Illinois hunting and fishing

Jacob and Scott Barnett pose with some of their shed antlers and bucks.

Advice from a shed-hunting addict

February 11, 2009 at 12:55 PM

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Jacob Barnett operates his Midwest Monsters Outdoors out of Roodhouse.


Well here it is, the time of year hard-core whitetail fanatics have been waiting for since bowhunting season ended on Jan. 15. It is early February and the deer are shedding their antlers in the Midwest.

Some bucks are still holding their wonderful headgear. Others are letting it hit the ground so shed fanatics like us can get there before the squirrels.

The drive to find a monster set of sheds is an addiction for many hard-core hunters this time of year. My brother Scott and I have been shed hunting for quite some time know and we cover a lot of ground this time of year. This year we started finding sheds in Pike County on Jan. 24. The bucks over there seem to drop a little earlier than they do in the other parts of Illinois.

Every spring people ask me how I find so many antlers. They can walk their boots off and not pick anything up all year, or maybe pick one or two up in a year. My theory is, you have to know your areas and the deer that use it.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Eyesight is another major key to finding these magnificent pieces of antler laying in the grass or in a standing stalk field. For instance, my brother and I will train our eyes at the beginning of the year with some sheds we have picked up in the past.  We will go to the woods or to a grass patch and one of us will go hide the sheds in a similar fashion to what we might normally find them along trails and bedding areas. This gets our eyes trained and ready to go out and look for the real thing.

Shed antler eyes are like your morel mushroom eyes. You develop the same thing in your mind.

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Another key to our success is hunting late-season food sources. I like to drive around food sources such as food plots, standing corn stalk fields, bean stubble fields, or even some hay fields. Then we try to see what is out there feeding in the evening.

A lot of bucks are rebounding from the rut and need to replenish body weight. We walk a lot of trails from the food source back to the bedding areas. The trails that skirt the edge of the fields are also hotspots for picking up bone.

Another spot we try and concentrate on are south-facing hillsides with food somewhere close around. The deer seem to like these spots because they are out of the bone-chilling north or northwest winds we tend to have this time of year and the southern sun can keep them warm.

We also like to concentrate on major trails that have fence jumps on them. And creek crossings can be good areas to pick up antlers. We also spend a lot of time in waterways which are the low spots in the fields. The deer tend too like these spots because they are out of the wind and out of sight from us hunters.

Carrying a good pair of binoculars is also a key to our success in the field for picking up shed antlers. A good pair of binoculars saves you a lot of walking. We like to use our binoculars glassing down cornstalk rows. You will notice they will save you a lot of walking around in the cornfields.

I hope that I can help you put a little more bone on your fireplace with this article. Maybe you will even find the biggest shed antlers of you hunting career. Remember to pack a lunch and some water, and get a comfortable pair of boots. Memories in the field will last a lifetime.

Good luck this year, and Happy Hunting!

Illinois hunting and fishing