A Successful Start to Shed Season

Posted by Scott Mensing | Posted in | Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011

Last year was a TOUGH year on us when it came to finding sheds.  At one point, I had a 35 hour shedless streak that left me sore and frustrated.  But we kept going and fortunately that streak was broken by finding Potato Digger's matched set laying within five yards of one another.  I think that is the part I love the most about shed hunting - you just never know what you're going to find and when that gagger antler will show up in front of you.

This season started out slowly.....only picking up two sheds after probably four or five miles of walking.  A combination of a lot of snow and it still being early in the season made sheds hard to come by.  But that all changed late this week.  On Thursday night, I needed to take advantage of the 70 degree temps and go for a little walk after work.  Less than two hours later I was walking out with four sheds to jump start the season, including a decent three year old five point side.  The following day we HAD to get out of the office and look for the matches and search some of the best areas on the property.  So with an additional three hours of looking, we added eight more sheds, including a tiny matched set that were found together in a bed, a broken beam, and the match to the five point from the previous day.  So in three official shed outings, we are up to 14 sheds and still have the best part of the season ahead of us.

Here are a few of the ATLs that we have taken to this point.

First of the year!

It's a match!  This is a three year old ten point that eluded our cameras since July.  It's nice to see that he still living on the farm!  Each side goes approximately 62 inches, which puts him just under a 140 incher.

In about five hours of walking this past week, we ended up with 10 sheds.  But we're still getting pictures of bucks carrying so we'll still be out shed hunting for the next month or so.

Also, we get asked quite a bit about where we typically find sheds and what we look for so here is a list of a couple golden rules that we keep in mind while shed hunting.

Five Golden Rules of Shed Hunting:
1.  Check all fence crossings and creek crossings.  When I am out looking for sheds, these are my two main priorities.  We have scouted the majority of properties enough to know where most of the major crossings are located.  Those are the first places we check.

2.  Search south facing hill sides and ridge tops.  During the cold and snowy winter months, a higher percentage of deer will bed in areas where they can keep warm....hence the tops of ridges and any southerly exposed hill sides.  And as the saying goes....."where there's beds, there's sheds!".

3.  Keep an eye on the sun.  I prefer to walk on overcast, dreary days.  It seems those sheds "pop" much better under these conditions.  But when you have those beautiful bluebird days, it's hard to stay out of the woods.  If you're shed hunting while the sun is overhead, try to keep the sun at your back as much as possible.  Walking into the sun makes spotting sheds much more difficult.  If you have to walk into the sun, make sure to stop and look behind you often!

4.  Remember the 3-inch rule.  This takes a little more conscious effort, but I always am looking for pieces of antlers, not the entire shed.  Tips of tines, tops of pedicels, and the curvature of a main beam are a couple examples of what I'm looking for while scanning the timber floor.

5.  Journal (mentally or physically) found shed locations.  If most shed hunters are like myself, then they can remember where they've found every shed for the past five years!  But it's amazing how often there are certain areas of a property that simply produce more sheds more often.  For example, there is one particular fence crossing that I have found at least one shed at for the past six years!

Obviously there are many, many different tips and techniques that people use and are successful with.  One needs to keep in mind there is some skill behind consistently finding sheds, but there is A LOT of luck involved too!  And if you're not finding anything, just keep walking, you know they're out there somewhere!

An Introduction to the New Crew

Posted by Vince Crawford | Posted in | Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011

Well, I said I was going to come back and make a better introduction last month, but that was before we ran into our dream house in the country. Now, I'm moved in and have a new internet connection, so lets get to the blogging!

My name is Vince Crawford, and I just absolutely LIVE hunting and fishing. I really appreciate Bo and Scott having me here to share my outdoor adventures.

In my spare time, I am hunting, fishing, scouting, training my new pup, or turning game calls on my lathe. Since 1999, I have been in the business of teaching Missourians about fish and wildlife for my day job. I am passionate about my teaching, and do my best to get folks, especially kids, excited about the outdoors. I am also a founding member of a not-for-profit group called Missouri Disabled Sportsmen.

My "above and beyond" passions are turkey hunting, archery hunting, pond bass fishing, flathead catfishing, shed hunting and wood working.

The calls I make while wood working are known as VECtor Custom Calls. (My initials are VEC). I make all kinds of different game calls, and really enjoy seeing them being used successfully all across the US. You can read more about them at my website by clicking the link over on the right side of your screen.

I have started the training of my new shed hunting/deer recovery pup this winter, and I will share some of our trial and error times in the woods with you here. My pup's name is Goose, and she is a little over 11 weeks old right now.

My wife Holly, and my two boys, Tristen and Kable, join me in my adventures quite often. Holly is a classroom teacher, so she is able to help me with new thoughts and techniques involved in my fish and wildlife educating.

