of someone’s yard. I hate shed hunting, or hunting for that matter, when I feel like I’m always looking over my shoulder. I’m not trying to trespass here, I just want some sheds, and these deer happen to be hanging out very close to some houses. Just awkward. So I’m walking along and I stop, partly to look for antlers and partly to assess how much closer I can go toward this house up ahead before I think I’m trespassing. There’s no defined boundary, but I was pretty sure I was still in the park land. So as I’m standing there looking around, bam! There’s a shed! It’s been so long since I’ve found one I think I forgot what they look like! So now I looked over at the house. The antler wasn’t in their yard (I don’t think) but when I walked over to it I’d be right in the open where I could be seen and I don’t like that! Well, I wasn’t leaving it! I quickly scurried over and scooped it up. This is an antler from a buck I know well. I was pretty stoked to get it! So now I had to keep looking for the match. I was on a southern hillside and a lot of the areas were melted off. Deer trails were packed down to ice, so it was pretty easy to see where they’d been traveling. Plus there was a whole winter’s worth of deer droppings in there! So I walked all the trails and checked the exposed grass patches where deer might have browsed. Why, oh why, can’t deer drop their antlers together? In a short time, I’d covered all the trails in the immediate area. As I walked up one of these trails for the second time, I saw what looked an awful lot like a tine poking out of the grass. Sure enough, it was! And I’d walked within 3 feet of it just minutes earlier! This is an old one! Not the match to the one I was looking for. In fact, my friend Aaron White, who is a deer encyclopedia, upon seeing a pic of it promptly told me he knows who had found the match to it That shed was dropped 6 years ago! This is your typical Joe Shead antler. You see, I never find big antlers. I have pretty much learned that I am not a lucky person. Any shed I find, I earn. Any deer I kill, I work for. I do not just stumble on huge sheds. This buck, judging by the size of his base, I would estimate to be at least 4 years old. But I bet the antler doesn’t even score 50 inches! Great mass and nothing else! Typical Joe Shead antler. For anyone else, that would have been a 70-incher! Oh well. Glad to have it. It laid there for 6 years and there isn’t a scratch on it! After some more digging, I couldn’t find the matches, so I started heading back to the truck. My friend Dan Hess always talks about the bonus shed, and today I got it. I wasn’t expecting to find anything else, but there was yet another shed – my third 4-point shed of the day! I saw the owner of this buck on Saturday, March 23, still carrying a full rack. So I know this shed is only four days old at most, but there is no blood on it. I had always wondered how long antlers stayed bloody. This may be a partial indication, although it could vary from deer to deer. So all in all, a pretty good day! What’s really impressive, for me anyway, is that I got sheds from bucks I’ve seen before. It’s usually the kiss of death when I follow bucks around all winter. I never seem to get their antlers. I know I have video of the first one. I’ll have to check to see if I have video of the other fresh one, but I know I’ve seen that deer before. Hope today is just as good!
The first shed of the day, as it lay.
Walked within 3 feet of this one 20 minutes earlier. Can you see how I missed it?
The white base is from the first deer, which is a 2-year-old. The green base is from a buck that had to be at least 4 years old. Huge base!
Third shed, as it lay.
Group shot. All 4-point sides.
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March 23, 2013
Hi shed hunters,
Thanks for all the comments you’ve been making. I’m sorry I haven’t acknowledged them. I usually try to respond to them all but I’ve just been so busy! Please know that I do read them all and I appreciate your comments! I just got home after 10 days on the road. Went down to the antler auction in Dubuque and came home with a truckload! Then it was off to the folks’ house. I was shocked. The snow along the road was over the top of their mailbox by a foot! They went snowmobiling last night! I thought I was going to get some good walking in. Instead it was cold and windy and absolutely nasty! I did get to visit with a family friend, George. He owns the farm where I began deer hunting. He had 8 different bucks stealing corn from his corn crib this winter. He doesn’t mind too much. He likes to watch them and he had a trail cam out and got a couple nice ones on film. They were nowhere to be found last deer season! He found a 6-point shed at the corncrib back in February. I forgot, I should have taken a picture! He got one other one last week before another dumping of snow, but there should be 14 more out there for sure! Just got home today and I went shed hunting as soon as I could get out. It’s been a week and a half since I got to walk on my home turf. It was a pretty successful trip, even if I didn’t come home with any bones. I saw “my guy.” He is a very cool buck that I’m jonesing for pretty bad. I last saw him Feb. 25 with a full rack. He is shed out now. I have great video and trail cam pics of him, but I’m going to keep his identity a secret for a little longer till those sheds surface. I don’t want to encourage people to shed hunt that spot! I’m excited to show him off. He is a very cool buck! Please be patient. With him were several other deer, including a halfrack buck and a full rack buck! I always figured bucks holding antlers till mid-March fell within the “normal” category, but this is now late. I have seen a couple with sheds in April. It floors me that so many deer held so long, considering we had a pretty good winter. That indicates to me most of them are pulling through in pretty good shape. I’m excited to get out and do some more looking, but there is so dang much snow! I wore my knee boots again today. When you’re on the trails it’s easy walking, but if you go cross-country, it’s often past your knees. What a crazy winter! Good luck to all of you out there. Keep checking back. Lots of good things coming, and maybe if I’m really lucky I’ll actually get a shed one of these days!