I’m often asked about how shed antler hunting and winter scouting fits into my plans. I certainly think they are important, but not completely necessary. Unless you draw a very special tag, you will not be hunting bucks on winter range, so any information gathered there might not be applicable come fall.
I love to hunt shed antlers, and it used to be a ritual for me. However, when I became a busy father and had to start focusing, I decided that shed antler hunting (done correctly) was just too much of a drain on my time and wallet. It wasn’t all that important in finding bucks to hunt in the fall compared with all the other good information available to hunters.
Also, with thousands of shed antler hunters on winter range spooking deer everywhere, I could never convince myself I wasn’t adding to the problem. In much of the West, mule deer survival is dependent on not being harassed on winter range. I welcome the shed seasons that states are implementing designed to protect wintering big game.
At this point in my life, I usually shed hunt only if I’ve located a really big buck in the winter. Below is a picture of one of the few Boone and Crockett typicals I’ve seen over the years.
I found him in early January one year and watched him until he dropped both antlers on January 17. While only about 26 or 27 inches wide, he had everything he needed to pass the 190” net minimum (assuming a 21” inside spread.) I later traded those antlers to my uncle who is a taxidermist for two full shoulder mounts, so about $1,000 in value. If I could do that five more times, I might break even on all the money I spent shed hunting as a young man!