Hunting for Deer Sheds and Deer Racks

This is Guy's story about finding deer sheds and deer racks in the woods. Learn how you can find deer antlers, too, with the "Top Ten Tips for Finding Deer Antler Sheds" or sign up for Wilderness Classes.

The Scene

It was an obvious deer kill. Hair and hide are scattered around with white bones shining in the light. It is March of 2011, and the snow, which we had in abundance this year, is mostly all melted. The ground is clear and matted down from the recently melted snow, perfect conditions for making a "shed hunt" to look for deer racks.

I always investigate a deer kill site, and this site is obvious, located just above a meadow on the south face of the hill. Surprisingly, it is a deer kill with a nice "basket" rack 8 point. The location of this kill is not far behind my house, and I am surprised that the deer rack is not taken.

quarry near the trail

This particular area sees lots of hunting. When hiking the woods, it is not uncommon to find deer stands, now mostly the "lean to" metal stands, every hundred yards or so. There is even an deer feeder about a hundred yards from this find.

I conclude from the condition of the hide and bleached bones that this kill is likely from the December 2010 deer season. That means that I am the first person to see the kill since early winter.

We have had significant snow this year, so mostly likely the kill was hidden for the months of January and February. I am still surprised to be the fist to see such an obvious kill. It is a rare person that does not stop and collect a nice 8 point shed. I count this as a shed, because even though the deer antlers are still attached to the skull, they are found from a fallen deer.

I move the treasure to a more secure spot. I don't want a second hunter to have a claim on my find since it is a nice spring day, and I am still thinking how could this find have been missed for so long. That is one find down, and I am feeling good. Now I am about to head for a place that I have had in mind for quite awhile but that I have never visited before, even though I have been thinking about it for awhile.

Another Scene

The area I am hunting is a mix of farm fields and woodlots with occasional briar patches mixed in. The meadow I am in is about 150 yards from the deer stand I have successfully used for the last two years. I have rattled up and shot a 6 point, buck on the second Tuesday of November around 9:30 am for two years in a row.

I have found that in rural areas, after the hustle and bustle of the morning hours, the woods become peaceful around 9:00 am, and they stay quiet until around noon. Around 9:30 am, the deer become active again, and respond willingly to rattling or grunt calls.

This year's bow season I attempted to make it 3 years in a row but missed the buck that responded cleanly over his back. He didn't have a 6 point deer rack anyway.

History

There is something primal about the attraction a fine set of antlers for most men. Really fine antlers sell for thousands of dollars to collectors, and almost no one will not stop and admire any shed antlers found in the field.

deer racks collection

I think this attraction comes from a very remote value that primitive cultures would have placed on antlers as tools and decoration.

Antlers in a primitive culture were especially useful as stone working tools. Antlers at the base form heavy main beams that are just the right weight and density to make fine billets for percussion flintknapping, and as such, would have had held a high value for trade and use.

During the Stone Age, anything that worked stone well would have been very valuable. The main beams also provided a good source for a very tough handle material for hafting stone knifes. The tines of antlers are still used today for pressure flaking tools. Anyone who killed a large buck deer in primitive times would have had quite a valuable asset in the deer's antlers. I think subconsciously that primal instinct still forms the attraction.

Interestingly, the deer seem to have no value associated with the antlers once their usefulness as a mating tool is spent. I suspect that to the deer it would be much like us clipping our fingernails. I have never experienced a deer trying to "hide" its shed antlers. The deer racks fall where they fall and are quickly forgotten.

Finding the Area

deer bed

The area I had in mind was another half mile back. There is a draw that has a very small creek that, if followed upstream, goes directly north.

On the west side of the valley (that gets the south-east sun), the thickets grow dense, but as the land slopes a little to the west up the valley, the creek bottom widens and the thickets turn into hollys and open deciduous forest. It was this transition on the East facing slop, just above the swampy bottom, that I was heading for. I had never been there before but could see it in my mind by watching where the deer came from. I knew it would contain the right spot for finding deer sheds and deer racks.

deer rack

As I followed the trail into to the semi-open woods, I slowly walked to where the trail turned on the rounded hillside slightly to the left. I was sure this was the place!

A single buck had bedded here as the days lengthened and his hormones signaled the changing seasons. Here is where he was when that change had occurred one February day. Here is were the antler fell after a morning of resting. Here, I pointed to the ground, is where the leaves would start to cover the main beam. I was right!

deer racks

As I pointed to the ground there was the unmistakable gleam of an ivory point. I reached down and picked up a nice antler of 4 points. After only seconds to saver my good luck, I pointed again, and sure enough only feet away lay the second antler. This one was only two points, a main beam and one large spike point.

Success: Two complete deer racks and a beautiful, peaceful day in the fields.

How You Can Find Deer Antlers

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