Shed hunting is a great hobby that gets you close to the thrill of the hunt without all the fuss of getting a hunting license, lugging around a gun, etc.
Plus, most places let you pick up shed antlers outside of deer hunting season, allowing you to extend your adventures.
But where are the best places to find these sheds?
The best place to find shed antlers is where there is a high deer population, low human population, and lots of food for the deer to eat.
In the USA, you’ll have the best success shed hunting from Nevada & Utah to Illinois & Iowa. Virginia and West Virginia are suitable for people in the eastern half of the US. In Canada, people tend to have the most success in northern Alberta.
However, you can find shed antlers anywhere bucks spend their late winter and early spring.
What State Has the Best Shed Hunting?
Shed hunting is a thrilling outdoor activity that requires skill, patience, and knowledge. However, choosing the best state to go shed hunting can be a daunting task due to various factors.
One such factor is the fluctuation in deer populations, which can result in a great shed hunting spot one year being barren the next. Additionally, some states have imposed regulations that limit shed hunting during certain periods, restricting access to prime shed hunting areas.
For instance, Colorado could be one of the top states for shed hunting, but unfortunately, the activity is prohibited on public lands from January 1st to April 30th. However, if you have connections, you can still explore the state’s potential for shed hunting.
Wyoming also has similar regulations but boasts some of the best shed hunting in the US, especially if you can find private land. Here, you can discover a diverse range of antlers, including elk, moose, mule, and whitetail deer sheds.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a state with an abundance of sheds, Nebraska is the place to be. With its vast fields of corn, soy, hay, wheat, oat, and peas, deer thrive and leave behind many antlers for you to find. Coupled with Nebraska’s low human population, you’ll have a higher chance of discovering more antlers.
Choosing the best state for shed hunting can be tricky, but with the right information, you can increase your chances of finding impressive antlers.
Where to Go Shed Hunting in Canada?
The same criteria used to pick out the best shed hunting states in the USA also apply to Canada: You want to visit areas with lots of food and little human activity.
This means that you’ll want to head farther north of the border. Most shed hunters find success in Alberta, especially the northern portion.
The province has a suitable environment for deer and other animals to thrive. Plus, the fish and game departments are relatively permissive when it comes to picking up shed antlers. You can keep and sell them without a permit so long as you didn’t gather the sheds in a protected area.
Northern Saskatchewan and northwest Ontario also have great shed hunting opportunities.
Despite having similar specs, Manitoba is the best place to live, but not visit, if you’re hoping to pick up antlers. That’s because non-residents are prohibited from possessing shed antlers. Manitoba residents don’t have any such restriction, though!
Remember that bringing wildlife parts across the border may not be worth it (or legal) for American tourists.
You’ll have to follow the regulations of your home residence and the location where you’re picking the sheds. Also, you may need to file an expensive wildlife import/export permit if you’re transporting more than a few antlers across the border.
Where Should I Look When Shed Hunting?
An excellent way to understand where you’ll find sheds is to learn where the bucks spend their time.
After all, sheds are antlers that have fallen off of male deer. If a deer doesn’t visit an area, you won’t find any sheds!
This means you’ll want to prioritize areas that provide food, water, safe bedding, and also warmth.
7 Places to Look for Shed Antlers
- The southern-facing sides of hills and clearings are commonly-suggested areas to find sheds for a good reason. It’s often cold out when deer lose their antlers, and these locations attract deer that want to gather as much of the sun’s warmth as possible.
- Also, check out creeks, streams, and even rivers. Deer will visit running water to stay hydrated in winter because other drinking zones are likely to freeze over.
- Deer need food, too, and will travel to find plants that are still green even in winter. These are sometimes called late-season food sources.
If you find such an area, then check around the edge for sheds. Deers prefer to stay at the boundary between food and safety whenever possible.
- As for where deer bed down, you will want to find areas where deer feel safe that are also close to food and water.
- Look in thickets, around evergreens, and in areas where trees and foliage provide protection against sight and wind.
- It’s also a good idea to search along the trails deer travel between these areas. Antlers can get knocked off as the deer travels through areas thick with branches.
- Similarly, fence lines can be a surprisingly effective location to find sheds. That’s because antlers can dislodge when the buck jumps over a fence or lands on the other side.
States to Avoid When Shed Hunting
Now that we’ve discussed the tips on where and how to find shed antlers successfully, let’s take a closer look at some states that may not be the best option for shed hunting.
While deer hunting is prevalent in the Sunshine State, Florida may not be the ideal location for shed hunting due to several factors. In fact, many of these reasons are common throughout most southern states, but particularly apply to Florida.
I’ve already covered the advantage of certain crop types. In a state like Florida, you won’t find nearly as many large corn and soy fields so the deer won’t be as well-fed.
And Florida is full of people.
But it gets worse!
Florida has a climate that is very friendly to deer. The mild winters mean bucks won’t spend as much time on warm southern ridges, so some of the best shed hunting tips won’t help you find shed antlers in the South.
And those warm winters mean that smaller mammals, from squirrels to coyotes, will be more active. This is bad for you because antlers are a great source of calcium and other nutrients. It’s hard to find good sheds when they get all chewed up by other little critters.
The South is also known for its denser foliage, which can make shed hunting much more annoying. Plus, all the extra underbrush will keep the antlers hidden from your view.
It can be quite challenging to find an uncrowded spot for shed hunting in southern states, as there is a limited amount of public land available.
And did I mention that shed hunting in the South can be dangerous? While venomous snakes may be hibernating during shed hunting season up north, they’ll be out and about when you’re tromping through their woods. They’re out even as early as March!
Add in the swamps and alligators, and it’s no wonder shed hunters don’t head to Florida to collect sheds.
The US’s Eastern and New England regions are also poor shed hunting areas because of their dense human populations.
The wild areas of Virginia and West Virginia are the best places to look for sheds if you’re on the East Coast.
The Best Places to Shed Hunt
The best places to find shed antlers are, annoyingly enough, far from most people.
If you’re in the United States, you’ve got a dozen states or so that are great for shed hunting.
And for our neighbors up north, you’ve got some prime locations if you’re willing to venture a bit farther north from the US-Canadian border.
You don’t have to limit yourself to these states to find sheds, though. Bucks will leave their antlers behind anywhere they spend the late winter and early spring.
So, if you have a monster buck in your backyard, that’s a good place to start looking!