spring turkey hunting

Spring Turkey Hunting Methods

Spring Turkey Hunting Methods and Tools

 

As with any outdoor activity, the better prepared you are beforehand, the more likely you are to enjoy your time doing it. The same is true for spring turkey hunting. In the unpredictable spring weather conditions, you never know what you will face. So if you’re wondering how to hunt turkeys in the spring, you need to decide how you’ll go about it first. This spring turkey season, take some time to consider your personal hunting approach and that can tell you a lot about how to stay comfortable the whole time you’re out.

 

Choosing Your Turkey Hunting Method

Let’s start with some spring turkey hunting basics. Everyone’s got their own way of doing things and personal preferences. But there are really only two styles of hunting when it comes to spring turkey hunting. You’ll either be in a ground blind of some sort or exposed on the ground. You could hunt them from a tree stand, but it’s not as common for spring turkey hunting season. Depending on which type of hunting you like to do, you’ll have to adopt different methods to stay comfortable in the field. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll discuss below. Take your pick and see which sounds better.

 

Ground Blind Hunting

Using a ground blind has a lot going for it for spring turkey hunting. A turkey’s primary predator defense mechanism, and thus its strongest sense, is its vision. When you move at ground level without any kind of cover, a turkey is very likely to spot you and that will be the end of your turkey hunt. Ground blinds are obviously one of the best ways to stay hidden and out of sight from such keen vision. Since there are only a few open windows, you can move around significantly more inside a blind without spooking turkeys away. That makes them such a great bow setup for turkey hunting; you can grab your bow and draw it without really worrying too much, especially if they’re focused on your spring turkey hunting decoys.

 

Blinds also have the added benefit of keeping you protected from the elements while you’re out there. Rain and wind can make for a pretty miserable time in the woods. But when you can hunker down inside a blind and stay warm and dry, you’re more likely to stay out longer. Obviously, more time afield can help increase your odds of putting a gobbler down for good. Since you’re well-hidden, you can also afford to sit very comfortably. The swivel-ease ground seat from Muddy® is a great option for turkey hunting from a blind. It comes with a convenient carrying strap, is very stable, and can swivel 360 degrees to allow you to get in position for a shot quickly. It’s slightly heavier at 15 pounds, which makes it a good candidate for bringing the seat out when you set the blind up (ahead of the hunting season). It’s already colored black, so it will blend into the dark blind interior, and then you can leave it for when it’s time to hunt.

 

 

Of course, the primary drawback to this style of spring turkey hunting is that it isn’t as portable and adaptable as just sitting somewhere. If you notice lots of turkeys congregating on the other side of a field one day, it would take more effort to pick up and move your gear than simply moving over to the other side by yourself. Of course, you could always just move and hunt by yourself in that situation and then resort to your blind if the weather’s not great. You can combine the two methods to take advantage of different situations.

 

Exposed at Ground Level

The other primary spring turkey hunting approach is to just sit in the woods or on a field edge somewhere with a good vantage point until a gobbler comes within range. Since you don’t have any concealment around you, this approach means you’ll need to really rely on your turkey hunting camo clothing and natural concealment opportunities, such as shrubs and long grasses, to hide your profile. That makes it tricky for bow hunting turkeys, so this approach is better for shotgun use. You’ll also have to keep your movements minimal and pay special attention to when you are truly not being watched (going back to turkey hunting 101). This can be a tricky catch-22 situation, because you can’t see what’s behind you, and can’t turn your head to check without potentially being spotted. One of the best spring turkey hunting tips is to set up in a good location with lots of cover behind you so you’re able to get away with a little movement when needed. While you could simply set up next to a large tree trunk to lean back against, sitting on the damp, hard ground for a few hours just gets old fast (and it gets old faster the older you are); it doesn’t provide great back support and will start to feel uncomfortable after a short time. Additionally, the best time to hunt turkey in the spring is often in the early morning when dew is thick on the grass and undergrowth. To help avoid these issues, the folding tripod ground seat folds up for easy packing and is camouflaged to use in the woods with some minor concealment in front of you. Being up off the ground a little can also help to produce some better visibility and shot angles around you while keeping your rear end dry.

 

Of course, the downside to this style of spring turkey hunting and the controversial method of turkey reaping is that you are exposed to the elements and can be easily seen. Again, there are ways to mitigate that risk (e.g., good camouflage clothing, being aware of your movements, finding natural cover, etc.), but it is still a risk. As mentioned above, you can combine these two methods easily to take advantage of each scenario you face.

 

 

 

When you head to the field this spring, perhaps very soon, plan ahead for whatever situation you are likely to encounter. If you hunt on private land where the turkeys are not as perceptive and the weather forecast is grim, you should really consider using a ground blind equipped with a comfortable chair. If on the other hand, you hunt mostly public land, you don’t have much choice except to use a ground seat for turkey hunting in the open. But as long as you’re prepared for it, you should be alright.

Bale Blinds 101 | Turkey Hunting with Bale Blinds

Bale Blinds for Turkey Hunting

 

Hunting turkeys from a blind is an effective strategy when it comes to springtime gobblers. It is even more effective when going after big boss gobblers with kids or inexperienced turkey hunters. The one challenge with portable ground blinds is they stick out like a sore thumb when trying to hunt a food plot, open field or power line where turkeys may be feeding or strutting. Bale blinds give you all the advantages of other ground blinds but fit in much better in open areas.

Bale blinds are nothing more than a hunting blind designed to mimic a round hay or straw bale sitting out in an open field. Unlike traditional ground blinds, hay bale blinds are dull in color, usually comprised of burlap or other natural fabric material left uncolored. The natural coloration blends in much more effectively than a dark camo blind, which is their big advantage when it comes to turkey hunting. Even though you may be hunting areas that have never had hay bales in them, the design of these ground blinds for turkey hunting are exactly what it takes to fool a distant gobbler into making a mistake.

 

 

Turkey Hunting from a Blind

 

Bow hunters chasing turkeys in the spring are very familiar with hunting ground blinds. They are about an archer’s only chance to get drawn on a close bird and make the shot. However, the proven advantages of better concealment, weather evasion and versatility in creating a spot are making turkey hunting from a blind the norm from bow hunters to shotgun hunters.

 

Even the best turkey hunters get busted year after year. The turkey’s eyesight is one of the best if not the best defenses to avoid predation out there. Concealment, therefore, is the key to consistently take spring gobblers. The standard approach to turkey hunting is finding a tree big enough to block your backside and sitting as motionless as possible. This is Effective, and many mature birds have been killed under this exact hunting setup, but many more turkey hunters have been busted from a quietly approaching bird or trying to get one last box call sequence in, only to be picked out from hundreds of yards down the field. Hunting blinds for turkeys address all these challenges and then some.

 

The turkey blind removes most uncertainties while afield, giving all turkey hunters a major leg up on mature gobblers. It is tough for even seasoned turkey hunters to sit still for hours waiting and also pick the exact perfect time to move if a bird comes in not as planned. Hunting turkeys from a blind makes it easier to sit for longer periods of time more comfortably and also move when needed without being detected. Also, ground blinds for turkey hunting like the portable Muddy Bale Blind are designed to be light and mobile so that they can be located right in the action.

 

 

Five Reasons Bale Blinds Work Well for Turkeys

 

Clearly a blind for turkey hunting gives you an advantage as opposed to the alternative. A blind like the Muddy Bale Blind works well for turkeys for these five reasons.

 

  1. Concealment

    Camo style portable ground blinds have a hard time blending into open areas well. Stick one of these blind out in a food plot or an agricultural field and pressured birds may be reluctant to come in. A bale blind presents itself more naturally in these situations, which helps to blend in more when hunting open areas for turkeys.

 

  1. Disguise Movements

    When hunting turkeys from a blind, you want to leave the camo clothing at home. Dress in all black (or as dark of clothing as you have) to take full advantage of the matte black interior of bale blinds. The dark interior allows you to move into position for a shot or to fire up one last call sequence to get that bird a few steps closer.

 

  1. Protection

    Spring weather can be unpredictable. As such, there are going to be times this spring when weather conditions will be less than favorable. Hay bale blinds provide protection from the elements, which is especially important when hunting those open areas where there is not protection from trees.

 

  1. Reduce Noise

    Turkeys stay alive with their eyesight but that does not mean they have poor hearing. A hay bale blind blocks most noises you may make in a blind that could alert a close turkey you may not even know is there.

 

  1. More Success for All Turkey Hunters

    Hunting ground blinds like a bale blind makes every turkey hunter more successful, but they benefit youth and inexperienced hunters the most. Bale blinds can comfortably fit two people so one mentor and mentee can hunt easily together while remaining concealed.

 

Early Spring Setups for Bale Blinds

 

Hunters still need to put their time in before the season to scout and pattern birds, and once you find birds it is time to make plans for where and how to hunt them. There are three early spring areas for hunting turkeys where bale blinds make the most sense.

