Shed antler hunting throughout Sunset country

When it comes to outdoor activities we have available across Northwest Ontario we really are fortunate. When I talk hunting with my friends in the U.S. it quickly becomes apparent that if you don’t own or have permission to a bunch land to hunt, it’s tough to find a place to go. With all of our “Crown land”, we have plenty of real estate available to go hunting, hiking or shed hunting – the act of going on a hike in the woods to search for dropped antlers from deer or moose.
Years ago when our deer numbers across the district were at an all-time high, hunting for shed antlers was one of my favourite activities. There are several appealing aspects of hitting the hills and looking for these antlers, the first being that it is great exercise. Whether you go for an hour or a whole day, hiking around on our landscape is a good workout. Finding an antler is like finding a treasure out in the woods. No two antlers are the same so it’s always a rush when you find one.
Finally, you get to experience natural wilderness first hand, catch some great views and maybe spot some wildlife. I was lucky on an outing earlier this week to walk up on a cow moose, which was exciting. If you are a hunter it’s a great time to learn more about the areas that you hunt. If you walk and scout around this time of year all of the deer sign from last fall is still visible so I usually try to spend some of my time shed hunting around the areas that I hunt.
My wife Shelby and I took our first shed hunting trip together last week and we had a great time. We picked a nice afternoon and spent about three hours in the woods, looking over a ridge that I had good luck on about ten years ago. We didn’t find a bunch of antlers but it was one of my favourite moments in a long time when I heard Shelby yelling that she had found her first shed antler, then a few seconds later, more yelling that she had found a pair. Both antlers where along a well used deer trail on the south facing side of a tall ridge.
Shelby was excited with her find and I was proud that she found the nice set. She wants to go again so that makes me happy. It’s a good activity to get us out of the house over the next few weeks to get some exercise and we don’t have to go far from home. I used to spend quite a bit of time shed hunting in the spring and have even guided dozens of people on shed hunting trips over the years. Over the past few years I haven’t been able to get out there as much because my fishing tournament schedule through April and early May is usually busy. I actually had a group of shed hunters from Iowa scheduled to be here this week but with our current situation we decided to try again next year.
Most of the sheds I find are on the south side of the biggest ridges I can find. The more remote the ridge the better because they don’t see as much action from other walkers. These sun facing sides of the hills are where a lot of our deer spend much of their winter. The hills are sun baked so they get warmer on cold days and they are protected from some of the big snow storms that are usually pushed by a north wind so there is less snow for the deer to fight with.
Keep your eyes peeled for places where a deer might bed down and have a rest, that’s where they drop most of their antlers. As you’re walking around, try to get on a natural game trail and you have a good shot at running into one.
After you find a few sheds you’ll get an eye for spotting them and you’ll gather more confidence for where to look.
Stay safe everybody.