Even when hunters can’t legally hunt, you know they’re out there still hunting—for trails, scat, food sources and of course, sheds. We found some American #shedhunters who said they would tell us some of their stories, and pass along a few tips, too.
Said Brenda Valentine, “The First Lady of Hunting™,” “I’ve been hunting sheds ever since I discovered they dropped off a buck’s head every year!” Hailing from Tennessee, Brenda tries to get to the sheds before the rodents eat them—which she said is as soon as the sheds hit the ground. Brenda decorates her home with them; in fact, all her kitchen cabinet knobs and closet door handles are made from antlers. This past Christmas, her daughter decorated a 12-foot Christmas tree with antlers.
Of course, we all know to check the trails used by animals when shed hunting, but Brenda said not to forget to look at fence, ditch or creek crossings. She explained, “Any place the deer or elk has to jump will often jar an antler loose—if it is almost ready to shed.”
Brenda, who travels the world hunting, said she has found ancient sheds in Western arid states, and she also has discovered well-preserved sheds in Alaska and Canada, buried in snow throughout the year.
Another TV personality, Jana Waller, of Skull Bound, has been hunting sheds for more than 10 years. She started in southern Wisconsin, which is whitetail territory. In 2009, she moved to western Montana and said, “It was like discovering a whole new toy box of treasures. From moose and elk to mule deer and whitetails, it’s so exciting to be able to walk away from a day in the mountains variety of bone strapped to your back.”
You would think this shed hunter would be boasting about some of the big boys she’s found, but no. She stated, “The shed I’m most proud of is the smallest one of the bunch. I found a 5-inch spike that looks like a small twig. The only reason I saw the wee lad of a shed was its position—it was lying in a pile of whitetail droppings!” [Note to self: Add that to the list of places to look.]
A few years ago, while filming for Skull Bound on a bear hunt in Montana, she found a big elk shed, a 6-pointer entwined in a fallen tree branch. She said, “It’s quite the adrenalin rush when you find ‘white gold!’”
In Jana’s home, antlers adorn both sides of the stone fireplace. She’s going to mount a matching whitetail set she found last year near home at the Blackfoot Clearwater Game Range. This site, a wintering range for elk and deer, was closed for shed hunting until May 15, and then opened a season on it. Jana said, “One year, during opening day we found that beautiful set of antlers on the same ridge that a man had to shoot a kill a grizzly bear. We were so close that we actually heard 2 shots from his handgun.” She reminds shed hunters in the West to carry bear spray.
Jana recommends checking bedding areas and south facing slopes. She said, “Deer and elk often bed facing into the sun so it’s a great place to start.”
She added, “Out West, a good pair of binoculars is critical. Sheds are often found by glassing huge mountain slopes where you can see a long distance. It takes some time to train your eyes in what to look for when glassing across canyons but it pays off because of the ground you can cover.”
In the West, moose shed first and elk last. Said Jana, “We won’t even go looking in good elk areas until March or April. We often find sheds from previous years as well. They’re often very white and ‘chalky’ due to the weather but still fun to find!”
Bob Humphrey and the Story of 2 Left Sheds
Travel east and way up north, and you’ll find outdoor writer Bob Humphrey’s hunting grounds of home in the state of Maine. He said he started hunting sheds 16 years ago.
One time, Bob found a pair of sheds—of the same age and dropped within a few feet of each other. He described them as a perfect pair, nearly identical, except one had a small drop tine at its base. A perfect set? No, they both were from the same side.
Bob piles up the antlers in the corner of his trophy room. He said, “I’ve thought about doing all sorts of crafty things—but, they’re so beautiful I just can’t bring myself to do anything to them that would mar them. The only exception is smaller sheds that are badly chewed or broken. I cut off about six inches of the base, drill a hole in it, lengthwise, insert a length of carbon arrow shaft or wooden dowel and use them as turkey call strikers.”
American Shed Pickin’ Family — the Marshalls
Back to the Southwest, NWTF members Trisha and Chad Marshall run Gila Trophy Outfitters in Reserve, New Mexico. Trisha said, “Chad and I have shed hunted together since we met and started dating. He has taught me a lot about hunting and shed hunting … but, he has never tried to out-do me on the shed hunts. If anything, he has let me find more than he does—just because he knows how much I love to shed hunt.” The Marshall typically each will wear out a pair of boots every year from shed hunting alone. Trisha recommends looking on northern slopes after the snow is melted.
Trisha and her husband carried their baby boys with them in chest or backpacks to shed hunt. When the boys grew older, the family would make a game out of the hunt. She said, “When they were old enough to look, we would see one in the field and not tell them where it was, but we would walk toward it and then they would get all excited and that little trick would get them used to what a shed on the ground looked like.”
She added, “We spend a lot of time with our boys out in the mountains … so now they ask all the time if we are going shed hunting and love to go just as much as we do. We have a little competition going to see who can find the most or the biggest. They are only nine and six, so I hope they will carry it on to their children.”
One of Trisha’s favorite shed-hunting stories centered around an unusual shed. She recalled, “We were out shed hunting one day and Chad was about 200 yards from me on top of the ridge. I was walking up the river bottom. I yelled up to him, telling him there was a shed below him … and he laughed at me and said that it was just a stick. As he grabbed it to throw it, he realized it was an antler.”
An unusual antler, it features a hollowed out ashtray-like part. Chad showed it to some locals and one guy said he thought he’d found the other side of it. They think it belonged to a mule deer.
If you’d like to read more about shed hunting, check out Mia Anstine’s post.
Also, if you find a shed, be sure to post it socially at Realtree’s #ShedRally, which officially begins on March 12, 2016.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications, including NRA, NSSF and Field & Stream. View all posts by Barbara Baird