 

 

Strut Zones

 

The first prime location for a bale blind is in strut zones. These areas are defined by disturbed leaves, broken feathers and increased turkey tracks and scat. Gobblers will seek out these areas from the roost in the morning or later in the afternoon after feeding. Typically, strut zones are found in and around fields like along one edge or a high corner. These open conditions lend themselves to using a bale blind. You can position hay bale blinds in a number of different spots in an open field or food plot depending on where birds are coming from to access the strut zone. A good tip is that mature birds usually visit strutting areas around the same time of day and take the same path to get there. The bale blind works well here because they can be positioned exactly where you need to be to get a shot without worrying about trying to brush in a blind just off the field, which may leave you out of position.

 

Feeding Areas

 

Second, feeding areas like established food plots and pastures are going to be good setups for early spring birds. After strut zones, locating areas where gobblers are feeding throughout the day are key in setting up your blind. Turkeys will use perennial food plots and pastures that are close to mast sources to find acorns and bugs. Areas like these that are adjacent to water are ideal because turkeys will frequent water sources throughout the day and the closer one is to a food source the more use it will get. Do not forget about right-of-way areas as well. Gobblers may use areas like power lines and gas pipelines as strutting zones but more importantly, these areas are usually planted with tall grasses that provide ample forage of bugs in the springtime. Again, open areas where birds are feeding are where hay bale blinds shine. Positioning one on a food plot or along a right-of-way will disguise you much better than other hunting ground blinds.

 

 

The Fly Down

 

Third and finally, roosting areas are another location to use a bale blind. Turkeys are going to be roosting in trees, obviously, so how does the bale blind work here you may ask? If you can pinpoint where birds are roosting, you can setup your bale blind to ambush them as they leave the roost in the morning or head to the roost at night. Turkeys are not graceful flyers and usually, they like to leave the roost and land in an open area. Hay bale blinds can be set up along field edges near roosted birds for morning hunts and in open fields or right-of-ways near water to catch birds in the evening heading to roost.

 

Bale Blind Setup Tips

 

There is more to hunting blinds for turkeys than simply getting your blind upright. The location is most important when positioning your bale blind, but several other considerations can also increase your odds from a bale blind.

 

Avoid setting up your bale blind facing the sun if at all possible. Bright sunlight can reveal your movements in the blind by adding light to the already dark inside. As you pick your location, think about the direction the sun will rise from and set to in conjunction with how your blind is set up. The sun’s position throughout the day and your timing on when to hunt the blind may or may not influence your hunt.

 

Get in a few days early to set up your blind. If you have scouted well, you know when birds are using an area so you can use the times when they are not there to set up your blind. Getting the blind in a few days before the hunt takes the pressure off having to put it up in the early morning hours and potentially risking bumping birds off the roost. More portable bale blinds should still be set up beforehand but can be adjusted if needed or work well for those that have limited time for scouting an area.

 

 

You have to go where the birds are this spring and if that means fields, food plots or right-a-ways then a bale blind is your best bet. The whole idea behind turkey hunting from a blind is to minimize the chances a gobbler will spot you. Open areas make it tough to hunt on the ground and other portable ground blinds stick out enough that they may alert birds that something is not right. Bale blinds cannot make you successfully all on their own. However, with good scouting and using setups around strut zones, feeding areas and roosting locations, they can give you the advantage in open areas to close the deal on a mature gobbler this spring.

turkey hunting ground blinds

Choosing the Best Turkey Hunting Ground Blind

How to Choose and Use Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds

 

As the weather continues to warm and we keep hearing the cardinals chirp outside, most hunters’ thoughts are turning to turkey hunting. After all, it’s the next major event of the year that we look forward to, and it’s just around the corner! This imminent arrival means you’re probably getting your turkey decoys ready, practicing a few more mouth calls, and patterning your shotgun. But as you prepare for turkey season this spring, have you thought about turkey hunting ground blinds much? They’re used a lot for fall turkey hunting, simply because you can also deer hunt out of them. But their use for spring turkey hunting is a little more sporadic.

 

Maybe you’ve never used one before, but you have been eyeing them for a couple years. While some shotgun turkey hunters prefer to sit in the open and depend on their turkey hunting clothing while they hunt instead, ground blinds are almost necessary for bow hunting turkeys. Because turkeys have such amazing eyesight, more shotgun hunters are turning to turkey hunting ground blinds as well. They might not be as portable as moving your body alone, but the advantage of being completely unseen is often a better tradeoff for portability. It allows you to bring your kids along more easily (you know they can’t hold still for very long), and it grants you more freedom of movement to get ready for a shot. Provided you pick the right locations for them and take a few precautionary steps before you hunt, you’ll be impressed with the benefits of using a ground blind.

 

 

How to Choose a Hunting Blind

Convinced you need a ground blind for turkey hunting yet? Before you run to the store to put one in the back of your pickup, you need to realize one important thing: not all blinds are created equal. Some are cheaply made or poorly designed for specific hunting purposes. Others are just too bulky or don’t blend in the way they should. Take a moment to consider your turkey hunting opportunities and compare them to the major categories below. If a hunting blind meets these specific criteria, you are in business and ready for hunting.

 

Design/Size

First off, if the turkey hunting ground blinds you’re looking at simply aren’t big enough for you, you should pass on them. If you feel cramped inside a blind, you won’t want to hunt in it very long, which will usually limit your opportunities at bagging a bird. For bow hunters especially, having enough elbow room to draw your bow back stealthily is critical to it all working. Some people prefer shooting in a standing position, so you need to find one to fit that style of hunting. Additionally, you might want a hunting partner or camera gear to join you on a given hunt, which means you’ll need even more room. Finally, some hunting blinds just seem like they were made for anything but hunters in mind. For example, windows containing noisy Velcro or zippers are sure to spook game out of range in a split second. But windows with a silent hook release can be operated with only one hand while the other holds your weapon.

 

Camouflage Pattern

As we mentioned, wild turkeys have amazing eyesight and can spot the smallest little irregularities. That’s one of the advantages of hunting from a ground blind; it totally conceals your movements. But if your pop up turkey blind doesn’t blend in the way it should, it’s not really doing its job. You can (and should) always take steps to brush it in a little, even if it’s in a field setting. But that won’t hide poor designs or camouflage patterns; that would be like putting makeup on a pig. Try to get the most realistic pattern you can find so you don’t have to drastically alter the look of your turkey hunting ground blinds.

 

Weather Resistance

If your hunting ground blinds can’t stand up to the unpredictable spring elements, you’re out of luck. One of the advantages of using a turkey blind in the first place is to stay out of the weather, which could include sleet or rain, depending on where and when you hunt. If the blind is constructed poorly, it will likely leak through after only a little while and start raining inside too. Who wants to hunt in that?

 

Stability

Along with weather considerations, most hunters leave their turkey hunting ground blinds in the field for at least a few weeks. This allows time to get the turkeys acclimated to seeing it and also includes the actual hunting time you spend in it. During those few weeks, it will experience high winds, falling branches, wildlife encounters, and probably more than you even want to think about (particularly if it’s a brand new blind). But that’s just how it goes. So if your turkey hunting blinds can’t stay securely anchored or hold up to the abuse they are going to face, they probably won’t last very long.

 

 

What’s the Best Turkey Blind?

So now that you know what to look for in your turkey hunting ground blinds, it’s time to actually go buy one. But is it possible to combine all the attributes discussed above into a single option?

 

Ground Blind Options

Ground blinds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and features. We pride ourselves in the fact that our blinds, tree stands, and hunting accessories are top notch quality, offering you the best products available for your hunting. We offer 3 Hub-style ground blinds, the Ravage, Redemption, and the VS360. We also offer up-in-comers in the world of both deer and turkey hunting, bale blinds. Both the Muddy Bale Blind and Muddy Portable Bale Blind offer the quality of blind needed for turkey hunting, in a better disguised package! All of the ground blinds feature a blackout interior with solid and durable exterior.

How to Use Ground Blinds

Once you get your turkey blind out of the box at home, it’s time to consider how you’re going to use it to be the most effective turkey hunter you can be. While you could simply throw your blind up in the woods and potentially kill a turkey that same day, there are some other things you should think about first.

 

 

 

First, it usually helps to set your turkey hunting ground blinds up early so the turkeys and other wildlife have time to get used to it before you hunt them. Some birds don’t seem to care about or even notice blinds when they’re put up that day, but some definitely do. If you’re going to go hunting at all, why wouldn’t you eliminate any possible chance of being unsuccessful before it happens? In this case, it’s a very easy solution. If you hunt on private land, simply set up your ground blinds at least a week or two before your turkey season starts. That way, the normally wary birds among the flock should have settled down again and grown used to seeing it there. When they start to expect it, you will be all set to sneak into your blind and hunt. Depending on how discerning your local turkeys are, you may even want to leave the windows open so they get used to seeing the black shapes. If you keep them closed and they’re suddenly open when you go hunting, it will have the same effect as not having a blind there in the first place. If you hunt on public land, you don’t have much of a choice. Most public lands don’t allow you to leave ground blinds overnight. And for the places that do allow it, you run the risk of someone else stealing or destroying it when you’re not there. But as long as you’re setting up near some quality gobbler hot spots, you’ll still probably get a shot at one.

