The contrast of sun-whitened bone against dead grasses was unmistakeable. My binos confirmed that it wasn’t just another pine branch like the dozen I’d mistaken for elk antlers earlier throughout the day. I hustled 125 yards to retrieve my find, then carefully studied the intricate detail and stunning character of the large antler with my wife and our two shed-hunting partners. Naturally, I started walking in circular patterns searching for the match.
I peered between and underneath cedars for the next 30 minutes when, suddenly, the hallowed match lying in a subtle depression — likely where the bull had bedded — caught my eye. I’d just won the shed-hunting Super Bowl.
Additionally, my wife found five different elk antlers. And when we moved our shedcation to another state, she found a beautiful matched set from a dandy 4×4 buck. Not to be left totally behind, I scooped up several smaller antlers. This all happened during the initial COVID-19 scare, and it was an incredible way to social distance and absorb much-needed sun rays amidst God’s creation.
Some might consider it absurd to drive to another state or two to hunt for sheds when you can do it around home. Well, if you have great spots to shed hunt near home, do it. I have none, which is why taking a shedcation is a great fit for my wife and me. If you’re in the same boat, let me explain six reasons why a shedcation could be right for you, too.
1. Get Outdoors
I live in frigid Wisconsin. Winters are long, and since I’m a full-time outdoor writer, I spend lots of time at my desk when it isn’t hunting season. Come March and April, I need to air out. I was made to roam, and while I’m a very active person, I probably wouldn’t travel to another state merely to go hiking. I must have another purpose. Looking for sheds gives me that purpose, and hiking is a worthwhile byproduct of the venture.
To build on my last point, finding sheds is the ultimate intention, but when you’re roaming over thousands of acres, you’ll burn hundreds of calories, tighten up your legs and core, and also increase lung power. What a worthwhile bonus! I mean, who doesn’t have a few pounds to shed following a long winter?
Pictured above is the limited edition Shed Pile Hoodie
My entire hunting lifestyle revolves around exploring unfamiliar places. Whether it’s hiking to a drainage I didn’t make it to last time, or hunting a completely new state, I have a passion for exploring places untrod. It keeps things fresh and exciting. A shedcation is the perfect excuse to explore new places and see different parts of the country. Plus, it’s far less expensive than a hunt without the commitment of a nonresident-priced hunting license.
4. Pin New Hunting Destinations
Since shed hunting in another state is somewhat inexpensive compared to a hunting trip, it gives you the opportunity to learn about a destination before you commit to bowhunting there. During your shedcation, you can determine whether or not it warrants a return trip to hunt in the fall.
Multiple times I’ve killed bucks on return trips to locations I’ve hunted for sheds in the spring. The insights you can gain by seeing everything fresh in the spring prior to green-up can be invaluable.
5. Combine With Turkey Hunting
If your shedcation coincides with turkey season, why not pack your Mathews bow and chase some spring gobblers, too? Go after birds in the mornings and evenings, then spend the rest of the day shed hunting. Turkeys might take you to slightly different locations than shed hunting will, which can prove beneficial.
For example, I had one out-of-state turkey and shed hunt where finding birds on public land was challenging. I spotted toms and heard gobbling a few hundred yards off the public, so I connected with the landowner and we hit it off. I thumped a tom on his land the next morning. Again, turkey hunting can put you in different places than shed hunting. This opens doors to different perspectives, new connections and new opportunities. Turkey hunting is the perfect bonus to an appropriately timed shedcation.
6. Spend Time With Family or Friends
Many folks take spring vacations to beach destinations with friends or family. Why not do the same with a shedcation? Not only is it a quality time, but you can split fuel and lodging expenses. You could get a nice vacation rental rather than a crusty motel room for the same price by sharing costs. That’ll also give you the option to cook nice meals and enjoy relaxing, comfortable down time.
It might seem strange, but it’s illegal to shed hunt in certain locations or during certain dates. Be sure to study the regulations before you ink your shedcation on the calendar. Some states have shed-hunting seasons designed to eliminate the impact of human pressure on winter-worn animals during critical months when survival entails great stress. Typically, shed seasons (where applicable) align with warmer temperatures when the stress factor on animals is diminished. It’s a wise conservation move that proves hunters and wildlife managers care about the animals we pursue.
For various other reasons, picking up sheds from select public parcels and wildlife refuges is prohibited. Study the regulations and take it a step further by contacting officials with the state’s game and fish department. On many parcels, it’s perfectly acceptable, but do your part to stay on the right side of the law.
Finally, and this is big, cover ground in an organized manner so that you search out key areas (winter food sources and pockets of cover where animals likely bed) efficiently. To do this, make sure everyone has onX Hunt on their phones. The app not only provides an overview of any location, but it also provides land-ownership layers so that you know where you stand and don’t accidentally trespass. Further, you can create better combing strategies, referencing the app as you go to make sure you’re staying on track.
Make sure that everyone downloads an offline map of the area you’ll be searching, especially those who’re less navigation savvy. This feature allows you full access to all of the mapping features without cell signal. You don’t want to risk a needless missing-person episode. onX Hunt will surely keep your shed hunt safe and organized. If cell signal is weak or nonexistent, also outfit everyone with another means of communication, such as wireless radios. There isn’t a shed in the world worth risking life or limb over.
Lastly, a good pack with exterior straps is a must for toting antlers. Also, outfit it with a hydration pack, snacks, first-aid kit, flashlight and compass. Other than that, always carry binoculars so that you can ID sheds from a distance. If you can determine that a “shed” is actually a branch without walking 40 yards to do so, you’ll save a lot of time and frustration. Always. Carry. Binoculars.
Now, all that’s left to do is go on a shedcation and enjoy great times in a faraway destination. Who knows? Maybe you’ll walk away with a beautiful matched set of antlers and a new bowhunting destination to try this fall.