Shed Hunting Southern States is No Comparison to Shed Hunting the Midwest
The popularity of shed hunting has increasingly grown over the last half decade. The deciduous growth, often referred to as “White Gold,” provide land managers critical information in deer management, and hunters much more than just a trophy find. It has gained such popularity that antler sales have driven non-hunters to become shed hunters in search of extra income.
Shed antlers can help land managers keep abreast of buck inventory, herd numbers, genetic potential, as well as, nutrition, stress, and other important biological information for managing trophy bucks. For hunters, it offers critical information of buck movement and can provide helpful information for patterning and hunting next year’s trophy buck.
Why Do Bucks Shed Antlers?
Let’s take a look at the natural science of antlerogenesis; the growth, development, and casting of antlers. The photoperiod, duration of light in a 24 hour period, controls the secretion of neural and endocrine hormones. These hormones are primarily growth hormone which results in the natural growth cycle: testosterone, estrogen, prolactin, calcitonin, melatonin, and parathyroid hormone.
The antler growth begins from the pedicle, a growth plate on the skull. A buck’s first antlers begin growing when he reaches the age of one year old, depending on the buck’s actual birth month in comparison to the timing of the seasons. During this growth stage, which usually lasts about four months, the antlers are covered with velvet full of blood vessels to feed the growth. Antlers are primarily phosphorus and calcium and can grow an average of ¼” per day. The growing antlers are very sensitive during this growth stage. As the photoperiod shortens, testosterone levels rise and result in the blood vessels closing and the antlers begin to harden, known as the mineralization stage. The velvet dries from the lack of blood supply and sheds from the antlers. At this point, the buck’s testosterone level is at its peak, preparing the buck for rut and breeding.
The hard antlers remain on the deer through the peak of breeding. After breeding season, testosterone levels begin to decrease which causes an abscission zone to form between the pedicle and antler. This abscission results in an erosion that causes the antler to separate and fall off. Usually, both antlers fall off at the same time or very close in length of time. It is not unusual for one side to be held for a day or even up to several weeks. In correlation to the amount of energy expended during the rut, older, heavier antlered bucks typically shed earlier than younger bucks.
When Do Bucks Shed Their Antlers?
In Northern regions, antlers typically start to shed in January and into February whereas in the southern regions, shedding in some areas may start in January but can occur as late as April in other areas. Again, the casting of antlers is in direct correlation with the timing and completion of the rut as it affects the buck’s hormone levels.
The timing of antler growth and shedding varies dramatically among the northern regions, southern regions, and Midwestern regions, with the southern states starting the growth cycle much later than northern and Midwestern states. This is due to the fact that the rut is much later in the southern states. In the natural course of survival, breeding is synchronized so that fawns are born during a time period that maximizes their chance of survival in direct correlation with adequate forage for optimal milk production of lactating does. The mild climate of the southern region’s fall and winter season provides adequate forage and food sources resulting in fawn having a larger survival rate. This fact results in a variation of the actual time and duration of the rut for the area.
Best Places to Find Sheds?
Understanding what to expect region to region, it is important to focus on areas most likely to find sheds. The adage holds true to look for sheds where deer spend the most time; around feeding/water sources, mineral sites, travel corridors, and bedding areas, for the highest success. Other areas that are proven for finding sheds are those areas where bucks have to duck or jump such as creeks, fences, ditches roads, thick overhanging branches, and thick privet shrubs on travel corridors. Shed hunting doesn’t only take patience and a lot of walking/hiking, it takes a good method for visually sweeping the ground and the knowledge of where to look. Some hunters incorporate the use of shed hunting dogs with much success of traveling more ground and finding more sheds. Click Here…