 

Before you hunt in your new ground blinds for turkey hunting, you may also want to consider a few concealment tips. First, you’ll want to get your brand new blind dirty. Literally. Slop some mud or dirt up on the walls and rub it around. But the goal is not to create a layer that hides your camouflage and makes you look like an earthen mound. Instead, you should wipe a thin layer around and brush most of it back off. This simple act helps cover up the slight sheen from new blind materials once the sun shines on it. Have you seen what dust can do to a shiny new car? It makes it look dull, right? That’s exactly what you want for camouflaged turkey hunting ground blinds.

 

After the blind is in place and mudded up, you should also take just a few moments to brush it in. No matter if you’re in the deep and thick timber or within an open, grassy field, it helps to surround the blind with some other natural vegetation to hide its outline. Lay lightweight branches against the sides of the blind and even on top as long as they’re not too heavy. Tuck tufts of grass and branches into any exterior crevices or around the windows. The whole idea is to make it blend in with the surrounding vegetation as much as possible, and nothing can help do that better than using some of that natural vegetation.

 

Using Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds This Spring

If any of this resonates with you, it’s probably time you start looking at adding a hunting blind to your turkey hunting gear. Using a blind, especially on turkeys, offers you a much better chance of success in the field; unless you choose a blind that falls short in the features we mentioned above. But if you pick a high-quality version that puts hunters’ interests first, you’ll wonder how you ever hunted without one before.

Feeders, Flashes, and Feathers | Simple Turkey Scouting

Tips on Scouting for Turkeys

There is no doubt that spring has officially sprung across much of the lower forty-eight states, and as old man winter begins to loosen his grip it is only a matter of time until the predawn air is filled with the sound of gobbling long beards.  Spring turkey hunting is the favorite past time of many sportsmen and women across the Country, and although the open day of turkey season may still be several weeks away, the time to begin scouting for turkeys is now.

Turkey-ology

As game species, the wild turkey is often underrated by many and is perceived to be a somewhat easy target to pursue.  The term “bird brain” pretty well sums it all up, and with the art of “fanning” beginning to become popular, many hunters are beginning to subscribe to the notion that turkey hunting isn’t as difficult or challenging of an activity as many would make it out to be.

Now, you don’t have to be a veteran at turkey hunting to know that those who subscribe to the philosophy mentioned above are only fooling themselves.  Turkey hunting, aside from often being physically demanding, requires that the hunter uses every tool at their disposal to put themselves in a position to be successful and sometimes that still is not enough to get the job done.

Turkey hunting success can ultimately be tied to one simple thing, and that is scouting.  Scouting turkeys is the name of the game, and mid-march is an excellent time to begin to do just that.  During the early spring months, wild turkeys will often still be in their winter groups with hens and poults from the previous year comprising one group and gobblers and jakes comprising the other.  Both groups will often utilize the same feeding and roosting areas, however, they will not begin to disperse until later in the spring.  Although still in the bachelor groups, gobblers will begin to strut and gobble starting in mid-march, especially during crisp, cold mornings.  This is no doubt that hearing a gobbler screaming on the limb can help make scouting turkeys an exciting and fun activity for anyone, regardless if you are beginning turkey hunter or a veteran.  As the spring continues to progress, groups of gobblers will begin to break up into singles and pairs, with calling and displaying continuing to increase as well.

scouting-for-turkeys-pic1

Larry Ellis: Photo

Scouting Tips & Tactics

Turkey hunting is all about dedication and preparation.  You need to be able to understand the day to day lives of the gobblers that reside within the area that you will be hunting.  Determining where the turkeys on your property roost and feed as well as locating strutting zones are all important pieces of information that you need to have.  In addition, having an understanding of the overall number of turkeys in your area is also an important piece of information to have at your disposal.

While hitting the woods at dawn to listen for a gobbling long beard is an effective turkey scouting technique, it comes with its limitations.  Turkey’s move, and depending upon where you are, can move a great distance over the course of the day.  Just because a turkey roosts on your farm does not mean that he will be there later in the morning.  It is important to do your best to use all the tools at your disposal to help you when it comes to scouting for turkeys.

Believe it or not, a game feeder and a few trail cameras can really help you when it comes to scouting turkeys and getting set for your turkey hunting adventure.  If you use these tools to your advantage, you can begin to develop an idea of not only how many turkeys you have on your property, but what areas they are using and when.

Feeders | Game Feeder use for Turkeys

Wild turkeys love cracked corn.  It is a source of carbohydrates and is easy for wild turkeys to forage on.  Better yet for the hunter, cracked corn is relatively cheap and for the purposes of scouting for turkeys, a little corn can go a long way.  Before using a game feeder and cracked corn as a means for scouting for turkeys, be sure to check the local regulations in the state that you are in to ensure that you are legal; however, if the use of cracked corn is authorized in your state then you are well on your way to gathering some serious intel.

game feeder for the purposes of scouting turkeys is really an easy process.  The first step is to identify an area that you either know turkeys will be passing through or utilizing at some point during the day.  Try to focus in on areas that you feel turkeys may be utilizing later in the spring, during the turkey hunting season.  This will help you to rule out any unintended perception bias from the trail camera photos.  Once you have your location selected, you can set up your game feeder and get to work.  It doesn’t take much corn lying on the ground to get the attention of wild turkeys.  In fact, for the purposes of gathering trail camera photos, less is more as it will deter other wildlife such as white-tailed deer from staking a claim.  Check the game feeder periodically, however, use caution and do your best to avoid bumping any turkeys off the area.

scouting-for-turkeys-pic2

Flashes | Trail Camera Tips for Turkeys

When it comes to turkey hunting, and specifically scouting for turkeys, trail cameras are your friend.  Trail cameras, especially when live video is available, can provide you with some real-time information that will certainly help you to start developing your turkey hunting game plan for the spring.  When it comes to utilizing trail cameras to scouting for turkeys, the philosophy is simple, you want to have as many cameras out in areas that you feel a gobbler may use at any given time and you want to be able to check the cameras as often as needed without bumping birds.

This is, of course, easier said than done, however, your life becomes much easier if you are utilizing trail cameras that are enabled to stream live video to your laptop or mobile device.  Having the ability to check your cameras remotely allows you to avoid running the risk of spooking any of the turkeys on your property while still receiving valuable information.

scouting-for-turkeys_pic3

If you are utilizing cameras that require to manually check the cards, where and when you check your cameras becomes a little more important.  If you are setting your cameras up in areas such as strut zones or roost sites, the mid-day hours are an excellent time to check your cameras.  If you have your cameras set up next to your game feeder, things become a little more challenging as wild turkeys could be using these areas at any given time, so proceed with caution.

Feathers | Turning Scouting into Hunting

Though it is a simple method, using a game feeder and a few trail cameras to your advantage can really help your gain a better perspective on the number of turkeys in your area and help you to begin to pattern their movements. This is critical information to any turkey hunter!

Spring food plots

The Power of Perennials | Spring Food Plots

Perennial Clover |Spring Food Plots

 

Establishing a food plot is an investment.  It is an investment of your time, your money, and your effort.  Most hunters devote to establishing a food plot in order to reap the benefits later in the year with the benefits, of course, being opportunities at a mature white-tailed buck or a long spurred gobbler.  There is no question that if you enjoy hunting and harvesting wild game, that establishing and maintaining a food plot can greatly increase your chances for success. With spring arriving, spring food plots started now, can create exactly the opportunities you can expect.

Back to the Basics:

Contrary to popular belief, not all food plots are created equal.  To think that you can simply toss some seed on the ground and have it be successful is simply not true.  Like anything, the more time and effort you spend planning, installing and maintaining your food plot the better the results will likely be.  Before you even break the soil, there are several factors that you’ll need to consider.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic1Location

Where you decide to place your spring food plot is a critical step in the planning process.  You want to ensure that you are creating your food plot in an area where wildlife can easily locate and utilize it, while at the same time ensuring that you are allowing yourself an entrance/exit strategy that works with the area. Establishing a food plot next or near bedding or roosting areas can be advantageous, but it can sometimes be detrimental as well.  Most prefer to establish their food plot along clearly defined travel areas, where wildlife may already be frequenting. The other strategy is to simply create a “destination” feeding area where it works for hunting. By creating a food plot that has tremendous pull in attraction and size (a lot of high-quality food), you can make the plot work for your hunting strategy.

  • Layout

The size and shape of a food plot is often something that many who establish them will not really consider, but believe it or not, there is a “better” and a “worse” when it comes to laying out your food plot.  When it comes to the shape of your food plot, long and linear will typically prevail over smaller and round any day.  The reason for this is rather simple.  Wildlife such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys (among many others) are considered species of edge.  They prefer to utilize transitional areas between various cover types as travel and forage areas.  This is mainly a defense mechanism that will allow them to flee at the first sign of danger.  A long, linear food plot provides a plethora of edge in comparison to a small, round food plot.

