first shed 2 jon massPick up a deer trail and follow it for 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 swamp where deer hunker out of a northwest wind.

Last hunting season if you were smart, you would have stopped, tested the wind and worked the outer fringes of such a sanctuary so as not to spook deer. But now, plow right in.

Montana artist and shed-hunting fanatic Dick Idol told me one time that he finds 60 percent of his sheds in and around thick covers where mature bucks hide in late winter. So dive in, go slow and look close.

While you’re in there, analyze all the rub/scrape lines and trails you’re apt to find. Get an idea of the easiest and best-hidden routes a mature buck would use to enter and exit the cover according to various winds. That info will help immensely when you come back to hunt the area next fall.

If you find a good-sized shed in and around a thick cover for several years in a row you know within a few acres where at least one good buck and probably a couple of big ones bed in the winter, and perhaps earlier in the rut or late season as well. Hang a tree stand along a trail that leads out to a nearby food source and good chance you’ll get a shot at a big deer there next fall.