rules to hunting shed antlers
John Hafner

Shed hunting has evolved from a way to kill some time on early-spring weekends to a sport all its own. But whether you’re a hardcore bone hunter or just someone who likes to get out and walk the land, there are some guidelines you should follow. So consider these tips to find more antlers, have more fun, and identify new places to deer hunt.

1. Keep Walking

The very best day I’ve ever had finding shed antlers happened last spring. My buddy Kyle Booher and I covered roughly 15 miles and picked up four antlers. I have no doubt that others have found many more in a single day and probably covered less ground doing it. But, as a rule, the more ground you cover, the more antlers you’ll pick up.

2. Don’t Look So Hard

shed antler in snow
An early-season find. John Hafner

You ever see one of those posters that look like a bunch of kaleidoscopic shapes. You stare it, let your eyes blur a little bit…and suddenly a 3-D image appears? For me, sheds are kind of like that. If I look too hard, I miss them. I’ve found my best method is one where I simply scan back and forth as I walk. If I try too hard to spot an “antler” then I miss those less-obvious chunks of horn tucked into weeds and brush.

3. Look Hard Enough

This may sound counter to Rule 9, but it’s not. You have to look, and look everywhere. Yes, you’ll find some antlers lying in winter-flattened foodplot. But most will be in thickets and along well-beaten deer paths. Those antlers will look like twigs and sticks and anything but an antler…until you realize it is an antler. So make sure you look hard, but not too hard…

4. Bring Your Dog

black hunting dog shed antlers
Bring your best bud—even if she’s not a trained shed hunter. Alex Robinson

I have a 2-year-old lab that loves to run around the woods and has a way of making every walk in the brush a little bit more enjoyable. She’ll haul a shed around and gnaw on it for hours if I give her one. Will she ever find one on her own? Maybe not. But I still hold out hope. Dogs trained to find sheds can find them far better than you can. So bring your dog along…and if it actually knows how to hunt for sheds, well, that’s all the better.

5. Make Your Mark

hunting shed antlers
Collect sheds—and information. Alex Robinson

When you find a shed, take time to admire it. Celebrate the discovery with whomever is around. Send a text. Snap the obligatory selfie and post it to social media. And then use an app like OnX or Huntstand to mark the location of the find and note what antler it was. This is especially important if you find the shed on public land. I don’t put a ton of stock on antlers found on private land near primary food sources. Those deer may have travelled a fair distance just to hit the feed in the winter and won’t be anywhere nearby next fall. But antlers found on public land are almost always found in areas of thick cover. And any buck of size that felt safe on public land that late in they year, in my opinion, is going to hang out there during deer season.

6. Name It

One thing I started doing a couple of years ago is writing the date and location found on each antler. I just use a Sharpie to jot it down near the antler base. It’s just a cool way to remember some basic details about each antler. And, if you’re lucky enough to find the sheds from the same buck for several years, it’s an ideal way to develop a living history.

7. Ask Permission

private property warning sign
Obey all posted signs and private property boundaries. PxHere

This really should go without saying but…trespassing to pick up shed antlers is still trespassing. It is no less of an offense to walk onto someone else’s property outside of hunting season as it is during hunting season. So get permission before you cross a fence.

8. Ask Permission Twice…

As impossible as it may seem, there’s still plenty of hunting ground out there that can be had for little more than a polite inquiry. Asking a landowner to walk their property in search of shed antlers is likely to get you a foot in the door. Show that property respect, treat the landowner well and prove that you can follow rules and you just might have the chance to ask permission a second time…this time the ask is for hunting access.

Read Next: Shed Hunting: Secrets of the Shed Masters

9. Multi-Task

deer scraping
Keep an eye out for other deer sign. John Hafner

I like to look for shed antlers. But I like to hunt living critters a whole lot more. I also enjoy hunting public land. Combining a shed hunting trip with a spring turkey hunt is an excellent way to see a lot of new ground, kill a few turkeys and start critical reconnaissance that can pay off big-time in the fall.

10. Have Fun

Yeah, it’s probably a lame cliché. But that doesn’t make it any less true. I see social media posts from “diehard” antler hunters and wonder if they even stop to appreciate the antler in their hand before they start touting their horn count. Take it easy. Enjoy the walk. The woods. The find.