  • Installation Limitations

Not everyone has access to large farm equipment that can sometimes be required to establish or maintain a food plot.  It really doesn’t matter how well you have planned out your food plot if you do not have the means to establish and maintain it.  It is critically important to keep these factors in mind when planning your food plot.  Being limited to small-scale equipment, such as those that can be utilized by an ATV can significantly play into what species of forage you wish to establish, so be sure to do your homework and plan accordingly.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic2Food Plot Species | Annual vs. Perennial

When it comes to food plot forages there are two categories to choose from, annuals and perennials.  Annuals consist of species like corn, soybean, milo/sorghum and wheat just to name a few.  As the name implies, annuals are species that need to be planted every single year.  These species are excellent options for wildlife food plots; however, from a cost standpoint they require an investment in time, seed, and effort each year to establish them.  Perennials, on the other hand, are species that once planted will germinate year after year.  Perennials would consist of species such as clovers, alfalfa, and chicory among many others.  These species of food plot forages require an upfront investment of time and money however once established, annual maintenance can generally keep perennial food plots in excellent condition for several seasons.  There is no question that in having a diversity of annual and perennial food plots on your property is likely the best case scenario, however, when time and money are limited perennials provides you with a feasible option that can help you grow, hold and harvest more game each and every year.

In terms of species to plant, research goes a long ways. Learning what species are out there for planting is a good way to start. However, you will quickly learn that most “experts” narrow their search and use down to just a handful of great plot species. One of the most common and effective spring food plots is clover. Particularly mixed clover plots (white and red) or straight ladino (white) clover plots work incredibly well. They are browse resistant, can take shade, and are hardy and require little in terms of establishment and maintenance.

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The Clover Connection

Among all the species of perennial forages, clover typically ranks at the top of the list.  There are multiple species of clovers available for use, however, when it comes to managing for wildlife the most popular variety used is typically Ladino clover.

Also referred to as “white clover”, Ladino clover is a perennial legume that actively grows during the cooler months of the year (spring and fall) and can be established easily and provide an immense wildlife benefit in a short amount of time.  Aside from the wildlife benefits, ladino clover is relatively inexpensive and generally doesn’t require much maintenance to keep a stand looking great and providing an excellent source of forage for white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

  • spring-food-plots-tips_pic4Seed Bed Preparation

Regardless of whether you are establishing an annual food plot or a perennial food plot, everything starts with the seed bed.  Taking the time to have a soil test conducted in the area you plan to establish your food plot is a critical step that many will simply skip.  Ensuring that your soil is up to the task of producing what you are asking it to is important, so take the time to take care of your soil, and your soil will take care of you.

Once your soil test has been completed, it is time to prepare your seed bed.  When it comes to seeding clover, having a well-prepared seedbed is important.  It doesn’t matter whether you are using a disk, roto-tiller, or plot master to break the ground open when it comes to establishing clovers what matters most of all is how the food plot is finished.  Having a smooth seed bed is optimal for establishing a clover plot, so be sure to do your best to remove all of the clods by running a harrow or culti-packer over the site prior to seeding.  Once your seed bed is prepared, add any soil amenities as recommended by your soil test and you are set.

 

  • Seeding Options

Seeding a spring food plot, in particular, is incredibly easy in terms of actually putting the seed on the ground. Clover seed is rather small and can be easily spread by hand or mixed with lime or fertilizer and established with a broadcast seeder attachment on the back of an ATV.  Typically, clover species such as Ladino are seeded at a rate of 2 to 3 pure live seed (PLS) pounds per acre.  Though the rate is important, what is even more important is ensuring that you have adequately covered your food plot location with seed, so be sure to pay close attention to your coverage area when establishing your food plot. In some instances, thicker seed rate for ladino clover…in the 5 lbs/acre allows for quick germination and ground coverage. This means the food plot is a thick carpet in just a few weeks. It also means that the plot can hold moisture better than a plot broadcasted with 3lbs/acre.

While seed bed preparation is a very important part of establishing a clover food plot, the timing of the seeding is an equally important part of the process.  Without question, the best time of year to establish your clover plot is during the early spring or late winter months.  Often referred to as “frost seeding”, starting your clover food plot during these months allows the daily freeze/thaw action of the soil to work the seed into the soil.  If you are lucky enough to time your efforts in conjunction with a snow event, then you’re are set.  Spreading the seed on top of a fresh snow aids in protecting your seed from being foraged upon by birds and small rodents, while also allowing you to more easily see any areas that you may have missed when seeding.

  • spring-food-plots_pic5Maintenance and Care

Ladino clover food plots require very little maintenance and care once established.  Generally, all that is required to maintain a hearty forage base is a high mowing (if it’s a large plot >1 acre) to control annual broadleaves or at least one or two herbicide sprayings a year to keep the grass and other weeds at bay.  While an ATV mower or brush cutter is typically the preferred method, raising the mower deck on your riding mower can be enough to do the trick. If you have a small clover plot meaningless than an acre, a lot of deer browse essentially mows the plot. Keep in mind, mowing drastically decreases the amount of food available to your deer, while at the same time opening gaps in the clover for weeds to sprawl up and moisture to escape.

The biggest competition to maintaining your ladino clover plot is generally grass encroachment. You can resort to a heavier-handed approach by using a grass selective herbicide (Clethodim or Sethoxydim) such as Select to help control the encroachment.  A grass specific herbicide will only affect grass species, and will not harm the broadleaves such as clovers and other forbs and legumes you might have in your mix and will keep your clover food plot producing year in and year out.

Bucks, Beards, and Babies

So, aside from the return on investment why would you want to establish a perennial clover plot?  The answer is simple; from a wildlife standpoint, these perennial legume plots provide a source of protein and other important nutrients that are important for the health of the white-tailed deer on your farm.  From improving lactation in does to helping grow larger antlers in bucks, these plots will be utilized from the spring months all the way through the first frost.  In addition to providing a forage base, these areas are also often selected by does as fawning locations and can help increase the fawn survival on your farm as well. Clover fills the gap where late season food sources finally are completely exhausted, and soybeans and other crops have yet to be planted. Essentially clover is the missing species that can provide the food and nutrition when it is likely not available.

There is no question that a clover plot is an excellent place to encounter a gobbler in the spring, and the reason is simple, ladino clover plots provide wild turkeys with an excellent source of forage as well.  In addition to the forage that the clover itself provides, these areas also attract a wide range of soft-bodied insects which are an important source of protein for wild turkeys.  In addition to adult wild turkeys, these plots provide an excellent brood rearing location for young turkeys as well.  Ladino clover plots, not only help you to harvest more wildlife, but they also help you to grow more wildlife!

Hunting Strategies

No matter if you are chasing a big buck or a long beard, ladino clover plots can help you to be successful.  Wildlife will utilize these spring food plots all year long, which can really help you to monitor the wildlife on your property throughout the year.  A clover plot is an excellent location to maintain a trail camera set throughout the course of the year. These food plots are perfect locations to utilize your trail cameras in conjunction with a ground stake.  Have an “in the field perspective” can not only provide your with some excellent information pertain to the health of the wildlife on your property but can also provide you with some amazing trail camera pictures as well.  Ground stakes provide you with a way of collecting the exact information you wish to collect and remove the issue of finding the perfect tree or trimming limbs and a clover plot is a perfect place to use it.

spring-food-plots_pic6-(2)There is something about hunting over a ladino clover plot from a ground blind that is special.  Ground blinds like a bale blind can often blind right into the surrounding vegetation and are perfect for these types of locations.  During the early fall, when there is still ample foliage on the trees and undergrowth, archery hunting from a tree stand can sometimes be challenging, and with ladino clover food plots generally being areas of high use during the early fall, hunting from a ground blind can be an extremely effective approach.

christmas-gifts-for-hunters_pic7If you are looking for a way to increase the number of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys on your property while at the same time, increasing your opportunities for success then consider establishing a ladino clover food plot, and begin reaping the rewards!

shed hunting

Top 6 Best Places to Find Shed Antlers

Best Places to Find Shed Antlers

 

If you’re a deer hunter or any kind of outdoors-lover, you’re probably racking up some miles on your boots right about now in the pursuit of shed antlers. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a warmer-than-average winter in many parts of the country, the snow has mostly melted, and it’s the perfect time to get out there and check the woods. With everything you can learn about the deer you hunt or the habitat you hunt them in, shed hunting can be a great learning opportunity. But while everyone is consumed with the idea of looking for these magical shed antlers, they often get confused about where to look for shed antlers. It can be really intimidating if you own a very large property or look primarily on vast public lands; where do you even begin to search for something so small in an area so big? It feels like looking for an actual needle in a haystack after a while.

Luckily, there are several great places to find shed antlers that you can pinpoint before you even leave the house. The best places to find shed antlers are areas that hold deer during certain parts of their daily routine, which increases the likelihood of you finding antlers. When you start searching in these high-priority locations first, you can eliminate huge areas that have very little potential. Ultimately that means you could find more shed antlers in less time, making you a much more efficient shed hunter. High efficiency is critical if you’re dealing with huge properties and want to find some deer sheds before the mice, squirrels, and porcupines chew them up or another hunter finds them.

