With the “greenup” quickly approaching, now is the time to get boots on the ground if you haven’t done so already. If you have been putting in your due diligence and have yet to score be it anything sizeable or maybe sheds from a particular buck, take a step back for a moment or two and strategize. With limited time, we really must focus on the highest percentage areas, how we’ve been searching, and then broaden our search strategically. Here are some tips that will hopefully have you bringing home more than just blisters.
First and foremost, get a mapping app! Key features to look for are tracking capabilities, multiple map layers, means of measuring distances, and the ability to drop custom pins with descriptions for future referencing. Hands down the best free app I’ve found is Alpine Quest. Unfortunately this is not IOS compatible but I’m sure there are other great apps out there for non-Android users. So why do you need an app you ask? First, you can save your “track” as a .kml file and upload it to Google Maps. This of course allows computer based edits as well as the ability to toggle between terrain and aerial views. Here you can see areas that you may have skirted and need to visit again. As mentioned earlier, the ability to drop pins such as “heavy trail” or “possible stand site” comes in handy. More so now than ever- In a few weeks the woods will look entirely different and you could be asking yourself months later if an area would be open enough for a rifle set or if you’d be able to see to the bottom of the ridge or across it, etc etc. Lastly, you can measure the distance of your current position to a previous part of your track. This really helps if you manage to get sidetracked (bad joke I know). Seriously though, if you are in a hot spot working in a grid pattern you may want to keep up with how far your last zig was before you zag over somewhere and miss the antler that was right where it was supposed to be. Depending on visibility and terrain, my typical track could be anywhere from 10-30 yards apart but could be up to 100 yards or more. Bottom line, an app takes the guess work out of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.
How have you been searching? Some folks will walk their property in a grid pattern. I say do whatever works best for you, however in our case with 4200 acres, walking every inch of ground is not feasible. Furthermore, the topography in our area dictates much of the deer movement so why spend 80 percent of time where deer rarely travel? Just like the buck whose headgear I’m after, I will follow the contours and work across the hillsides focusing on heavier trails and any and all benches where typically beds can be found. These ever so slight benches, especially on southern slopes are notorious for having more than just leaves on the ground. Of course there are the food sources, creek crossings, and low places in fences to check but I pay particular attention to bedding areas. You can learn a lot by deer bedding habits such as what makes them feel safe and where it lies. Is it a thicket or perhaps a good view of the valley with ideal prevailing winds to bust you walking to your stand every time? This information is paramount to success in the fall and should be appropriately logged on your new app.
Staying focused is vital to finding sheds as you must dissect every nuance of the landscape. In doing so, bring a light pair of lesser magnification binos with you. I always like to hop up on a fallen log and get a higher perspective whenever possible. Moreover, after walking 50-75 yards swivel your head around and scan. Sure you just covered that ground but sometimes a slight change in perspective will have you smiling ear to ear. Whether you’re strolling through corn fields, creek bottoms, or hillsides just remember the amount of ground covered is irrelevant. I’d rather log five solid miles on two ridges and know I picked it cleaner than a Thanksgiving day turkey than to go twice that far walking haphazardly with the land not having my full attention.
Lastly, do not lose hope and do not forget the big picture. Shed hunting should be enjoyed, though it is easier when your pack is loaded with bone. I’ve been skunked more times than I’d like to admit, however those same days have been some of the most blessed and rewarding. Take two weeks ago for instance. While cresting a ridge top with my german shorthair something white had caught my eye. Upon a closer inspection, we had uncovered a balloon with a note affixed with faded letters #wemissdeki. After typing the hashtag into Instagram, I found the person who released the balloon a week prior in Texas. The balloons were released over 1000 miles away in lieu of her best friend's one year memorial. I had made her day along with many,many more people she said. How incredible it was to be a part of something much larger, unbeknownst to me at the time. The list of reasons to thank social media is relatively limited, however this recent occurrence tops my list.
Be safe and get after some bone! God bless.