Late Season Shed Hunting in Illinois
Shed season to the most avid shed hunters has an early, middle, and late season. And each has its own unique strategy. Unfortunately, we are entering the latter end of the season here in Illinois. We’re at our peak hiking levels; most of us are probably in the best shape we will be in all year after looking hours for shed antlers. Yet the days are counting down, before the spring green up takes over the Midwestern landscape and finding sheds will be all but left up to finding the odd ball one or two while turkey hunting or picking morel mushrooms. Yet, you still have time to find a few late season sheds…
Shed Hunting the Late Season in Illinois
If you are part of the majority of shed hunters out there, you’ve already picked over your best spots, and
looked high and low for your #1 target bucks’ sheds. By this time, you’ve
probably either found them or gave up on looking for them. Every single year I’ll pick up sheds that were from the previous year. The devil’s rodent (squirrel) has every tine chewed to the long main beam sporting 8 inches of mass at the base. It’s a sickening feeling walking up on one at the base of a tree, if you are a shed hunter you know exactly what I’m talking about.
How, why and where you have found year old antlers can help you come up with a game plan for this late season and help add a few more antlers to your collection!
Shed Hunting the Illinois Deep Timber
Finding sheds in the deep timber can be challenging yet rewarding. It often means walking many miles without results yet many of my biggest sheds will come from the timber each year, and it seems that most of my match sets I find will be in the timber. I’ve had my best luck on southern facing ravines in the timber. Anywhere two different habitats meet is a great place to look. In deep timber you will often find briar patches, cedar thickets, and oak draws. Open oak flats, on a gradual southern slope seems to be a good place to look. Blow downs and side hill benches are great places to look in the deep timber. All are quality places to search and often the locations I find my last sheds of the season.
Finding Sheds in an Oasis of Agriculture Fields in IL
Looking for sheds in agriculture fields can be compared to finding a needle in a haystack. Finding sheds in large expanses of corn can be extremely challenging and time consuming. Your best bet is to focus on bean, winter wheat, alfalfa, and open pastures. You can up your odds by narrowing down the location in which deer commonly feed. I find the majority of my sheds on the field edges or within twenty yards off the edge. I always make a lap around the entire edge of fields, primarily focusing on the southern edges. After I check the perimeter, I make a grid pattern throughout the field. This ensures that the most area is covered, and I feel confident that I covered the entire field.
I once had a farmer show me a very impressive shed several years ago that was probably close to 90 inches in size. It had incredible mass that carried all the way through to the end of its main beam and was completely snow white in color. He said he found it in the middle of his 200-acre bean field after running the antler over with his disc thinking he had hit a rock!
Shed Hunting Out of the Way Woodlines and Waterways
Probably my favorite places to look for late season sheds are out of the way waterways and woodlines. Places where the typical shed hunter may overlook. Deer would rather bed down in a grassy strip that borders woodlines or grass waterways rather than in agriculture fields. At night it’s not unusual for deer to travel great lengths from their core bedding area to find food. I seem to have the best luck where a substantial block of timber is within a quarter mile of waterways or woodlines. Another great aspect of checking these far away woodlines and waterways is that most of the time farmers will readily give you permission to check these areas in fear of an antler popping their tires.
All in all, late season shed hunting can be extremely challenging. At this point, you have to be mentally prepared to walk a few extra miles to find the last sheds of the season, and who knows; your last one might be your biggest one yet!
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Last Updated: March 15th, 2023