 

Where to Find Shed Antlers

We’ve listed some of the best places to find shed antlers below. Take a look through and see if any places come to mind on the land you shed hunt. If you can think of a few, prioritize those spots for a trip very soon. Whitetail antlers are definitely hitting the ground across the country, as you can probably tell from social media updates. If it hasn’t happened on your property yet, it’s likely to happen very soon. When to go shed hunting is a tricky question. The most accurate way is to use trail cameras for shed hunting. The Pro-Cam 12 is a great trail camera that you can use throughout the year to keep tabs on the deer herd.

 

 

 

First, let’s start with a recap on white-tailed deer habits and habitats. Deer are adapted to rest during the day and feed throughout the night. They are crepuscular animals, meaning they excel at dawn and dusk (i.e., low-light situations), but their eyes are adapted to see well throughout the night too. Using that knowledge, we know that deer will spend the majority of their day bedded down somewhere and the majority of their night feeding somewhere. It makes sense then that deer are more likely to shed antlers in one of these two areas since that’s simply where they spend most of their time.

 

Deer Feeding Areas

Let’s start with feeding areas, which many people adamantly claim is the best place to find a shed antler. Since deer would typically drop their antlers in a feeding area during the night, you’d have a great chance at finding a fresh deer antler before anyone else if you’re up against other public land shed hunters.

 

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Agricultural Field/Food Plot

In much of the Midwest, corn and soybean fields are king when it comes to deer nutrition. They make up the majority of a deer’s diet during certain parts of the year, and are full of carbohydrates and protein, respectively. That should be obvious, given how many mature bucks have been taken out of a Muddy Box Blind perched on the edge of a corn field. But when they are harvested each fall, deer need to instead scavenge waste grain on the ground. This is an inefficient way for them to feed, and they will always seek out the easiest feeding method possible. If you can find a standing corn or bean field in the winter, you can be sure the deer will travel for miles around to gorge themselves. More importantly, fields like these are such a powerful magnet for whitetails that you could find shed antlers from deer you’ve never even seen on your property before. Winter food plots with corn, beans, tall brassicas, or cereal grains offer a similar attraction. People often overlook food plots for shed hunting. With all the deer gathering in these fields, you have a much better chance of finding a shed. If you don’t have any fields, you can also try supplemental feeders.

 

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Winter Browse Area

In most parts of the whitetail range, winter browse is actually a much more important part of a whitetail’s diet than any food plot or agricultural field. Deer are adapted to have reduced metabolisms in the winter, and their digestive tracts even adapt to include the microorganisms to efficiently digest fibrous browse. What do we mean by browse? Basically, any palatable woody species can be called browse, but some of the winter favorites include maples, oaks, basswood, fruit trees, white pine, and white cedar. It’s important to note that deer will normally only eat the young and tender new growth from the summer before as that is easier to digest than older, tough, and woody stems. While you might be able to find young growth areas on your property, they will likely be scattered around and hard to pinpoint a specific location. But if you have any recent clear-cut areas from the year before, there is sure to be an abundance of young growth for deer to browse on. Public lands are usually full of these kinds of cuts, which can be part of your overall strategy. Make sure to check out any of these areas for shed antlers.

 

If you don’t have any on your own private land, you can create that habitat right now to increase your chances of finding a few sheds this winter and for many to come. Simply grab your chainsaw and cut down several trees in a small pocket (anywhere from a tenth of an acre to an acre or more). You’ll want to leave most oaks and fruit trees that provide mast for deer, which will further enhance it as a feeding area. But all the other undesirable trees can be fully cut down or hinge-cut. The freshly felled trees will provide lots of young tender browse that was inaccessible to the deer, but the sudden infusion of sunlight will also produce lots of stump sprouts next summer. If you hinge-cut the trees, it will become a thick area that can act as both a bedding and feeding area. That’s a great way to really increase your odds of finding a shed antler!

 

Deer Bedding Areas

Now we’ll talk about the other main area you’re likely to find most of your shed antlers. Deer will bed down in the same general area for the majority of the day. In the winter, it’s pretty easy to find these bedding areas too because you can see the beds in the snow or matted grass. That being said, you’ll want to wait to check out any bedding areas for shed antlers until you know that bucks have dropped them, simply because you can chase them to a neighboring property before they’re ready.

 

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CRP Fields or Cattail Swamps

In the winter, deer need thick thermal cover to protect them from the cold temperatures and winds. Some habitat types to accomplish this goal include tall grass plantings or frozen, thick cattail swamps. Most Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields are perfect for this purpose. They are often planted with switchgrass, big bluestem, or Indian grass, which are very tall, upright, and clump-forming. These tall grasses shield deer from icy winds and stay upright through ice accumulation and heavy snows. Since they are usually located in close proximity to agricultural fields and make for a convenient bedding area, it’s always worth checking out one of these fields. Frozen cattail swamps offer a similar level of protection as they will grow extremely densely to protect deer from any cold winds. Just make sure it’s still frozen before you venture out into the swamp. Finding shed antlers in the tangled thick grasses or cattails isn’t easy though. You need to pretty much stick to trails and beds to find them.

 

Dense Conifer Stands

In more northern regions outside of the farm belt, dense conifer stands offer a similar level of protection from winter, with some additional benefits. Pine forests with a tall canopy help filter out snow, which keeps the snow levels in the understory very shallow. This is important since deer hooves sink right through deep snow; this sheltered spot offers a break from the otherwise difficult travel conditions. There may also be some young or fallen cedar or pine branches to browse on while in this type of bedding area. Deer may occasionally shift to bed on the southern edges of spruce plantations so they can soak up the sun’s warmth while being protected from the north’s icy winds.

 

Thick Brushy Areas

As we mentioned above, recently clear-cut areas provide tons of downed trees and limbs to offer a lot of concealment for whitetails. If they were cut a few years ago, there should be lots of additional growth too. Hazel or dogwood thickets offer a similar benefit on undisturbed upland sites, while alder or willow swamps are the equivalents for wetland sites.

 

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Travel Corridors

Now that we’ve covered the two dominant sites to find shed antlers, let’s look at the last place you can find them. Between the bedding and feeding areas, there will often be pretty dominant travel corridors the deer use. These trails are very easy to notice in the winter, whether there is snow on the ground or not. Simply walk these corridors from one end to the other, paying particular attention to areas with obstacles across the trail.

 

 

This shed antler hunting season, don’t take the scatter gun approach by looking everywhere. Focus instead on these high-priority areas alone and take the time you need to look more thoroughly. Don’t just casually walk through the area; you need to almost stalk and use your eyes to really scan the ground for any part of an antler. If you focus on the areas above, you should come out ahead when it comes to the search for shed antlers.

Shed Hunting | The Pros and Cons of Finding “Dead Heads”

What You Should Do When You Find “Dead Heads” | Shed Hunting C.S.I.

 

Shed hunting provides you with an amazing opportunity to spend some time outdoors during the late winter months and really begin to take inventory of your deer herd.  Shed antlers can tell a story about the dynamics of the deer herd on the properties you hunt, and if you are willing to put in the time and put on the miles, there is a high probability that the time you spend shed hunting will often open your eyes to the “big picture” in terms of how and when white-tailed deer utilize different areas of the properties you hunt. Each year it seems every shed hunter comes across the unfortunate find of a dead deer while shed hunting. This encounter can go south in a hurry upon finding a “dead head”, the term used to describe a dead buck body. While this is a negative…there are some positive takeaways you should be aware of.

White Gold | Finding Dead Deer While Shed Hunting “Ep.2” 

Shed Hunting 101

Shed hunting can be compared to an Easter egg hunt for deer hunters.  We put out best foot forward and hit the woods in search of hidden treasures.  We don’t know what or even if we will find anything at all, but we lace up our boots and take to the woods with high hopes. If you love to hunt white-tailed deer, then there is clearly a level of enjoyment had when you put your hands on a shed antler.  No matter if it’s big or small, there is really something special about making a game plan and using the best information available to try and a locate a literal needle in a haystack.  However, aside from the enjoyment of adding to your antler collection, shed hunting can provide you with a wealth of information that can really help you be more successful in not only hunting white-tailed deer on your properties but managing for those deer as well.

  • Age and Survival

Probably the most obvious piece of information that you can learn from shed hunting is the age and survival of various bucks on your farm.  With the advent of trail cameras, deer hunters can keep a watchful eye on the deer on their farms.  This has enabled deer hunters to develop and almost personal connection with the deer on their farms, which allows them to quickly identify the antlers of most of the deer they have on camera.

If you are able to immediately identify the shed antlers as belonging to a buck you have pictures of, you automatically know that the buck in question made it through the deer season.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the deer will make it through the winter (harsh winters can kill) but it will at least give you piece of mind that the buck is still roaming the countryside and not at the taxidermy shop.

Though it is not suggested that you determine the age of a buck just based upon their shed antlers, you can closely estimate the age of the buck with multiple years of sheds supplemented with trail camera photos. This same history with multiple bucks provides you with information that will allow you to help determine the age structure of the bucks on your properties and can help you to compile your hit-list for next year.  Occasionally, you can even come across a new buck that has moved in from another area and decided to set up shop on your property.  Finding a shed antler that you do not recognize is often very exciting and can suggest immediate intel for next year’s hunting.

