One would say that the best time to search for whitetail sheds is when they fall the head of the deer. Well, they’re right.
However, determining when deer shed their trophy antlers is an inexact science and will definitely be different year to year.
Most whitetail bucks in the Midwestern part of the country will shed their antlers from December until the end of March, with the majority losing their antlers sometime in February.
Determining when best to look will be based on several factors. Factors include nutrition, genetics, stress and injury. Other factors can include late breeding activity and weather such as a harsh winter, with deep lingering snow and bitter cold temperatures. This causes deer to have a weakened body condition and lowered testosterone levels.
According to an article from ESPN, “With testosterone levels in bucks already decreasing since the peak of the breeding season, the pedicle where the antler is attached to a buck's head can become prematurely softened, allowing antlers to be thrown as early as the end of regular gun season.”
In milder winters, deer that might normally have shed in February can hold onto their headgear well into March and even into April in some cases.
If you are out looking for sheds, you should also know that as soon as an antler hits the ground, that you are not the only ones hunting these sheds. Rodents such as mice, chipmunks and squirrels quickly devour the antlers for the calcium they provide. Some antlers are consumed within the first 24 hours on the ground.
Where should I look for antler sheds?
Good places to search right away would be antlers that are deposited in or near woods. If you are not quick enough, these are the first to be consumed by the friendly neighbor critters. Antlers that are left in the middle of a field, or hidden from view, however, often remain untouched for months.
Check under low hanging tree limbs. Average bucks will travel in brush or the cover of trees and branches catching antlers help the removal.
As well all know bigger bucks will be found coming from swamps and thick cover. If you start be checking the edges of swamps early in the shed season, you should find yourself a trophy set assuming you have a trophy whitetail in the area.
Winter food sources, such as cornfields, are always a good bet. Follow trails from feeding areas to thick bedding areas.
It also is a good idea to walk remote fence lines, checking closely where deer have jumped across. Already loosened antlers often jar loose when a buck hits the ground after a planned leap.
Good luck in your search!