Best thing to do in February: Shed hunting

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deer antler

Most hunters and outdoor enthusiasts consider the month of February a good time to hibernate, thanking the calendar maker for keeping it short.

Too late to hunt, too early to fish, too cold to camp, too warm to ice skate, and too little or much of everything else.

It seems that nothing outdoors is fit for February, the year’s “in-between” month for sure. Nothing that is, but one thing that requires no special gear, apparel, training or preparation.

Shed hunting

We are talking about shed hunting. Indeed, February and shed hunt fit together just as well and maybe better than left and right.

And get this — shed hunting is the fastest growing hunting experience, bar none.

A couple of decades ago, if one were to be asked about shed hunting the answer would dance around storage sheds and chicken coops. No longer.

Ask now and ears perk up just as they do when the topic of conversation is trophy whitetail deer. By now a good number of whitetail bucks will have dropped last year’s head gear.

Shedding

Within a couple more weeks, all but a very few will be bald, their antlers scattered were they fall. The rule of nature causes their antlers to drop off to make room for a new growth as winter welcomes spring.

Once dropped, whitetail “bone” represents a coveted prize to the first person to find it. And make that a double dose of fun and pride when a shed hunter finds both antlers, a reasonable bonus since many bucks drop both sides at nearly the same time, sometimes within a few yards of each other.

There are now a bunch of clubs and organizations catering to like-minded shed hunters. The face-to-face connections, online forums, and formal events allow collections of antlers to be displayed and admired by others.

Some of the best finds included the sheds of the same buck found year after year. Sets of bone like this can be displayed in sequence and often match the photos taken by trail camera.

To a shed hunter, eight-point antlers are nice, but bigger and better is the goal. Twelve points are special, and of course, sets are tops.

Dogs

More and more serious shed hunters have trained their dogs to find dropped antlers. Almost any dog can and will learn how if introduced to the skill through several training sessions.

Some skilled shedders claim that they can train their eyes to better “see” sheds by tossing a couple sheds ahead of them then “finding” them a time or two before setting out to hike in search of recently dropped antlers.

Interestingly, shed fans have devised traps to make their collections of bone grow rather quickly and effortless.

Some pile shelled corn after hunting season to keep area deer close to brushy cover and more likely to drop antlers as they scrounge for kernels.

Other inventive collectors surround feeders with various contraptions that deer must pump as they feed.

Check online for regional, state and national shed hunter organizations, books and shed hunting tips.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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