Shawn Luchtel’s shed season looks a little different from the average whitetail hunter’s.
The founder of Heartland Bowhunter, who consistently puts mature bucks on the ground, almost exclusively searches for sheds on his private hunting land in Missouri. Generally, Luchtel will wait until March—when just about all bucks have dropped their antlers—to scour the 1,500-2,000 acres he shed hunts.
“The majority of March I spend shed hunting, and then as April arrives, I pretty much have it wrapped up,” he said. “I spend at least a solid 50-60 hours shed hunting.”
If he learns a target buck has shed his antlers early, he’ll head out to look for that particular set but will still wait to conduct his full grid search of the property until a few weeks later. But outside of shed hunting on his Midwest farm, he’d switch that schedule up on public land in other parts of the country.
“If I were shed hunting public land, I would most certainly go earlier, especially if I had a certain buck that I knew had dropped and I really wanted to find that,” he said.
When it comes to individual days and ideal weather, Luchtel says not all conditions are equal. While clear blue skies make for a pleasant experience, they can actually hinder your shed hunting.
“If I have time carved out in my schedule to shed hunt consecutive days, I’m probably not going to focus on the good areas on bright, sunny days,” Luchtel told MeatEater. “I’ll save the really good areas where I feel like I’ll pick up a lot for those cloudy, dreary days. And when those days do come, I’m trying to go all day long and really push myself to not stop walking. Your vision is so much better on those days when there’s no shadows.”
He first heads to food plots, “the easy places,” then focuses on bedding areas before moving onto native grass habitat.
“In the winter months, often deer will spend some time out there to stay warm out there on sunny days,” he said. “The snow will melt off first, and they’re fairly prone to drop their antlers when you get warm-ups during the winter and spring.”
Particularly in those prime spots, Luchtel says it’s important to take your time and not rush your shed hunting.
“When you think you’ve covered it all, you haven’t. Make sure you comb over stuff as many times as you can,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I've gone back the next year and found an old shed that I was looking for—I must have walked past it two or three times clearly. So cover ground as many times as you can and try to go slow.”
Walking an area once and moving too quickly is a major mistake many shed hunters make—and one he still makes himself. “I’m always going too fast, thinking something’s over the next hill when it’s right in front of my face,” he said.
While he’s developed a solid strategy for efficiently covering his go-to areas, Luchtel admits shed hunting can still be unpredictable and doesn’t rule out the most unlikely spots.
He’s often captured trail camera photos of particular bucks on one side of his farm then picked up their sheds on the opposite end of the property—places he never got any photos and would never expect to find them.
“Every year they surprise me with how much they actually do travel and how much their travel corridors change, given the fact their food sources change throughout the year. So just because I have trail camera photos in one place doesn’t mean I’m not going to run into that deer elsewhere. I always try to keep an open mind.”
Where he locates sheds and the sign he finds along the way help Luchtel adapt his tactics for the following hunting season.
“Shed hunting is a very very important time to scout. Trails are usually heavily defined this time of year, with everything being dormant. I’ll take note of that,” he said. I obviously will be in bedding areas, which that’s about the only time of year that I'm in there outside of the rut. I really try to focus on their travel corridors and nail that stuff down and mark that on my maps for the following year.”
He uses onX to mark these spots for later as well as keep track of exactly which ground he’s covered in search of sheds.
“I’m dropping pins nonstop,” he said.
But all that time and energy are well worth the investment when it helps him drop the final piece into the bowhunting puzzle.
Feature image via Creative Commons.