What a Hard Winter with Snow on the Ground Means for Shed Hunters?
Compared to last year’s mild winter with several days of above average temperatures and hardly any snow accumulation in West-Central Illinois, this year could be a different story. The biggest advantage to having a hard winter for shed hunting purposes is that the sheds will be more concentrated. When the weather is milder and little snow accumulation, whitetails in general will have more food sources available to them and will spread out over a greater area making it harder to pinpoint where they’ll drop their antlers.
Shed Hunting in the Snow
When the winters get tough and snow is on the ground for an extended period of time, whitetails conserve as much energy as they can and do not travel far from a quality food winter food source. Grains such as corn or soybeans and brassica food plots are usually preferred during this time of year to other food sources. Deer will target grain that is exposed above the snow level. Standing crops like soybeans or corn is a shed hunter’s dream when the snow gets deep!
Here’s a few tips on where to look and what to bring when shed hunting in the snow..
- Food Source– One positive thing about shed hunting in the snow is the deer can’t hide their tracks! Finding what the deer are feeding on is easily identifiable in the snow and once you find the food, you’re in business! If you are not in an area with a lot of agriculture, focus on areas with a high concentration of woody browse and early successional growth. Deer will browse heavily on green briar, honeysuckle, blackberry and raspberry bushes when other plants and food sources like acorns are buried under the snow. If you’re in an area without a quality late season food source and the habitat consist of large expanses of hardwood timber, focus on Southern exposures, areas that have a high concentration of woody browse, and dense thermal cover.
- Bedding Area– The second-best place to look for sheds after finding a primary food source is their bedding areas. As noted earlier, deer will not travel far if they have a quality food source and sufficient bedding nearby. There will usually be 2 or 3 primary trails leading to the preferred bedding area to the main food source in the area. I like to check each trail in and out of the bedding area before grid searching the heart of the bedding. Whitetails will use clumps of cedars and other evergreens this time of year for thermal cover and protection from the wind. Overgrown creek ditches, swamps, and clear cuts are all areas deer will concentrate in with heavy snowfall.
- Fuel– Shed hunting in the snow is physically demanding and means burning a lot of calories. Make sure to bring water and a snack if you plan on hiking for an extended period of time.
- Boots– Rubber boots or waterproof hiking boots with gaiters to keep your feet dry are a must for shed hunting in the snow.
- Sun Glasses– The sun can be blinding when it reflects off the snow. You’ll want to make sure you have a pair in your pack. This is one thing I always seem to forget!
- Walking Stick– Not only will it help you fend off the Snow Yeti, but it’ll also help keep you on your feet when traversing rolling terrain.
- Binoculars– These will save precious steps when you can’t tell whether or not that stick is an antler laying across the valley.
Last Updated: January 25th, 2023