Even when hunters can’t legally hunt, you know they’re out there hunting – for trails, scat, food sources and of course, sheds. We call them “American shed pickers.” Renowned hunters Brenda Valentine and Jana Waller love this time of year, when sheds are fresh and plentiful, if you know where to find them. They graciously gave us a few tips to use in our own shed hunting areas.
Brenda Valentine, aka “The First Lady of Hunting,” said, “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.
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 TV, has been hunting sheds for more than 18 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!”
Once, 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!’”
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!”