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Shed Hunting
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  Shed Hunting
I?ve come across the growing off-season sport of ?shed hunting? more and more often as I surf the web and research.  What exactly is shed hunting?  How do you go about it? Why would anyone be interested in ?shed hunting? and does it offer any benefits?
To find out more about shed hunting, I researched the internet for information and insight.  Thus, much of the below information is not my creation and I can?t claim any ownership to it.  I have tried to ?trim the fat? of some articles, blog entries, forum posts, and other random pages of web sites that discuss shed hunting in order to present a clear description of shed hunting.   Though, maybe you already know a good deal about it!  If so, share your knowledge to this entry.
Shed Hunting ? The Definition
I first traveled to Wikipedia to see their definition of shed hunting.  I came across two words in Wikipedia?s definition that I was unfamiliar with? ?ungulate? and ?clinting?.  Ungulate meaning several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving? and ?clinting? being a synonym for shed hunting.
Wikipedia?s Definition: 
Shed Hunting - also known as ?bone picking?, is the act of pursuing and gathering antlers that have been shed from an antler carrying ungulate. The middle of December to the middle of February is considered shed hunting season; when deer, elk, and other antlered animals begin to shed. Heavy snow fall during this time can make clinting (shed hunting) very difficult. In Canada shed hunting usually occurs after the snow melts. Sheds often accumulate in one area, and these areas are often kept secret by those who hunt there.
We all know that every year male adult deer shed their antlers.  The antlers are shed after the breeding season at the time when testosterone levels drop very low.  These antlers grow back in the spring time and are often referred to as being ?in the velvet? when they are in the initial process of growing again.  Most often, antlers come back larger every year.   Simply put, shed hunting is the sport of going out and finding these recently shed antlers.  Guided shed hunts are also growing in popularity in some parts.
The Time Frame
Though Wikipedia?s definition indicates that shed hunting takes place in the middle of December to the middle of February, I also found other articles stating that shed hunting is done from March to April.  I?m not exactly sure of a precise time frame for shed hunting in South Carolina, but I feel like it would be some time around February to March.  In many areas of the country, large amounts of snowfall can make shed hunting very difficult.  South Carolina doesn?t get that much snow so it doesn?t pose too big of a roadblock for shed hunting.  Respond to this blog entry if you have any information on an accurate time period for shed hunting in South Carolina.
With hunters taking a more active role in managing their game, naturally shed hunting lends itself to being one of the many off season activities of deer hunters.   Shed hunting can offer insight into the type of bucks working your area and is a productive way to determine the best areas to hunt the next fall.  By ?getting in the woods? in the off season, hunters may gain valuable knowledge about the areas they hunt as visibility is increased and as farmers, loggers, and Mother Nature often change the lay of the land.  For many, shed hunting is an enjoyable off-season, outdoor sport that doesn?t require a license or a gun.
  • Small critters of all types love to gnaw on the sheds for the mineral content.  If you live in a harsh winter climate, your search will probably begin after the last snow melts, but don't wait too long after that or there will be nothing left. 
  • Look for sheds along heavy trails, and especially at places where a buck might have to make a jump or be crammed into a tight place -- fence crossings and pine thickets are good choices.
  • While you're looking for sheds, also take careful note of the deer trails, bedding areas and possible ambush points. You should be able to access places that were just too thick during the hunting season.  Finding where the deer are bedding in the off-season can help you plan your hunting strategy for next year. 
  • You don?t need help to find antlers that are lying right out in the open. However, when the antlers are hidden in brush or buried in grass, a dog?s sense of smell may be the only hope of finding them.
Dogs & Shed Hunting
Hoot may be glad to know that dogs can be trained to find shed antlers as this may give him another chance to get in the woods with some of his dogs!  I read many articles where individuals wrote about training their dogs to hunt sheds and it?s clear that dogs can be trained to find sheds and that the people who shed hunt with dogs are passionate about it.  For some, shed hunting with dogs has become a family tradition.  Most commonly sheds found by dogs are in areas that are difficult for humans to find them.  
If you are interested in shed hunting with dogs, I found a web site called ?Antler Dogs? that has a lot of information about shed hunting with dogs on it.  Antler Dogs is based out of Missouri.  I also read an article by a guy named Roger Sigler from Antler Dogs who is very passionate about this sport.  Roger has a motto ?If your shed hunting without a dog, you?re just going for a walk in the woods?.   In the article Roger also quoted ?I am always happy to talk with anyone interested in purchasing a dog or anyone that has questions about training their own dog. You may call me, Roger Sigler at 1-816-289-1154, or visit my web site at www.antlerdogs.com.?
In the off-season, deer hunters face a few long and seemingly boring months until the end of winter (unless you?re planning a wedding).  Instead of sitting around the house, consider going shed hunting. 
Links where I found information on shed hunting:

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