Tristen is the most ate up with it all, helping me train Goose, scout deer, archery hunt and make game calls. Tristen also spends a lot of his free time weight training for football, or playing football, depending on the time of year. Tristen will be featured in many of my stories here. He does some of his own woodworking by making wood burnt signs. His work is known as Long Branch Wood Works.

Kable is just coming into his prime as far as the learning of hunting and fishing goes. He enjoys being outside, and picked up a metal detector this past Christmas he plans on using extensively once this snow is off. Kable took his first turkey last spring, and also helped me boat a 51 and a 46 pound flathead catfish. He is known as the "VECtor Inspector", as he is in charge of "certifying" deer and turkey as being taken with the help of a VECtor Custom Call.

Training Goose......

I picked up my new friend Goose in Iowa a little over a month ago now. She has been nothing but a BUNCH of fun! She is a silver colored Labrador Retriever from Pinyan Labs.

We started out her training by teaching her how to find her dinner. She gets to eat two of her meals each day out of her normal food bowl. She has to find small stacks of food around the house for her evening meal though. This helps her learn what I mean by "Search it up", "Find that bone" and "Find it". It is also an award system that gives her a good drive to work to succeed.

We have since moved forward to having her find shed antlers in the house, and just three days ago, we moved our training outside. She has done a wonderful job of progressing forward in "Finding that bone". I also integrated shooting .22 blanks while we were "shed hunting" today also, so she will not be gun-shy when it comes to our waterfowl training and hunting this next coming year. The .22 didn't bother her in the least bit. I will continue with it for a few days, and then I will see about adding shotgun shots to the mix.

With the snow on, her outdoor training facility is the gravel road infront of our house. She moves from side to side in the road, looking for anters, and trying to pick up the wind from them. I always try to guide her in a direction to where the wind is in her favor. She is very good at smelling the antlers prior to ever seeing them. Her sight on them will progress as she gets older.

When the snow melts, and she progresses, I will be placing antlers for her to find in more random locations. If she doesn't find them, that is okay too. I pick them up, show them to her, and let her play with them for a minute. She won't find every one in the woods either. I need to share my bounty with her though, so she can see we are a team.

As spring approaches, I will be finding more and more things to share. We usually have a great time bass fishing in March, and that is also when we find most of our sheds. April and May will bring on crappie fishing, gobbling turkeys and mushroom hunting.

Post Season Scouting Is In Full Swing

Posted by Scott Mensing | Posted in | Posted on Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Even though the blog has been relatively slow for the past month or so, we have still been busy putting time in the woods getting ready for the 2011 season, which is only 8 months away (but who's counting)!  There are many different post season scouting techniques that we do each year to better prepare ourselves for the upcoming season.

This year, our post season scouting has never been more important.  We have two new properties that we acquired permission on right before the season opened last September.  From the scouting that we were able to accomplish from the tree stand and running cameras, we believe both of these properties have the potential to be absolutely amazing with a little QDM.  January through March is the perfect time to give us addtional insight on the quality and quantity of deer that are present on each of the properties.

The first post season technique that we do is to start our winter camera surveys.  We started prebaiting camera sites the week after season closed so that we could increase our chances of not getting any shed bucks in the survey.  We just pulled the last cards this past weekend and will have another blog post in the coming weeks detailing out the results of the survey.  But as a teaser, potentially four new bucks will be added to the hit list for 2011, including "Stag".

In addition to running camera surveys, we also shed hunt, which may be my favorite time of the season.  I'm not sure which I enjoy more.....killing a 150 inch buck or find his matched set laying side by side in his bed.  There are many different "tricks of the trade" when it comes to shed hunting, but honestly, it's more luck than anything!  The one piece of advice I give to anyone that asks is to walk, walk some more, and when you think you've covered the entire property, walk it again in the opposite direction.  Unfortunately our stomping grounds are currently covered in 12"+ of white powder.  Hopefully the predicted thaw this weekend will come as planned and we will begin picking up sheds off of potential targets for next season.  But during our final card pull to our camera surveys, I stumbled across a "freshie" that was laying in a deep trail not 20 yards from the camera......oh, if all sheds were this easy!

But this shed is actually off of a new buck that just showed up during our camera survey.  We hope to get a few more pictures of him prior to season, but right now he sure looks like a big, mature DINK! 

When we are fortunate enough to have a white winter, which we currently fighting this season, we also pay close attention to trails, intersections, feeding patterns, creek crossings, fence crossings, etc.  During the bitter cold months, the deer have herded back up and focus their travel patterns between bedding and feeding areas.  And with the help of snow on the ground, the sign is much more concentrated and you can find those primary travel corridors.  But don't just keep your eyes on the ground!  Keep an eye up towards the canopy and look for those perfect trees located in your concentrated areas.  We carry surveying flagging with us while shed hunting to mark trees that we want to take another look at in the summer.  Summer scouting is that much easier when you all ready have an idea of where primary travel corridors are located.