Many of us don’t have the luxury of large nearby fields with standing grain to draw shedding bucks. We’ll never be able to go on a simple stroll through perfect shed hunting land and scoop antlers up left and right. It’s no secret that quality destination food sources are an ace in the hole for piling up sheds on hunting property. As long as there’s minimal pressure, bucks bed close to the food sources and keep movement to a minimum during this time of the year.
But if you don’t have these main feeding destinations on the property you hunt, don’t worry. Your shed season is far from over. You can still be successful in finding sheds and building history for 2022’s target bucks. It takes a bit more strategy and puts more miles on the boots, but you just have to know where to look.
Top Third of Ridges Identify good cover along the top third section of accessible ridges. Bucks like to bed and traverse these areas. They often have the sight advantage down the slope as the primary wind direction blows over the top, giving them additional scent advantage from their blind side. Bucks will hang out around these parts a lot in this time of year, which increases your odds of finding sheds.
Ridges and terrain features get even better when their slopes are south-facing. The sunlight warms these south faces longer throughout cold winter days. You commonly find young vegetation and natural browse that attract deer since these areas are exposed to more sunlight.
Fence Gaps Fence gaps or low spots can be riddled with sheds. These hot spots can be a bit more subtle than other surefire terrain features, but they can also help you be more efficient in your search. Fence lines serve as great edge travel corridors—the thicker and nastier, the better. Find the low spots where a strand or two is broken, and pay special attention to any missing sections.
The path of least resistance isn’t something used just by does and fawns this time of year. Bucks want to preserve energy, too. Find these specific locations along hedgerows, fences, and thick tree lines, and you’ll probably find a ton of scouting treasure; worn trails from consistent travel, buck sign, and at the right time of year, sheds.
Creek Crossings Few funnels function better than a well-established creek crossing. Aside from shed hunting, they are one of my favorite locations for trail cameras. Surrounded by the right habitat, between bed and food, these pinch points create reliable, year-round travel. I realized just how valuable creek crossings are for finding sheds when I was pulling a trail camera after the season in early March. A very well-used trail ran through the wide, shallow creek with steep banks, which came from a bedding ridge and led to a long, flat CRP stretch and ultimately to an oak ridge with a gradual, inclining slope.
I left the camera until March to see how much use the oak ridge got late in the season. When I arrived there, I found one shed on the bedding side of the creek, one in the creek itself, and a matched set on the oak ridge side, all within a 50-yard radius of the center of the creek crossing.
Undeniable clarity set in as I began breaking down the reasoning. It’s a huge plus to find these places where deer naturally want to be all year. As I analyzed the tracks and the shape of the bank, I could see where the deer would jump the last piece of the bank, landing in the creek bottom. This jolt to their body would agitate an already-loose antler. Although the creek is shallow, there’s enough moving water to keep it from freezing solid so it continues to serve as a good water source for deer and wildlife as an additional attraction.
Conclusion Remember, just because you don’t have significant food sources to draw bucks during the winter doesn’t mean you don’t have key places bucks will frequent. If you don’t have the food, chances are the bucks are transitioning through or maybe even bedding on your property. Make a list of funnels that will concentrate movement. The approach still centers mainly around a bed-to-food pattern, but the essential details are what the whole area offers for cover and transitional travel routes. Factor in the small details and how they work with the bigger picture of what your property offers bucks late in the year and you just might reveal some unsuspected goldmines to find antlers.
Feature image via Captured Creative.