5 Massive Deadhead Bucks

Some shed hunters that roam the woods from now till early spring will find “deadheads,” or the skulls and antlers of bucks that died months earlier. A deadhead might have perished of any number of causes: hit by a car, lost by a bowhunter the previous season, winterkill, predators or natural causes.

Most deadhead finds are small to medium-size, but each year a few people stumble upon massive skulls, like these 5.

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This first picture popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday and is the first mega-deadhead of the 2019 shed season. It was found in southwest Ohio.

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The top skull of 2018 also showed up on Twitter last winter. @Tylerknott4 posted:Never know what you will find in the woods of Iowa! Found this giant shed hunting. Gross scored 205.

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I never got many details about the 190-class double-drop skull that was found in 2016, but what a monster!

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In early 2014, a hunter named Drew sent this picture of a tremendous buck he had been hunting for 3 years. “A truly remarkable animal that we called Moose,” Drew wrote. “Unfortunately, Moose died due to another bowhunter’s mistake (not mine) and we recovered his body and antlers this spring. Drew says the rack was scored at 252 1/8″ and that “was after squirrels had chewed off 20 inches during the winter.” Scorers think it might have been the 6th overall biggest buck to be harvested by any means in Ohio.

KS 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2011 some guys were bird hunting in southeastern Kansas and came upon a mud pit, where they saw just a little piece of the left beam sticking up in the mud. After a closer look they realized it was a whole deer buried in the pit.

They dug out the skull and it was in good shape; they figured the mud had protected the rack from the weather and animals. They rough-scored it at 164 gross with only a 10” inside spread…6 points on the right beam, 9 on the left and the spike in the middle with a fork on it!

Remember if you stumble across a skull and antlers (any size) this spring and want to take it home, chances are you’ll need to get a salvage permit.

Good hunting!

Ultimate Guide To Hunting Shed Antlers

shedsGoogle shed hunting and up pops more than 1 million links to a mind-bogging array of antler info. There are shed-hunting clubs, a shed-antler record book and Facebook pages. Tens of thousands of articles and blogs have been published and posted on how and where to hunt for antlers. Television shows on antler hunting air on Sportsman Channel each year. I produced a shed episode for Big Deer TV a few years ago and it was one of the most popular shows of the year.

There is a good chance you are at least a semi-obsessed antler hunter, or that you will get into it very soon. Either way, here’s stuff you need to know.

When to Shed Hunt

When your hunting season ends in December or January, there is no rest for the weary. The second season of antler hunting commences immediately as the bone starts plunking off the bucks’ heads.

“Bucks lose their antlers anywhere from late December to March, and it’s primarily because of the increasing daylight hours in late winter and spring,” says Missouri biologist Grant Woods. “Inside that window, the health of bucks in an individual herd dictates when the antlers will drop. Grant says bucks that were malnourished, overly stressed or perhaps injured the previous fall will shed their antlers weeks earlier than healthy bucks that lived on private land with nutritious feed in fall and winter.

Monitor the bucks in your area as best as you can. From late December on, keep your trail cameras running at bait sites (if that is legal in your state). At the very least ride around and glass deer that feed in fields. The day you see bucks with one antler or, better yet, none, start looking.

Where and How to Find Sheds

Most people naturally look for antlers in the same areas where they hunt bucks in the fall. You might find some bone in those places, but you might not.

As a general rule, from January through March, 90 percent of the whitetails are congregated in 10% of the habitat that has the best available food sources. This is where you need to hunt.

“I find very few sheds in the same area I hunt, it’s just not the place where the deer spend the winter,” says South Dakota shed fanatic Kelly Kirsch, who picks up more than 100 antlers each year. “You need to branch out and find where the deer yard up and feed this time of year, what type of crops they are on. Out here winter wheat is great.”

Other prime food sources are standing soybeans, or a late-cut bean field with some pods still on the ground; alfalfa and clover; scrubby fields with green shrubs, berries and locust trees with pods. Standing corn is great anywhere, and corn stubble is good.

