With Shed Rally 2018 just a month away, it’s time to fully shift your attention to cast antlers. To ensure your backpack is filled with bone this March, you’ll first want to understand the why, when, and where of whitetail sheds.
Why Deer Shed
Simply put, deer drop their antlers because of the dip in testosterone that comes with winter months. However, this doesn’t explain why deer shed their antlers, rather than keeping them like bison or sheep do with horns.
There are a number of theories that exist, none of which are totally agreed upon by biologists. Some believe that antlers are dropped to save energy, losing them during a time of year where resources are limited. Others believe it’s to guarantee a fresh set of antlers for each fall, ditching the old ones in case of broken tines or beams. Some feel bucks shed their antlers to mimic does following the rut, throwing off predators who might otherwise seek out weakened males.
When Deer Shed
The majority of deer shed between January and February, but there are always exceptions, with some bucks dropping as early as December or as late as April. The number one factor for determining when a buck will shed is its health.
A herd that has poor nutrition, usually from the result of crop failure or overpopulation, will as a whole drop their antlers sooner. On the contrary, a herd that isn’t stressed will as a whole keep their antlers longer. Individual bucks that drop exceptionally early are usually ones that are injured, whether it be from another buck, vehicle, or hunter. Individual bucks that hold their antlers late are sometimes thought to be bullies, experiencing higher testosterone levels and deeper pedicle mineralization from frequent fighting.
Where Deer Shed
As most shed hunters will tell you, food sources are the best places to find sheds. More specifically, the fields that provide carbs, like corn and beans, will be heavily favored by deer in the winter.
As for bedding and travel routes, you need to consider what areas will keep deer out of the harsh elements and begin your grid searching there. For beds, deer will opt for gnarly cover near food sources that provides a break from the wind, such as creek bottoms and shelterbelts. For trails, check on the path of least resistance, such as a ridgetop that won’t get drifted with snow.
Want to put this knowledge into action? Join the world’s largest shed hunt on March 10th and 11th as Whitetail Properties puts on the event. If scooping up antlers isn’t motivation enough, use the hashtag #ShedRally on social media to be eligible to win some incredible prizes from brands like Realtree, Yeti, and Winchester. We’ll see you out there.