shed hunting

Increase Your Shed Hunting Success with Supplemental Feeders

How Supplemental Feeders Can Help With Shed Hunting

We’re sure you’re aware of it at this point, but shed hunting season is definitely here again. You’ve likely been getting text messages or social media updates from friends or coworkers who have found a couple shed antlers already. You’re also probably itching to get out in the woods and start looking yourself. Shed hunting can make for a really great day in the woods, but it’s always a little better when you actually find something. If you have snuck out a few times already but haven’t found anything, your luck is about to change by using these shed hunting tips. Using supplemental feeders, where legal, is a great way to provide a calorie boost for deer in your area, but it’s also a great way to concentrate your shed antler hunt. The best time for finding sheds is rapidly approaching across the country, so it’s time to consider this strategy if you’re not already.

Best Time for Shed Hunting

As we mentioned, this is just about prime time for shed hunting. People across the country have been heading afield and returning with brag-worthy deer sheds for a couple weeks now, but the action is about to really step up in most places. When to start shed hunting can be a tricky question to answer since it varies so much, but most people believe that February is the best month to find them. Technically, you could find them from December through March, but February is right in the average, sweet spot time frame for ideal shed hunting times. These trips also work well as far as post season scouting goes.

When To Shed Hunt

 

If you start shed hunting too aggressively and too early in the season, there is the possibility of spooking deer to other properties where they could shed their antlers instead. But if you wait too long to look, on the other hand, squirrels and mice will chew them up before you find them. If you primarily look on public land, other shed hunters could also beat you to it.  When to shed hunt is a balancing act and it always has its risks. One way to mitigate these risks is to only check out feeding areas early in the deer shed season and to be extremely stealthy while doing it. Deer will likely be bedded away from food sources, so you should be able to sneak in and check for sheds without disturbing them too much. As prime time comes, you can start pushing your search into bedding areas lightly, as most bucks should have shed their antlers at that point.

 

Best Places to Shed Hunt

Whitetails spend most of their time either resting in a bedding area or feeding in a feeding area. It makes sense then that you have the best chance at finding a shed antler in one of these two areas. Sometimes you can get lucky by finding one alongside a trail, but usually that only happens if a buck glances an antler off of a branch in the process.

 

But if you don’t have a winter food source available on your land, this can be a bit of a problem. That should be a goal to address this summer by producing some late-season food plots for the deer. But for now, there’s a way to feed and attract the deer to your property, and that’s where supplemental feeders for deer come in. Muddy Outdoors® has a 200 pound gravity deer feeder that will feed deer securely on your land. It has a waterproof lid with a locking mechanism and the spring-loaded pan system helps distribute supplemental feed only if an animal disturbs it.

 

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

 

 

Supplemental feeders are attractive to deer because they offer a high-quality food source at a time when natural browse may be the only thing available to them. In addition, you get to choose what type of feed to use, whether you stick to simple cracked corn or high-protein feed specific for deer.

 

This concentration of deer feeding increases the chance that a buck would shed his antlers in the general vicinity. As he feeds off the pan system, he also might bump his antlers, separating them from his head in the process. While the Muddy Outdoors® feeder is not designed to be an antler trap, the support bars can act like one. In addition, you can hang a trail camera near the supplemental feeder and keep a watchful eye on the deer that come to it. When you notice the majority of bucks missing their head gear, you’ll know exactly when you should start really shed hunting hard and pushing into bedding areas.

 

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Caution with Supplemental Feeding

While the option above seems like a golden solution to your shed hunting woes, there are some cautions you should take before doing it. First, feeding deer may or may not be legal where you hunt. Check your state’s hunting regulations or call a game warden to see whether you can or cannot feed them. The concern that some agencies have is that it can concentrate deer activity into such a small area and increases the chances of deer making nose to nose contact. This might not sound like a big deal, but it can increase the chance of spreading transmissible diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or others in prone areas.