While feed is the number one place to look brushy, wooded staging areas within 100 yards or so of the beans or corn is a close second. From there, branch out a bit and look in winter bedding areas. Montana shed-hunting fanatic Dick Idol told me he finds 50 percent of his biggest sheds in thick covers where mature bucks hide in winter, and along trails that link those sanctuaries with nearby feed fields.

Now that you know where to look, and having gained permission to shed hunt as many of those fields and covers as you can, get out there and go. The best shed hunters cover 10, 15, up to 20 miles per day. Great exercise! Wear your best, comfortable hiking boots and carry plenty of water.

As you walk look close, real close. “Many people look right over sheds,” notes whitetail expert Terry Drury. “They look too far out in front of where they’re walking. Take it slow and look straight down at the ground, scan every square foot. Sometimes you’ll spot a whole antler, or maybe just a tine sticking up. Some sheds are white, others are brown and blend into the grass and leaves. You’ve got to look close.”

Go when you can, but consider that antlers are easiest to spot on an overcast day. If there’s light rain, great, bone will shine.  Antlers are hardest to pick out in full, harsh sunshine.

A few more tricks to up your shed count:

  • Pick up a deer trail that wends from a feed field and follow it a half-mile or more, until you come to a thick and obvious bedding area. In late winter that might be a brushy southern exposure that gets midday sunlight, or the east side of a grassy ridge or knoll where deer hunker out of a bitter northwest wind. You’ll find some bone in either type thicket, or along the trail that leads to and from it.
  • If you find a good number of sheds in a spot one year, you will probably find more there the next year if crops in the area remain the same.
  • Mark every spot where you find a big bone on a map and in your notes, and check those places first next winter, before another shed hunter beats you to it.

 

Why Some Bucks Shed Antlers Early

SD shed 1I am hearing reports of bucks shedding their antlers early this year. What causes this?

QDMA biologist Kip Adams points to a couple of things. “Nutrition is important, as bucks in good physical condition generally retain their antlers longer than those who are nutritionally stressed,” he says. “Widespread early antler casting (in your area) may signify a nutritionally stressed herd resulting from too many deer for what the habitat can support.”

Kip says that in northern states, mature bucks typically shed their antlers earlier than younger, smaller deer. “(Older) bucks skip many meals during the breeding season, and those that rut hard may be in poor post-rut condition… even when abundant forage is available for deer. These bucks are choice candidates for early antler casting.”

 

Late Spring Shed Hunting

iowa shedTyler Knott of Iowa is still shed hunting, and he just found this 72 6/8” left side.

The late spring of 2018 has the woods still brown and open, with “green up” still a good week or two away. Conditions are great for one last day or two of shed hunting in an around bedding areas.

Hit the woods, find a deer trail and follow it until you come to a thick and obvious area where deer stage and/or bed. Back in the fall hunting season you would have stopped, tested the wind and worked the outer fringes of such a sanctuary so as not to spook any deer. But now, plow right in.

Go slow and look close for brown or white bones. If you hit 3 or 4 good bedding sites one day this week, I bet you’ll find one or 2, and maybe a big one.

While you’re at it, note the rub lines, old scrapes and trails you’ll probably find in and around the cover. Get an idea of the easiest and best-hidden routes a mature buck uses to enter and exit the cover according to various winds. That intel will help when you come back to hunt the area this fall.

Potential State Record Mule Deer Sheds!

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My friend Ricardo, a New Mexico hunting outfitter who specializes in limited-entry archery hunts for giant mule deer, found this antler on public land. Look at the size and deepness of the front and back forks–that is what you look for on a trophy mule buck.

The shed taped out a tad over 96 inches. “If you double the antler score for the other side and give him a 30-inch spread the buck would score 223 4/8, potential state record! I’ll keep looking for the other side.”

Picture below is last year’s shed off the same buck. “He put on a lot (tine length and mass) this year, but lost the extra point,” Ricardo says.

Deadline to apply for the New Mexico mule deer and elk draw is March 21.

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