  • Areas of Use and Timing

Aside from some basic information related to age and survival, shed hunting can help to give you a better understand of your property and how deer and other wildlife utilize your farm.  Shed hunting can be a great time to evaluate everything from your entrance and exit strategy to the placement of your tree stands.

Shed hunting often requires that you hone in on very specific areas of your property, such as bedding areas, areas of dense cover, sunny south slopes, food sources, and transition areas.  Cover for deer can include areas that have had timber stand improvement conducted on them and are providing thermal cover and late winter browse and southwest facing slopes and hillsides. Food sources are always a go to for shed hunters. Food plots, crop field edges, or major trail ways to and from are not only likely places bucks drop their payload but are easy to check.  Spending some time out shed hunting in these areas can often give you some insight as to when and how white-tailed deer utilize these areas.  This can be especially true if there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground or if you find yourself shed hunting in wet, muddy conditions.  In these conditions, tracks and areas of high deer use are very evident and can often lead you to reconsider your overall hunting strategy and provide you with additional information to help you to be more effective when hunting deer in the fall.

Finding Dead Deer and “Dead Heads”

Finding dead deer, especially a buck, is something none of us ever want to have happen.  However, the unfortunate reality is that if you spend enough time out in the field shed hunting, finding dead deer is almost unavoidable.  Finding dead deer on your property, especially if it is a hit list buck can really put a knot in your stomach.  We would all much rather see those antlers in the back of the truck, than on the ground in a heap of bones and hair.  All that being said, if and when you do find yourself in this situation, it often provides a great opportunity to flip the switch from deer hunter to deer biologist!

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Whitetail C.S.I.

When it comes to finding dead deer, the first step in “closing the case” is to do your best to determine the cause of death.  This is especially true if this happens to be a deer that you have a history with, as most of us start to build a certain relationship with these animals and for our own piece of mind need to know who or what dealt them their final blow.

The first step is to always know or check your state’s regulations regarding dead deer and dead heads. Contact your local conservation officer to determine the next steps. This is in order to help determine the cause of death concerning problems often encountered in these scenarios. The state’s concerns mainly relate to poaching and diseases. They will also often either let you take home the head or give you a permit to do so after coming out to the location.

After this determine if you, in fact, know that animal and begin to nail down the time of death.  Now, this may seem a little complicated but in reality, it isn’t.  You just need to ask yourself a few questions, such as “when was the last time you saw the animal or had trail camera pictures of the animal on the hoof?”  “Have you seen the animal during the hunting season?”  These are all great questions to start with to begin to determine the time death.  It is important to try to pinpoint whether the animal died as a result of bullet or broadhead or if they died by some other means such as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) or perhaps a collision with an automobile.

Pay close attention to the location where you find the animal.  If you find the dead deer near or directly adjacent to a water source, and if the antlers still seem to show signs of velvet or “sharp antlers” then there is a high probability that the deer may have expired from one of several deer diseases such as  EHD.  If the antlers show no signs of velvet and the animal is found in very thick cover, then it is likely that they sustained an injury of some kind from a human (hunting/vehicle) or predator and were seeking an area of seclusion to rest. Having closure is important and doing your best to determine the cause of death can really help to bring the case to a close and ensure you are not experiencing a bigger problem on the property!

 

The Positives of Finding Dead Deer

As deer hunters, we have to be willing to look at the bright side when things don’t go our way, and this certainly holds true when it comes to finding dead deer.  Believe it or not, there are several positive takeaways that can come from finding dead deer when shed hunting.

  • Closure

It has already been mentioned that closure is important for us deer hunters.  This is especially true when it comes to finding dead deer, especially if it is a situation where you have had an encounter with the animal while hunting.  No matter how hard we try, if you hunt white-tailed deer long enough you will have a wounding loss.  No matter how steady of a rest you have, and no matter how close of a shot, at some point, something will happen and we will make a poor shot on an animal.  It is just a fact of life.  So, finding a dead deer, especially if it is a deer that you perhaps thought you missed or shot and couldn’t recover can often bring a sense of relief and closure to the situation.  Although it may not have turned out exactly how you wanted it to, at the end of the day you can put a bow on the story of that deer and have an interesting story to tell the next time you show off the rack.

  • Age Information

It has already been mentioned that finding shed antlers can help paint a clearer picture as to the age structure of the bucks on your properties, however, there is only so much that you can learn from an antler.  In the world of aging white-tailed deer, the teeth reign supreme.  Though finding dead deer when shed hunting is an unfortunate situation, you have to be willing to take advantage of the circumstances and use the opportunity to collect vital age information.  In addition to collecting and scoring the antlers, be sure to collect the jaw bones as well.  There is no better way to age a white-tailed deer than by examining their teeth, and by aging the animal you can not only determine if your “on the hoof” estimate was close, but you can also pair this information up with your remaining hit list bucks and determine if they are likely older or younger than you previously thought.  This information can help you further refine your hit list for next year.

  • Preferred Cover

Shed hunting often requires that we venture into areas that we would otherwise leave unpressured.  Many deer hunters will identify these sanctuary areas that provide excellent cover for deer on the properties that they hunt and leave them be until shed hunting season rolls around.  An injured white-tailed deer will typically venture into an area of thick cover where they feel safe and secure.  If you are shed hunting these areas and happen to stumble upon a dead head, then you can feel confident to know that the area is, in fact, a critical area of cover for the deer on your property, and you can use this information to further refine your property management and hunting strategies in the future.

  • Score

Often, especially during the summer bachelor group period, you can have pictures of bucks standing side by side where you can directly compare their size. Any guesses you had on rack size and score from trail camera intel and observation periods can now be evaluated. This is a huge piece of information, especially when compared with age from the jawbone.

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Conclusion

Finding dead deer is going to happen, but if you are willing to look at the bright side, and spend a little time investigating the circumstances and collecting some basic information, you can really turn a lemon into lemonade.  Good luck this shed season, and we hope you find your fair share of white gold this spring!

Quick Note: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease?

Understanding the deer herd dynamics on your farm is critical for developing your hit list each and every year.  Unfortunately, deer diseases can sometimes play a role in determining how your hit list will shake out from year to year.  EHD is a disease that originates from insects that live in exposed mud flats along ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.  During extensively dry periods, EHD outbreaks can occur and can sometimes greatly reduce the deer population in a localized area.

Though most dead deer are found during the hunting season or while shed hunting, during an outbreak of EHD dead deer is often found throughout the summer months as well.  If you live in an area that has experienced weather conditions that would be conducive for an EHD outbreak, it would be beneficial for you to spend some time monitoring the water sources on your properties during and just after summer.  If you begin to find dead deer, especially bucks you may need to spend extra time monitoring trail cameras and determining what your hit list for the year may look like.  An outbreak of EHD can sometimes take years to recover from, and can certainly change your harvest strategy for the upcoming deer season.

Deer Feeders

Deer Feeders 101 | Deer Feeding Tips, Concerns, and Strategies

Tips, Concerns, Results, and Strategies Deer Feeders 101

Deer feeders create an interest for deer hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and animal lovers alike. Whether it’s simply a wildlife feeder in the back yard, in the wood lot next door, or a vital piece of your deer management plan, chances are you will encounter the want/need to own a deer feeder at some point or another. Surprisingly, deer feeders come in a variety of sizes, designs, and uses. From the general wildlife feeder to a critical supplemental feeding program, deer feeders can certainly pull their weight no matter the use. Given such use, it’s respectable to put together a string of helpful information, tips, strategies, and uses. Welcome to deer feeders 101.

Deer Feeder: A tool used to supply feed, usually in the form of grain (corn) or a specially blended deer/wildlife feed for nutrition, to deer or wildlife in supplemental feed programs.

Why Feed Deer?

More often than not a deer feeder’s use occurs on the most basic level you can imagine. Simple and consistent corn feeding throughout the winter months appears to “help” deer and other wildlife through cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. In fact, feeding deer in the winter is a big concern for deer, deer managers, and many states. This is why it is included front and center in this article.

Intervention in the form of a couple hundred pounds of “deer corn” can spell disaster for deer.  This is why states all across the northern stretches of the country restrict or outlaw the use of bait and feeding of deer. Some of this concern undoubtedly stems from the possible negative outcomes of gathering large numbers of deer in one place…diseases being the concern. Have you heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? That’s one of the big ones! However, another more likely concern that often goes unknown to the person supplying the feed is called acidosis. Acidosis occurs when ruminants (deer) consume large quantities of carbohydrates that are low in fiber, also known as corn toxicity. A deer’s diet during the winter consists of high fiber woody browse, not low fiber carbohydrates. With a sudden intake of grain, an increase and change in the microbial population in the rumen causes a fatal increase of lactic acid. Dehydration as a result of the buildup of lactic acid can be fatal in 24-72 hours.

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Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game. Five of the twelve deer found dead due to winter feeding in N.H.

However, concern over acidosis is waved throughout the Midwest and in areas where deer are already consuming corn. The corn maze of states in the Midwest such as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa have so much corn readily available (either standing or left behind from the combine) during the winter months that the deer’s rumen and microbial population is adjusted for feeding. This also is true for properties and programs where supplemental feed is already taking place.

