Hunting Sheds: White Gold

Like a boney Christmas ornament, the huge shed hung securely in the cactus branches. It was obvious that the buck had been delicately plucking cactus fruit from the Cholla when he dislodged his giant piece of head gear. The shed was a year old, but that didn’t matter. What did matter, was the buck that had left it, if the other side matched, would place in the Top 3 in the world Pope & Young!

My first order of business was to verify that this amazing deer was still alive, which I did two days later as I watched him feed his way to bed along the same ridge where I had found the shed. His other side did match, in fact, he was a monarch Coues buck in every sense of the word. His present set of bone appeared bigger in all respects as compared to the cast antler with its longer beams, longer tines and more mass.

Spotting tines sticking out of the grass is a thrill second only to seeing the buck.

Spots World Record?
As I watched him that morning from a half a mile away, I realized that he could possibly be a walking world record! I started to scheme on how I might place a razor-tipped arrow shaft into his vitals. I only had one small problem: it was mid-March and bow season was over five months away!

I watched that buck daily for close to three weeks, hoping to see him after he shed while he remained in his late winter pattern. But, as truly giant bucks so often do, he finally disappeared never to be seen again. After he vanished, I hiked every square inch of the buck’s core area, finding several other sheds, but never his. I still wonder what became of him. More than likely he provided a couple of meals for a mountain lion as so often happens to our desert deer.

The value of the tale is that I discovered this once-in-several-lifetimes deer by first discovering his shed antler. It’s not a high-percentage method to find big bucks, but it had worked this time.

I have always been infatuated with sheds. It gives a little rush of excitement when your eyes focus on tines sticking out of the grass. To hold them in your hand is second best only to actually harvesting the buck or bull. But shed hunting has many added benefits other than growing your horn pile.

This find was the result of a lion-killed Coues buck.

Shed Season
Begins In March

My shed season usually starts around March. Antlered game is starting to drop and the weather is starting to warm a little. Non-migratory deer and elk commonly shed their antlers in their core living area, and valuable hunting information can be learned from finding sheds in these areas. Common outdoor sense tells us that animals are most likely to drop their antlers where they spend the majority of their time, often in favored feeding and bedding areas. I have often found sheds from the same buck, yet from different years, in close proximity to each other, proving that they do in fact have core areas. If there is a fenceline running through these areas, odds of picking up some sheds go up considerably as antlers will often get jarred off when critters cross fences.

Since hunting season is months away, you don’t have to worry about it when you jump game while prowling around in their bedroom. You will start to build a library of the resident bucks from the antlers that you find. If the horn is brown and fresh, it’s a no-brainer that the animal survived the previous hunting season and, barring predation, should be alive and starting to grow a new and hopefully bigger set of bones. 

Needed: Good Boots, Desire
Successful shed hunting in the West requires only two things; good boots and desire. Few sheds come without miles of scouring the country trying to find probable areas.

The author with a great one day score!

There is no better way to learn country than to hike it inside and out. Waterholes, hidden draws, and travel routes and many other hidey-holes will be discovered as you trudge methodically through your hunting grounds.

Another benefit of hiking endless miles in search of shed horns is that you will be in top physical condition in very short order. This alone is one of the greatest tools that a Western hunter can own. Simply being willing and able, will go further toward finding and harvesting the animal of your dreams, than any gadget you can buy.

The next time you are longing for the hunt, yet the season is still months away, don’t fret. There’s gold in them hills, white gold that is. Get out and find some! 

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