 

Deer are curious animals in that their digestive system gets really good at digesting certain foods as the seasons change. For example, since woody browse is often the only food source in winter for many deer, their guts get really good at extracting everything it can from a mostly fibrous, low-nutrient food. When they rapidly switch over to eating mostly corn from a feeder, however, it can create confusion in the guts. The microorganisms aren’t there to really digest the corn, causing it to flow right through the system without giving any benefits. This essentially starves them. That being said, deer are adapted to different conditions across the country. Midwest whitetails near an abundance of corn fields will still probably eat enough corn that it won’t harm them to suddenly experience a feeder. But it’s a different story for big woods bucks that never see a kernel of corn. The key is to slowly introduce supplemental feeding so they don’t have the opportunity to essentially starve themselves. If you haven’t fed deer before and especially if you live in a primarily forested area, start introducing very small amounts in your feeder at first (e.g., 10 to 20 pounds) each week. If you slowly increase the amount you feed them each week, they should have time to develop their gut flora enough to digest the corn. Of course, time and cost are both considerations with supplemental feeding for deer. It takes time to fill a feeder each week, and the cost of keeping it stocked can be on the pricey side.

 

Is Supplemental Feeding Right for You?

This shed hunting season, consider whether supplemental feeding could be used on your property. For those it works for, it can be a really useful tool to pick up some extra deer antlers, and it can be a great way to concentrate those monster whitetail sheds you’ve been looking for.

 

hunting big woods bucks in wilderness settings | Muddy Outdoors

Hunting Big Woods Bucks in Wilderness Settings

Tricks and Tips for Finding and Hunting Big Woods Bucks

There’s nothing quite like a truly remote, wilderness hunt for whitetails. After traversing miles on foot, you settle into a hunting site with promising sign. You can’t hear or see any sign of humanity – nothing but the sounds of nature around you. When you do see a deer, you know it probably hasn’t seen many people in its lifetime.  That’s the beauty of hunting big woods bucks.

What is Wilderness?

While you can still find some remote wilderness areas out west and certainly further north, it’s harder and harder today to find a truly remote area in the eastern half of the United States. Development and increasing road and trail networks are shrinking the natural areas of the world. But you owe it to yourself to seek the remaining ones out. You don’t have to make a trek to Alaska to find one either. We’ll define a wilderness area here as a spot without human disturbance (e.g., building, road, or trail, etc.) within one mile. Most people aren’t willing to walk a mile through the woods to get to their hunting spot. In fact, most stay within ¼ mile of a trail. So in many ways, hunting big woods bucks opens up additional hunting opportunities for you.

hunting big woods bucks in wilderness settings | Muddy Outdoors

It might seem like going through all the extra work would actually limit your hunting opportunities. But remote areas often have “good hunting” for hunting big woods bucks for a few reasons. First, the deer there are mostly unpressured since nobody takes the time to hunt them. As long as you hunt them smartly, that doesn’t have to change either. Two, since they are unpressured, they follow pretty normal and easy-to-distinguish patterns. This makes them a little easier to hunt in the long run. And third, these areas can often act as sanctuaries for gun-shy deer. By being in the right place at the right time, you could find yourself surrounded by deer when they get pushed from the easily-accessible areas.

How to Deer Hunt in Remote Areas

Let’s look at a few details you should consider when you decide you want to start hunting big woods bucks. Whether you’re completely new to the area or you’re somewhat familiar with it, there are a few things you shouldn’t overlook.

Getting to Your Destination

Depending on where you’ll be hunting big woods bucks, you may be able to simply walk out your back door to a remote area. More than likely, though, you’ll have to drive somewhere first. You may be able to take an ATV down a trail to where you want to park it for the day, and then set out from there on foot. But no matter what, you’ll be walking. A lot. Make sure you have good hunting boots and break them in before the season starts. A mile walked through the woods is very different than a mile walked on a sidewalk. There are obstacles to navigate around and uneven terrain to trip you up. Practice with a loaded backpack in the pre-season months, so you know what to expect.

The other thing about hunting big woods bucks is that the places they live are usually very hard to get to. Not just because they are a mile back in the woods, but because they are often separated from the trail or road by a marsh, stream, or river. In these cases, the sanctuary effect is even more pronounced. Big whitetail bucks love these areas because they know they should be secure there. Make sure you bring waders or a canoe so you can cross the obstacle and get where you need to be. Again, that might seem like a lot of work to commit to for the chance to see a deer. But that’s the reason the deer hunting should be better on the other side; nobody but the ambitious wants to go through that work.

Navigating a mile back in the woods does require some basic woodsmanship skills. You should be comfortable using a map, compass, and terrain/topography features if you’re going to do this, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory. Otherwise, wandering around a remote section of woods could turn into a very long and potentially dangerous day. Alternatively (and where legal), you could cut a small access trail or mark it with reflective pegs or flagging tape so you can find your way back and forth easily. But the problem with that is that it just opens up the possibility that someone else will follow it. Making it easier for you will also make it easier for everyone else. And the last thing you want to do is clue everyone else in on your plans to go deer hunting big woods bucks.