The well-being of the wildlife and deer should always be taken into consideration first before your wants and needs of either supplementing nutrition or for simply observational purposes.

The Results of Supplemental Feeding

For the more advanced deer managers and deer hunters, supplemental feeding always looms in the back of the mind. The number one reason for interest in supplemental feeding is always centered around the obsession of antlers…at least for the most part. It is widely known now that age, nutrition, and genetics (in that order) are the important factors that determine antlers and a buck’s score. Age and nutrition in particular are what we as deer managers can actively manage. Age is simply managing your trigger finger and the ability to age deer on the hoof accurately, leaving nutrition as a 365 day a year obsession.

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Habitat, food plots, and supplemental feeding are all management efforts we as deer managers can continually improve it seems. For the point of this article we will focus on supplemental feeding.

The big question is “can a supplemental feeding program increase the size and score of the bucks on my property?”. The answer is yes it can. If you ask the question you can be sure a deer biologist or two have as well, and they have found the answers through research.

“A study in Texas found that bucks fed a 16% crude protein diet grew antlers that scored 20 inches higher Boone and Crockett, than did bucks fed 8% crude protein (Hamel et al. 1989)” – MSU Deer Lab.

Deer Feed Requirements

16% crude protein is the agreed upon percentage of protein intake that maximizes antler growth, however, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Often time feed containing 18-20% protein can help balance protein intake that is significantly lower in the other portions of the deer’s diet, when natural browse and protein levels of food plots/crops might dip below 16%. It also important to note that the protein requirements of deer depend on age. Mature adults do not need the higher protein requirements that fawns or young bucks need when developing. MSU Deer Lab.

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Other than protein, minerals are also a thought pertaining to deer feed. In general, macro-minerals and micro-minerals are fulfilled by vegetation or eating the soil in natural licks. However, when it comes to deer management, it is always best to be safe. Identifying limiting factors of a property such as cover, water, or food is easy. When it comes to minerals a generally safe approach is ensuring the deer feed of choice contains the basics. These are mainly calcium and phosphorous.

Deer Feeder Advantages and Design

Knowing that a supplemental feeding program supplies benefits to the herd, and knowing what deer feed should consist of, the focus can now be turned to the feeder itself. A deer feeder offers several advantages over simply placing feed on the ground. Why? By knowing what goes into deer feeder designs, you discover their advantages. Access to feed and protection of feed are the most obvious advantages. The original thought towards a feeding program is usually brought on by a hard winter, or by the need to create an attraction for your trail camera/hunting site. The next thought is in the process you are currently in…research! You are trying to find out exactly what deer feed to use, if supplemental feeding programs work, or you are looking for deer feeder designs. That last one…deer feeder designs is because you are thinking of building your own. Why not, right? Seeing as how this is deer feeders 101, we have arrived at the same conclusion…sure, why not? Here is what makes a great deer feeder design…or a checklist if you will, to what a feeder needs in order to be successful.

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  • Waterproof – Nothing is worse than soggy, spoiled, and molded feed.
  • Locking Lid – A locking lid gives you the satisfaction that the feed is not only waterproof but its safe from nuaisance animals.
  • Durable – it has to survive rough weather and some of the biggest raccoons that appear more bear-like than a raccoon.
  • Dispenser – A deer feeder needs a dispenser of some sort. This comes in the form of a port, a broadcaster (spinner), or a port/agitator.
  • Large Quantities – Feeders with large quantities equate to less time filling. This is less time on your part but also less pressure associated with the feeder.

Sure you can build one or go ahead and come the conclusion that buying a sturdy feeder will last longer and will inevitably be more successful. We offer a 200lb Gravity Feeder, and by design, it features everything it needs…simplified to be a very successful deer feeder.


Muddy 200 LB. Gravity Feeder | Muddy Outdoors Product

(Video) MGF200 Gravity Feeder is unlike any gravity deer feeder on the market. It features an adjustable spring-loaded dispenser and agitator. This feature keeps the feed broke up and dispensing while animals feed. The feed is lockable, and the lid is user friendly but cannot slide off like other feeders. If you are looking for a new gravity deer feeder, check out Muddy Outdoors.

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

PRODUCT FEATURES

  • Waterproof
  • Locking Lid
  • Spring-Loaded Dispenser and Agitator
  • Dispenser Easily Adjusts

PRODUCT SPECS

  • CONSTRUCTION: Steel
  • HEIGHT: 61” Fill Height, 42” Feed Height
  • CAPACITY: 200 Lbs./ 33 Gallons;
  • WEIGHT: 44 Lbs

Deer Feeder Strategies and Tips

If applicable, and if legal, these tips can be taken into consideration to either spike the efficiency of the feeder or the scenario of hunting over the feeder. Either way, these feeding tips excel the situation beyond a feeder sitting in a field! The diagram below helps paint the scene for your imagination.

 Deer Feeder Placement

Obviously, if you are in the research phase of either building or buying a deer feeder chances are you have a spot already picked out on your hunting property. What makes a “good spot” for a feeder? To start, high traffic areas are a must. However, you also have to factor in accessibility of a truck, ATV, or side-by-side that can reach the feeder. It is also important to think about what else should be paired with a feeder such as water, other food sources, security, proximity to bedding, and in states where it’s legal, your stand or blind. Another critical thought should be thrown in concerning human pressure. If the feeder is out in the open such as a large crop field or can be seen by someone driving on a road the anxiety of deer at the feeder will be high (not to mention potential poaching or theft problems). Keeping the feeder back in secluded, low anxiety areas can increase feeding and feeder success. Considering these factors can get a bit overwhelming so here is a list in order of how you should think about deer feeder placement.

  1. High traffic area
  2. Accessible via truck/ATV
  3. Human pressure/seclusion
  4. Ask yourself the question: “Does it work with my hunting strategy?”
  5. Proximity to other food sources
  6. Proximity to water
  7. Proximity to bedding

 

 

The diagram above is a common, or a slightly above average Midwest hunting property (the terrain and amount of timber is a blessing). As you can see, feeder site #1 utilizes all of the checklists and even goes above and beyond by integrating a bit of hunting strategy. Water, food sources, a plot screen, bedding areas, and access are all present allowing the site to be optimized for deer usage and traffic. You will also notice another feeder site…this is where hunting strategy really takes off.

Deer Feeders and Hunting Strategies

Even if your state does not allow hunting over bait you can still create the attraction and central hubs for deer socialization. These usually take the form of food plots and crop fields, but by adding other factors like water, feeders, scrapes, and minerals you can create an even more popular destination that imprints in the mind of the deer herd. This impression stays with a deer even well after the bait is removed. Hunting strategy in relation to deer feeders should focus on this aspect, again regardless of whether or not bait is legal to hunt over or not.

From the diagram, you can see two feeder/bait sites. By creating two “social hotspots” pivoting on food sources you can create hunting opportunities for two scenarios. The wind dictates hunting…period. Bow hunters live and die by this simple observation and strategy. By installing and running two feeder sites, one for north winds and one for south winds, you create hunting opportunities regardless of the prevailing wind. This reiterates the fact that there is much to think about before a deer feeder is placed and filled!

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Deer Feeder Site Necessities

What is the ideal set up for a feeder site? Think about the obvious needs. With deer coming in continuously the feeder makes the ideal site for trail cameras. Beyond cameras, it also is an ideal site to create the idea of “social hotspots”. Mineral blocks and scrapes are also items that can add to the attraction and usage of the feeder sites. When it comes to trail camera usage check out the blog below on Trail Camera Tips. It gives insight into the setup, settings, and tips for each scenario such as a camera over feed.

A couple more tips for feeding deer out of a feeder include two tips that can greatly help the success you achieve with a site. When filling/re-filling feeders, spread a bit of feed around the feeder…especially when you are introducing a feeder for the first time on a hunting property. Also be cautious of the scent, not for pressure but for nuisance animals. Take hand sanitizer or a field spray with you to spray your hands before going from the feeder to your trail camera. Feed scent on a trail camera could create enough interest for a raccoon to destroy the camera in search of more food!

Conclusion

Is a supplemental feed program beneficial for your deer and hunting? Yes. Can a deer feeder integrate and enhance your hunting strategy? Yes. Should you use a deer feeder on your hunting property? It depends… If you have the need or want for more attraction, can keep up with the demands of running a feeder, and have checked your state’s regulations on feeding deer then the answer is yes! Keep an eye out for more content on deer feeders and hunting strategy on the Get Muddy Blog.

Was this article on deer feeders 101 helpful? Leave a reply! Whether it’s a simple question or comment we would appreciate the feedback!

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.

 

Shed Hunting

Using Trail Cameras to Figure Out When to Start Shed Hunting

Increasing Your Odds at Shed Hunting with Trail Cameras

Deer hunting season has ended but another season is just starting. This season has tremendous interest right now, making it a sport all of its own. We are talking about shed hunting and its season is starting right now.

