Thursday, July 20, 2006

Misc.: Finding Whitetail Deer Antler Sheds for the Non-Hunter

Here is an interesting article that I found on the Shed Antlers Blog. Hunting for anler sheds is a good way for hunters to learn about animal behavior and scout a new area. Shed hunting is also a good way to introduce children to hunting or make hunters out of non-hunters.


Finding Whitetail Deer Antler Sheds For The Non-Hunter
Whitetail deer (as opposed to Mule or Blacktail deer) are very much creatures of habit, and unless pushed out by constant human contact, can sometimes live out their lives within a one square mile area.

A good way to locate good areas is to drive slowly on some of the country roads during the evenings, and pay attention to the pastures close to the treelines. You can usually get fairly close and not spook wildlife as long as you stay in your vehicle.

Start asking around at work, your friends, Invariably you will find someone that feeds the deer because they are so cute. Ask them if you can shed hunt on their property.

The best people to talk to are your local Game Warden and state wildlife biologist. In addition to the easier spots, they also plant food plots that not many people know about. Most biologists enjoy the chance to show people what they do.

A deer's life revolves almost entirely around food. Up to 95 percent of a deer's active time is spent foraging. When deer aren't eating, they usually are resting.

On average through the year, deer bed down more than 16 hours a day, although they seldom remain bedded for more than two hours at a time without at least getting up to stretch.

Deer bed in areas that provide both cover and comfort. A deer usually beds with its back to the wind, allowing it to see anything approaching from downwind and smell upwind danger. On hot, sunny days, deer tend to bed in shady areas. On cold, windy days they'll find a place that's protected from the wind. They often rest just over the downwind edge of a ridge. They sometimes return to the same bedding areas and, sometimes, the same beds.

Because they eat and rest in the same general areas, deer tend to travel the same routes between bedding and feeding areas, forming and following trails. Deer trails may be easy to spot-even rutted from hooves-or they can be almost indistinguishable.

The trails often skirt open areas, parallel creeks and rivers or follow the contours of hills.

The best time to find deer trails is following a snowfall. That's also the best time to follow deer tracks to learn where deer are going.

In addition to tracks on or near a trail, you may find deer scat, which looks a lot like chocolate-covered raisins, rubs and scrapes, signs of browsing and cozy places in the leaves or grass where deer have lain.

Rubs indicate a potential travel corridor. Further study of the rubs in the area can help us determine which direction the buck was traveling at the time he made them. The rubbed bark generally points the direction from which the buck came. By locating both the bedding and feeding areas.

During the pre-rut and rut, bucks make both rubs and scrapes. Rubs and scrapes are often found in the same general area.
Rubs are places on trees or brush where bark has been worn down to the inner wood.
Scrapes are areas of pawed ground that are usually from football to beach ball size.
Bucks make rubs while removing velvet from their antlers. While making them, they also deposit a scent that marks their territory.
Bucks also sometimes spar with small trees and brush, rubbing them clean of bark.
Large-antlered bucks often make their scrapes on larger diameter tree trunks than do smaller bucks.
Does and other bucks may visit a scrape made by a buck, but usually only the buck will visit a rub line.

We can also learn valuable information by studying the beds of whitetails. To begin with, family groups (the matriarch doe, her female offspring & the entire group's fawns) generally bed in areas away from the local buck population. Therefore, when we stumble across a bedding areas that has a mixture of both large and small beds, we can assume that this is a family group bedding area. The exception to this is the early stages of fawn rearing when the doe becomes very territorial and drives all intruders, including the previous year's offspring, from her fawn rearing area. Even during the yarding period, experienced in the North, family groups and bucks will tend to segregate their bedding within the confines of the yard.

Another sign that indicates the sex of the maker is the location of a urine spot in the bed. Frequently, deer will raise from there beds and urinate before stepping away. When this urine spot is on the edge of the bed, it indicates a doe. When this appears in the middle, chances are good that a buck made it.

Both aerial photos and USGS quadrangles can help immensely. Not only do they show potential food sources, bedding area, funnels, etc.., they also can serve as a base map to plot our findings on. This is a key step in determining the overall patterns of a local deer population. Often, individual pieces of evidence do little to paint the overall picture. Once these pieces are plotted on a map, suddenly they seem to tie everything together and a greater picture is revealed.

When you head out for a shed hunt, keep in mind the fact that deer have been chased around by hunters for quite some time. This means you need to look for deer in places other hunters aren't going to go -- thick brush, nasty swamps and up over steep ridges, to name a few. Rest assured, the deer are out there. It's up to you to find them.

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