By Alex Comstock
When it comes to using trail cameras, they’re often only thought of as a way to help you during the hunting season. They can be a phenomenal tool to help you be in the right position when it comes to deer hunting. But, the beauty of trail cams is their ability to be multi-functional tools and help you in other areas as well. One of those ways is through shed hunting. Shed hunting is a popular activity amongst deer hunters in the winter and spring, and a lot of time shed hunters are chomping at the bit to start putting miles on the boots in search of deer antlers. But if you start too early, you could be bumping bucks out of the areas you can look before they shed, and on the other end of the spectrum, if you start too late, they could already be scooped up by other shed hunters. This is where trail cameras can play an important role in your shed hunting efforts.
Trail Cameras Can Tell You Where To Shed Hunt
Before we get into how trail cameras can play a role in determining when you start shed hunting, they can, first of all, establish areas you should and shouldn’t be looking for. Trail cameras aren’t going to tell you exactly where you should be looking, but by running cameras, on properties, you’re allowed to shed hunt, the pictures and data you collect can give you a pretty good idea if you’re in the right general area or not.
I like to run trail cameras right after deer season ends on food sources or if you don’t have any food plots or good late-season food sources where deer congregate, consider putting out some type of attractant or mineral if legal in your state. Just as it is so important when it comes to late-season hunting, to get through the winter, deer key in on food as a primary spot to hang out. When food sources are good enough, deer will often times even bed right in or around these food sources.
I like to check my cameras every few weeks, and if I’m not getting any bucks on trail camera (or shed bucks), that tells me I probably shouldn’t focus my shed hunting efforts in that general area once I start putting boots on the ground. If you’re not getting any bucks on camera, I’d suggest moving your cameras around until you find some bucks. Once you do start getting bucks on camera, that can signal to you that it might be an area you’ll want to scathe the ground for antlers once you start actually looking. But identifying where you should be spending time in the winter and spring looking for antlers with trail cameras is just part of the equation. The next part is knowing when to start because this could have just as big as an impact on your shed hunting success as well.
When To Start Shed Hunting with Help From Trail Cameras
After you start getting post-season trail cam photos of bucks, it’s important to monitor them semi-regularly to help you determine when to start looking for sheds. Like I mentioned at the top of this blog post, starting too late or too early can most definitely have an effect on your shed hunting success. Once you notice that about three-quarters of the bucks have shed based on trail camera images is when I’d recommend starting to shed hunt. The only caveat to this discussion would be if you owned or had a private property that you were sure no one else shed hunted. If this is the case, then I’d recommend not starting until you see about 90% of the bucks have shed on trail cam. There’s always going to inevitably be those bucks that hold late, so that’s why I wouldn’t recommend waiting until they’ve all shed.
But if you’re like me, and a lot of other people out there searching for sheds on public land and by permission properties where others might be out doing the same thing as you, timing is imperative. Once roughly three-quarters of the bucks have shed, you can feel good about walking around and possibly pushing some deer off the properties you can shed hunt because you know that most of them have shed. Had you not been running trail cameras, it’d be more of a guessing game. One of the biggest reasons is because this can vary from state to state and property to property. In some areas, bucks might be mostly shed by the end of January, and in other areas, it might not be until close to March. But by using trail cameras, you’ll surely have a better handle on things going on around you.
If you’re not using trail cameras to help you shed hunt, I’d strongly recommend it. Not only will they help you determine where and when to start shed hunting, but you’ll also be a more efficient shed hunter, and will have a better chance of finding more antlers.