 

Whitetail deer sheds command huge paydays for those that find large and unique racks and are willing to part with them. More so, shed hunting has moved from a hobby, or an accidental encounter to the weekend hunter, to a necessity as more landowners take deer management seriously on their properties. Sheds also make for a nice trophy on the wall of that buck you have chased all season and expended time and resources for, even if you were unable to harvest him. Sheds also provide a record of what bucks have made it through and some information on what this season may potentially yield.

 

The Biology behind Antler Shedding

 

To understand antler shedding, we have to start with some groundwork on what buck antlers are. Antlers are composed of bone-like tissue that starts developing in early spring. The growth phase of antler development, which goes from early summer until fall, is where a buck’s antlers are covered in a soft membrane referred to as velvet. This velvet is a layer of nutrient rich blood vessels that supplies the resources needed to build the antler mass. The nutrients, such as amino acids, minerals, proteins and others, are what many hunters and landowners try to supplement throughout the summer to promote this growth and thus yield bigger antlers.

 

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Antlers will growth rapidly for two to four months. As fall approaches, due to photoperiods, the levels of testosterone start to increase. The increase in testosterone constricts the blood vessels around the antlers and eventually causes it to die. Remaining velvet falls off or more typically is rubbed off as a buck begins to prepare for the rut. What are left are the hardened antlers we are so interested in during deer season. Antlers stay with a buck until about the middle of winter then they drop off. This antler growth process is repeated each year for the buck’s entire life.

 

The antler shedding (casting) part of this cycle brings us to the biology behind shedding. The process, both the growth and casting of antlers, is controlled by photoperiods and testosterone. However, there are many factors that lead to either early antler drop or late drop such as injury and social stress. Often times these factors do not hold a significant role, which is why the shedding process happens generally the same time of year each year. The main for this again is the amount of light, or photoperiod, available at a given point in the year. During antler growth, testosterone levels rise (antler growth) towards a peak (loss of velvet) and eventually decline into as winter sets in, which signals the physiological response of antler shedding. To complete the cycle, daylight starts to increase as spring and early summer arrives and bucks begin their new antler growth.

 

When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

 

Traditionally, shed hunting season starts in February and wraps up around the end of March. Certainly, sheds can be found throughout the year and usually can be picked up during spring gobbler season if the rodents have not consumed them all yet. However, the main focus of shed hunting is in these two months.

 

While testosterone is the main factor controlling antler drop, there are several factors that can have an impact on how these testosterone levels can change. The stress put on a buck from environmental conditions such as extreme winter weather and also contributing factors like poor nutrition or injury can all lead to lower levels of testosterone and accordingly expedite the timing of when bucks shed antlers.

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Bucks that shed their antlers earlier than February are typically more mature, dominant bucks. These bucks are apt to shed early because their dominance gets them more involved in the rut earlier and for a longer period of time than younger, less mature bucks. Due to this, they can be left depleted after the rut and stressed to a point where antler loss happens earlier than other bucks in a region.

 

Conversely, late antler drop can be influenced by several different causes. First, unbalanced deer populations can create an atmosphere where some does do not get bred during the peak of the rut. In these highly skewed deer populations, does are being bred during the second rut and beyond. Bucks hold their testosterone levels up in these areas, which leads to them delaying the shedding of their antlers until late March or April. Second, first-year fawns that reach breeding weight their first winter will come into estrous. This usually happens well after the peak rut and is the main driver of the second rut in many places. Again, situations like these will keep bucks high in testosterone longer, delaying the shedding process. Finally, high levels of competition for does can cause late antler shedding. Mature bucks that have to spare more frequently to breed does produce more testosterone, which results in a later loss of antlers.

 

Reasons to be Shed Hunting This Year

 

Besides the fact that finding sheds can be profitable if you are good at it, there are other reasons to be shed hunting this year. First, finding shed antlers can give you some information about the buck that carried them. The most obvious fact is that he is still alive. Sure, a buck that shed those antlers may still have a misfortune in the coming months but making it past hunting season is the biggest challenge. Aside from car collisions and a disease outbreak, the odds are pretty good whatever buck left those antlers will be around come next season.

In contrast, dropped antlers do not always connect to that buck living in the area. Finding a shed clearly shows that a buck has passed through here but depending on food availability, weather conditions and other factors, he may or may not be a resident buck. In areas with high-quality forage and lots of it, bucks stick around. The opposite is true when harsh winters reduce food sources and poor habitats that make bucks more transient. This is where post season scouting for deer is important. Finding a shed can help you focus post season scouting on potential hunting spots for next year.

 

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Second, spending time shed hunting is important for deer management on a property. Those that shed hunt religiously can start to put together the growth trajectory of individual bucks. Finding the same buck’s sheds year after year can piece together what he may look like this coming year. Growth rates will vary each year but by scoring an antler shed, even just one side, and comparing that score to last year’s shed of the same buck can give you an average growth rate. This is an advantage in compiling, albeit early, a hit list for the upcoming season.

 

The Big Question | When to Start Shed Hunting on Your Property?

 

Since we are on the precipice of shed hunting 2017, when can you be sure it is time to venture out and look for sheds on your property? The best way to decide when to go shed hunting is to use trail cameras.

 

Trail cameras provide a means to monitor the timing of antler drop in your area. You can use cameras to pinpoint when most of the bucks have dropped their horns. Also, trail cameras can track a specific buck to find that white gold set that eluded you during hunting season. With trail cameras, you can scout an entire property and even multiple properties quickly and determine when to go shed hunting makes sense.

 

Shed hunting success is all about coverage. The more miles you put on the ground the greatest chance you will stumble across shed antlers. Trail cameras, however, can save you valuable time. When to shed hunt should be based on when the majority of bucks have started dropping. Use your cameras to identify when about 50% of bucks have lost their horns. Your odds of finding sheds will be much greater when you know most bucks have lost their horns.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Surveys vs. Shed Hunting Scouting

 

Similar to why you should be shed hunting, post season trail camera surveys are a way to find out what is the overall status of the deer herd in your area. The most efficient way to accomplish this is by running a trail camera survey.

 

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A post season trail camera survey provides more valuable information than summer trail camera surveys. Results with surveys this time of year can be used for determining population estimates, age structure, sex ratios and herd health after the hunting season. All of which drive what management actions are needed this year.

 

The differences between a post season trail camera survey and using trail cameras for shed hunting are how the cameras are setup.

 

Post Season Trail Camera Survey Setup

 

  • 1 trail camera per 100 acres. Ideal but use your best judgment based on topography and how you have observed deer movements in the past.
  • 1 photo burst with a 5-minute The most important setting when conducting a trail camera survey.
  • Run the survey for approximately 3 weeks before pulling the cameras and proceeding with the analysis. 1 pre-bait week, and 2 weeks of actual data, making sure bait is present at the site during the whole 3 week period.

 

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Trail Camera Setup for Shed Hunting

 

  • Scatter trail cameras in the best places for finding sheds like food sources and bedding areas. Often trail camera density goes over 1/100 acres. This is in order to get more encounters and pictures over the entire property
  • Use a 3-8 photo burst or video setting on your Muddy Pro-Cam 12 to narrow down which bucks are shedding and to identify bucks vs. does once shed.
  • Run survey until the last buck has shed and check trail cameras every few days to determine when to go shed hunting.

 

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Best Places to Hang Trail Cameras for Shed Hunting

 

Positioning trail cameras for shed hunting is very much related to where you would place tree stands for late season hunting. This time of year bucks have reduced their core area with a focus on three main aspects; food, cover and security. Knowing this can narrow down two main areas to concentrate your trail cameras for shed hunting.

 

Food sources are key areas for deer in winter and one of the best places to shed hunt. Even though bucks are moving less and relying on fat reserves, they still seek out places that have late season forage. Food sources like standing corn, beans and winter food plots will all be attracting deer. Deploy trail cameras on main deer trails coming to these spots to capture bucks as they shed their antlers. If there are no remaining agricultural food sources, do not give up. The main part of a deer’s diet in winter is woody browse. Use deer sign like tracks and scat to pick out these areas as potential spots for trail cameras and ultimately shed hunting.

 

The trails leading to food sources are likely coming from bedding areas. If you are trying to determine where to find sheds, start with bedding areas. Bedding areas are providing cover and security in winter. Bucks will spend most of their day in these areas. Southern slopes with thermal cover and easy access to food sources outlined above are perfect locations to place trail cameras and hunting for sheds.

 

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Putting It All Together

 

There are numerous shed hunting tips out there but it really comes down to dedicating yourself to shed hunting. It is a combination of an art and a science. The art is taking your time, covering ground and being able to pick out even the slightest protruding part of an antler on the ground. Where the science comes in is using trail cameras to time the shed hunting season and to isolate the most likely places bucks are hanging out in winter. Combining these two will put more antlers in your pack and support your management decisions this season.

 

When do whitetail deer shed antlers? It is happening right now! There are some people out there that are naturals at shed hunting. If you are like most, however, you need some help when it comes to shed hunting season. It is ok to hike through the woods in the hope that you will find sheds, but a better approach is to have a plan. Using trail cameras to identify when to start shed hunting and areas that bucks are frequenting will vastly improve your odds when it comes to searching for white gold.