March 10, 2023
By Josh Honeycutt
For those who have timed the antler drop, and the moment is at hand, it’s time to go afield. And the shed hunters who aren’t using apps and maps to find more sheds are most certainly missing out.
Naturally, deer hunters have been using maps for decades. These are valuable tools that allow hunters to see their hunting grounds from a large, overhead perspective. Aerial, topography, hybrid, hydro, soil and many other map types offer excellent methods for analyzing different aspects of a property.
Fortunately, modern apps do the same, and more. These hold the power of many different map types in one device. Furthermore, these include many other tools that are useful to shed hunters.
Hunting apps are excellent for identifying solar cover, which comes in the form of southern-facing slopes that deer bed on in winter. These are also great for pinpointing thermal cover, which is a dense stand of conifers (cedars, pines, spruce, etc.) that deer use to shield themselves from the elements, as well. Apps also help to locate other bedding and staging areas that are good spots to consider, including CRP fields, grassy areas, fingers of timber, etc.
Food sources are vital to deer year-round, but the scarcity of it during winter makes certain areas key locations to find sheds. Some of these include standing crop fields, cut crops with waste grain, pockets of remaining hard mast, concentrations of woody browse and more.
One of the most overlooked aspects of a good hunting app is spotting secluded and isolated water sources. If relatively scarce, small water holes located close to bedding cover can draw a lot of deer, and they can serve as focal points for dropped antlers.
In addition to bedding areas, food sources and water sources, crossings are important areas to search for sheds as well. These too can oftentimes be identified on a hunting app. Some to focus on include creek, ditch, fence and river crossings.
Furthermore, don’t forget about general trails. In late winter, when energy preservation is of utmost importance, deer commonly take the most direct routes, and use straight, heavy trails to minimize energy burn. Naturally, apps can sometimes identify these, especially in grasslands and some early successional habitat.
Once shed hunting in the field, grid-off the property into sections. Then, turn on the tracking feature to record where you’ve been. Zig zag back and forth until the entire area is covered. Periodically monitoring this can show overlooked spots, or areas with too much spacing between passes. This can be the difference in finding sheds or not.
The tracking feature also shows distance traveled. This helps keep up with how much ground has been covered. Then, drop relevant pins and share waypoints as needed. If you ever get stuck in an area with minimal to no cell service, merely turn on the offline map versions that you saved for the area before the shed hunt began.
Hunting apps and physical maps can serve as great tools for shed hunters. Shed hunters who use these to their advantage can find more and bigger sheds. It’s all about increasing efficiency, and this is an excellent way to accomplish that.