Mature Buck Strategies

Whitetail Shed Hunting Habitat Clues

whitetail shed hunting

Have you found any yet this year?

There is nothing like finding an ivory giant during the annual whitetail shed hunting season! But what does it mean? What do the your findings reveal to you about the movements of the mature bucks in and around the lands that you hunt? I believe that a shed offers you much more than just a piece of bone from a reclusive monarch, but instead an opportunity to experience an intimate look into the mysteries of mature buck behavior.

If you haven't found any sheds yet this year, no need to worry! Check out my article, Shed hunting Tip; No Shed, No Problem!

Whitetail Shed Hunting Season Thoughts to Ponder

*Last year I ran into close to 30 sheds on client parcels in 7 states, including a pile on a KS/CO parcel. The majority of my client visits occur during December through June, so as I pass through the peaks of shed season I really enjoy keeping an eye out for my next shed, in the next state I visit!
*I rarely find any on my own hunting land...but is that a bad thing?
*Mature bucks in particular experience huge shifts in preferred habitat locations from Summer to Fall to Winter and then back to Summer ranges. Do the sheds you find show you this?
*Often, where a buck leaves a shed is not where he will be hanging out in the Fall.
*During 12 years on my old lease we found a total of 6 sheds (even including neighbor finds)...but yet we routinely had daytime pics of roughly 30 different bucks during the bulk of the season.
*Is your land a Fall buck range, a Winter shed range, or are you blessed to have a combination of both?
*I love finding sheds...but even more, I love the entire puzzle of putting the pieces together of mature buck habitat use by the local giants. Sheds can be an important clue for whitetail habitat and hunting management efforts...

The Greatest and most important shed hunting question is this:

-Why, does your land have more whitetail shed hunting opportunities? -or- More hunting opportunities than sheds?" To know the answer to that is to gain an incredible understanding of preferred mature buck habitat!

I was with a hunter a few years ago as we walked a client's land together. The hunter explained that on his land, he found over 40 sheds the previous year. The sheds were found in and around his brassica plot that was located adjacent to a massive Red Cedar thicket. This is a great find, right? Well he proceeded to explain to me that at the same time, he barely saw a buck during the hunting season, including zero mature buck encounters. On one hand the guy had an outstandingshed hunting parcel with high quality Winter cover and food, but did his land really offer an opportunity to attract, hold and grow a quality herd?

In his home state of IL, the hunter had very little to worry about as it related to any winter severity or starvation losses. The landowner did however, have to worry about the neighbor's shooting young bucks and the resulting losses due to hunting pressure.
*Where does your land rank in it's ability to offer great whitetail shed hunting opportunities, or not?
*How does your land rank when it comes to producing a quality herd with quality hunting opportunities?
*Is your land peaking at the wrong time

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My Own Hunting Grounds

-"During 12 years on my old lease we found literally, 6 sheds (including neighbor finds)...but yet we routinely had daytime pics of roughly 30 different bucks during the bulk of the season."

Boy, we really struggled over this fact during the first few years! Can you imagine? We thought we had an incredible Fall the previous year, only to completely vaccum our entire land during the Winter and Spring to rarely find a shed. It was actually a little depressing. Our initial thoughts ranged from the majority of the bucks being shot, trespassing shed hunters and poachers. However, by leaving our cameras well into the Winter months, we discovered that we actually DID have a great buck herd that was being built on the land. For years our efforts were not being wasted, it was just that the bucks weren't on our lands when they dropped their sheds. We also came to the conclusion that finding a shed on our land had very little to do with how our hunting season would eventually unfold. It took a few years to grasp the concept, but its not unlike the fact that many Summer buck habitats are actually very poor Fall habitats.

Although not finding any sheds on the land that you hunt could be a bad thing, it most often reveals that your land is peaking at a time when it has the greatest potential of positively impacting your herd and habitat efforts.


Whitetail shed hunting season can be an incredible time of the year! It's a great time to scout the woods while having absolutely zero impact on your hunting opportunities; opportunities that are still many months away. But even more important than an incredible find of over 80 inches...what do those clues of bone reveal to you about the seasonal shifts of mature buck behavior? It pays to constantly ask "Why?" It isn't enough to find a shed but instead to earnestly seek the pieces of the puzzle that you may be lacking on your own lands when it comes to the period of time your habitat needs to be at it's peak: Whitetail Hunting Season.


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