What Kind of Tree Stand?

During typical tree stand hunting, you can easily pack a lot of gear with and be comfortable all day. But hiking a mile or more back into the woods means your options are somewhat limited. Since you can’t carry a lot with you, you need to be able to either hunt on the ground, using a ground blind or relying on excellent camouflage clothing, or carry a lightweight climbing tree stand with you. You could also use lock on stands if you want another lightweight option. It’s critical in these situations to be able to quickly set up your hunting tree stands in the dark; but more critical than that is to do it quietly. You can quickly alert every deer around on a calm morning if you’re not careful. That would defeat the purpose of even having a tree stand for hunting big woods bucks in the first place.

hunting big woods bucks in wilderness settings | Muddy OutdoorsThe Stalker Climber is a very lightweight climbing option by Muddy Outdoors that anyone who plans on tree stand hunting can appreciate. It is crafted from lightweight aluminum and features sturdy backpack straps to haul it with you wherever you go. This versatility and ability to bring it with you on remote trips makes it one of the best tree stands for hunting.

Finding the right tree will be just as important if you’re tree stand hunting. You need to be able to see a good distance from up in the tree, and have enough openings to shoot through when the opportunity arises. Particularly when you’re bow hunting, you’ll need enough room to thread arrows through the brush. However, all of this is really hard to see in the pre-dawn blackness. For that reason, it would be much easier to do all of this if you could go out and scout before your hunting season starts, so you know what the area looks like.

Scouting whitetail deer in these areas is a delicate process. You don’t want to tromp around so much that you leave lots of human scent everywhere. That would again ruin your chances of sneaking into and hunting a remote area. The king of big buck hunting tips is to remain as invisible as possible, including when you’re scouting. Try to find out as much about the area from aerial photographs as you can, so you can target only the best-looking spots to hunt. If you find a couple promising trees that would work for tree stand hunting, you could flag them or use reflective pegs to easily find them with your headlamp. If you’re using climbing stands, you’ll also need to find a straight-trunked tree with few or no branches in the lower half in order to climb it well. Whereas, if the area you’re hunting in had lots of mature trees with branches along the trunk (e.g., white oaks), lock on tree stands may be a better option.

How to Hunt Deer

Bear in mind, you’ll have to leave very early in the morning to get to a spot and get your stand hung before daylight in one of these areas. The sheer distance and effort required is something you’ll underestimate the first couple times, so add 10-20% onto whatever time estimate you come up with. Otherwise, you’ll probably show up at your hunting tree stand after the sun is up. Similarly, it will take a long time to get back in the evening, so plan accordingly. Because they are so far away, it really only makes sense to hunt a spot like this if you hunt all day. That way, you can make the most use of the effort it takes to get there.

In order to do that and remain comfortable all day, be sure to bring along high-nutrition foods and snacks, as well as enough water. Especially if you’re bow hunting big whitetail bucks in the early season, you may also need to bring insect nets or repellents. And please don’t forget to bring a urinal bottle and toilet paper! There are no outhouses in the wilderness.

Packing Deer Out of Public Land or Wilderness

hunting big woods bucks in wilderness settings | Muddy OutdoorsIf you follow the steps above and luck out while hunting big bucks, take a moment and congratulate yourself! You’ll have accomplished something few can do. But the reality is that the real work now begins. Remember how hard the walk in was? Now you get to do it while dragging a mature buck behind you, plus your hunting gear. There are no ATVs, side by sides, or trucks to make the journey any easier. And dragging a deer across the ground for a mile can ruin the hide and introduce debris into the chest cavity, compromising the meat quality. Besides that, it’s a heck of a lot of work. The Workhorse game cart by Muddy Outdoors is a perfect companion for a trip like this. You can haul your tree stand and other hunting gear with you on the way in. And if you manage to tag out while bow hunting big bucks, the game cart is rated to 500 pounds, so you can haul the deer and your gear back out at the same time. As long as you don’t have to thread the cart through dense brush or tree cover, it’s a great option.

If you were wondering how to go deer hunting in remote areas, hopefully you’ll be more encouraged to try it now. It does take more work to hunting big woods bucks, but the reward can often be worth the effort.