Before you go on the defense, hear me out and know that I love finding shed antlers as much as the next guy or gal. Ten to fifteen years ago, I would walk miles upon miles looking for and finding shed antlers across different landscapes. You hear all the different shed hunting tips in the world, but the truth is, you have to put in the time and miles to turn them up. I've found them on gravel roads, road ditches, CRP grasses, in the timber, cut corn fields, cut bean fields, and so on. Essentially you have to be where that buck lost his antlers. Wow, what a shocker! Now finding shed antlers on a new piece of land you have access to without history can help you put some pieces of the puzzle together. In my situation, finding that bucks shed antler is typically optional. Sure, it's nice to have that piece of history with the buck as it sits in a box, collecting dust and taking up room, making my wife happy, but it's not an essential piece of the puzzle I'm trying to put together.
My situation is hunting a majority of farms that I've hunted for over twenty years. I find the bucks in the summer velvet locations, set up trail cameras, watch them grow then transition into their fall and winter ranges. Sometimes they make it to maturity, but many times get cut short due to other hunters or mother nature. I'm watching, documenting, and collecting everything I can on these bucks waiting for them to reach 5 1/2 years old.
As I've gotten older, it's come with many more responsibilities, from work, marriage, children, etc. That means my time in the woods is now limited compared to when I was in my twenties. When I'm in the woods or afield now, I've got to make it count. The months after deer season leading into the summer are the most critical months. I've got my eyes on a particular buck or a few bucks that will be mature in the upcoming season, and I've got to have my game plan in place before the season ever gets here. The to-do list is typically lengthy and changes from year to year. This includes moving tree stands, hanging new stands, cutting new shooting lanes, improving a bedding area, frost seeding, burning CRP grasses, timber stand improvements, planting spring and summer food plots, mowing, spraying, and moving blinds around, just to name a few. I like to have done many of these before the spring green-up, so I can give the deer ample time to settle down and not feel the human pressure. The list above consists of A LOT of time and effort leading up to deer season. There are only so many days I have to line up the puzzle pieces for the upcoming deer season. Finding that shed antler can take away that valuable time and cost me that opportunity at the buck I'm targeting for the upcoming season.
Time and more time is what it takes to find a particular shed antler. I enjoy occasionally taking my girls looking for antlers, but that turns into a nature walk, which is fine. But when I have the time, I'm working to create that perfect opportunity with a buck I want to target the following deer season, not looking for his shed antler days on end. Finding that bucks shed antler is a puzzle piece I'm willing to sacrifice to ensure I'm ready when he walks by me during deer season.
The majority of bucks I've taken over the years don't have their shed antlers to go along with the story. Some do, but most don't. I'd rather have that buck on my wall with the story of how I beat him in his element. I find victory when I've ended the chess match. I can't and won't find that same feeling of accomplishment holding his shed antler. To each their own, but for me, when I'm afield, I've got to make that time count!
- Kyle Heuerman, Team Radical