How about shed hunting? It’s prime time in most parts of the country to discover whereabouts of bucks and to begin to plan for next year’s hunt, or at least, if you’re interested in herd management, then to get more of an idea of the health, size and whereabouts of the deer on the property you hunt or manage.
Jana Waller recently broke into the outdoor world as a huntress, appearing as a competitor in last year’s Ammo & Attitude series on the Versus channel, as well as Wildside Adventures on FSN and a Magnum Action Hunting DVD. She has amassed a healthy collection of articles that have been published in bowhunting.net, womenhunters.com, Bowhunter Magazine and Predator Xtreme.
Jana’s hobby of skull painting evolved into a nice little side vocation for her, with her Painted Skulls online store. She also sells these creations to galleries across the country. Through generous donations, her works of skull art have helped increase the coffers of Safari Club International, Delta Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, HornsNHeritage, QDMA of Wisconsin and NY Outdoors Unlimited.
A conservationist at heart, Jana is on the prostaff for Prois Hunting Apparel, Commando Hunting Products and Honey Creek Outdoor Camera Arms. We also know that she has a hobby that she is particularly good at … shed hunting.
We caught her between editing sessions in a studio in Montana, where she currently resides, and she gave us some tips about shed hunting that you might apply anywhere.
Babbs: What got you started shed hunting?
Jana: I started shed hunting about 10 years ago in Wisconsin. Every year cabin fever strikes me in the middle of winter and I start craving the outdoors. I love to hike and “snarf” around in the woods, so it just makes sense to turn a nice February day into a scavenger hunt for sheds.
Babbs: You say it’s more luck than skill? Are you just being modest here, or is there some skill involved?
Jana: Shed hunting is a little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck but there are certain “tips of the trade” that can aid in your hunt. For example, deer tend to bed on south facing slopes, where the sun hits the slope and that’s a great place to start your search. If you stick to the game trails and near food plots or food sources you’ll also increase your odds of stumbling across some “white gold.” Fence lines, or popular corridors where they travel, are also good spots to check, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve found them off the beaten path as well.
Babbs: Best time of year in your neck of the woods?
Jana: For Montana, my new home away from home, the deer start to drop even as early as Christmas, but more likely they fall in mid January to mid February. I’ve already found dozens this year at the end of January but just yesterday, Feb. 27th, I saw a smaller whitetail “packin,’” as we say. The mule deer tend to shed a little bit later than the whitetails and the elk are the last to shed, which is mid March to early April.
Babbs: How many miles do you cover when you shed hunt?
Jana: In Montana, we cover on average 5-6 miles per day. It depends on the steep incline of the mountains we hike, but we usually go all day long, especially if we’re having luck!
Jana: My most exciting find is a set I stumbled across just this year. It wasn’t the biggest whitetail in the world, only scoring 145 inches, but it was the first time I’ve ever found a set lying practically on top of one another. Usually sets are spread out a bit, often taking hours to find the other side. My biggest single shed scored about 75 inches.
Babbs: Most unique shed?
Jana: My most unique shed is one others would probably laugh at, but it’s a spike from a young whitetail. No longer than my pinky, it’s one of my favorite finds. I actually found it only because it was lying on a pile of deer pellets! No *@#$!
Babbs: I know you like to design skulls, but do you do anything special artistically with the sheds?
Jana: I don’t use the sheds we find for anything special except for decoration around the house. They lie on the floor next to the fireplace and we reminisce about the awesome hikes. They also adorn the tops of the kitchen cabinets, adding a touch of the outdoors.
Babbs: Do you have any photography tips for sheds?
Jana: I like the photos of sheds in their natural position or exactly how they lie when you come upon them, especially if it’s a cool spot like a recent one we found hanging in a bush off the ground. I would recommend to take a photo before touching the shed. I also like the proud poses where we hold the sheds because the smiles on our faces says it all. You capture your excitement in those photographs.
Babbs: Anything else?
Jana: When I shed hunt out West, binoculars are a must. When you’re glancing at an open slope it easier to use your binos to cover a large area of ground. You can often see the tines sticking up or the curvature of the shed from far away with good optics. When I’m searching for sheds on my property in Wisconsin, I simply hike the woods and use my eyes. We don’t have large, open slopes like the mountains in Montana. It’s a different technique.
Shed hunting is addicting. In ways, it’s like a treasure hunt. Just knowing a nice shed could be right around the next bend or hilltop keeps you hiking and searching for hours. I call it the “healthy high.”