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 your the majority of shed hunters out there, you’ve already picked over your best spots, and
looked high and low for the #1 bucks antlers you’ve been looking for. By this time you’ve
probably either found them or gave up on looking for them. Almost every single year I come
across a shed that’s seen a year or two on it. The devil 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 your a shed hunter I probably just made you cringe.
But how and why we find year old sheds and where are the most common places you find them will help you approach your late season shed hot spots, and to save the sheds from certain dismemberment from all the little rotten rodents we have to live with here in the Midwest..My brother once pondered after picking up a chewed up antler “why can’t squirrels get blue tongue too?”
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!
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. 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!
Last Updated: March 22nd, 2020