Shed hunters with big antlers

Shed Hunting: It’s Not Just About Finding Antlers

AJ Gall 2.28.2017

According to social media, I suck as a shed hunter.  Everybody and their brother is out there scooping up sheds left and right and bragging about being in double digits already. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here with one measly dinker of a 3-point side after putting on 25+ miles in supposedly the “Whitetail Heaven” state of Iowa.  Sure, some are still holding, but you’d think after putting on that many miles in deer laden country, you’d stumble across more antler than that.

Shed hunting in IowaHere’s my giant 3-point reward for walking 25+miles.

It was our second year in a row making our now annual trip down to Iowa for a mid-February shed hunt… or in my case, long country walks. Overall, our group of four only came home with eight shed antlers for the cumulative 100+ miles walked.  To break that down, that’s one shed every 12.5 miles walked.  Worth it? I guess it depends. Like most group shed hunts, there always seems to be one clear winner and one clear loser.  I drew the short straw this year, and was the clear loser.  Meanwhile, my cousin, Jared was the clear winner after walking up on a 155” matched set.  His stroke of luck continued on to the second day with another nice five-point side – making them the three biggest sheds of his fairly young life.

Shed hunters with big antlersYup, this was when the other three of us got extremely shed-jealous.

Going into the trip, the main goal was to find shed antlers.  During the long drive down we had made bets on who would find what in an effort to curb our anticipation.  Let’s just say our hopes were high and if this were the Price is Right, we all would have over bid the actual price.  The first morning, as we stepped foot onto the new land, we were all giddy as could be. It must have been how Lewis and Clarke felt as they turned every river bend or crested every rise.  Step by step, ridge after ridge, multiflora rose thorn after rose thorn, the reality of the shed hunt became ever so clear…it wasn’t about the shed hunt at all.

Big Iowa Shed AntlersHere’s a pic of my cousin, Jared, admiring his giant matched set.

Just like hunting is hardly about killing an animal, shed hunting is hardly about finding an antler.  This is the one fundamental ideation that many non-hunters fail to ever recognize.  Meanwhile, it’s the stuff that keeps us as hunters and outdoorsmen ever so alive.  It’s the adventure, the unknown, the tradition, the camaraderie, the discovery, the disconnect – those are the motives that drive us.

Through hours of shed-less hiking and long car rides, you’d better hope you get along with the group you are with otherwise it can turn into a long and miserable trip.  You need to be able to take some trash talk, while also throwing some back.  When it’s all done in good fun, it keeps the energy up and laughter flowing.  The small jabs and banter mixed with a few cold brews and hunks of jerky ensures camaraderie is alive and well.

One of the best things about shed hunting is the scouting that accompanies the search.  In fact, it will often dictate your search route.  There’s typically a lot of spots hunters won’t touch during the fall for fear of pushing or alerting deer.  Early spring is the perfect time to bust into bedding areas or other unknown pieces and ground-proof your suspicions.  With bare ground that’s full of sign, this is the best time to be in the deer woods preparing for fall.

So you see, shed hunting is never a bust when you’re out searching with friends.  If it were truly about the antlers and someone asked me if I would knowingly walk 25+ miles through thorn infested woods to find a single little three-point side, my answer would be a resounding, Hell no!  But understand the answer is never that simple, it’s the unknown and good times that push us on, not the sheds – they are just the cherry on top.


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