It is time to hunt for shed deer antlers.
Beginning in late December and continuing through April, white-tailed and mule deer shed their antlers for regrowth purposes in Nebraska. Many deer drop their antlers in February and March.
If you are new to antler hunting, it is a simple outdoor pursuit. You need to have permission from landowners to go on their properties, a partner (for safety), a smartphone or iPhone (for map apps and GPS), the proper clothing, binoculars and a 5-gallon bucket.
Searching for antlers develops and hones skills for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. After a few trips, you gain an understanding of particular areas. You learn the use of habitat by wildlife, and the patterns of deer and other wild animals related to weather.
Here are some specific tips on where and when to find shed deer antlers.
* Look for fresh deer sign in the forms of tracks, droppings and beds, which are obvious indicators that you may be near some shed antlers. Fresh deer tracks are most evident in snow and mud. Deer are grouped this time of year, so signs should be easy to spot.
* Ovals in grass or snow denote deer beds. They may offer rewards for shed hunters because of the increased likelihood of finding matched sets of antlers, as well as small shed antlers.
* Seek areas where deer concentrate to feed in winter. Often, a cornfield that has not been tilled and has dense woodland cover nearby will draw all the deer while other fields are left untouched.
* Do not overlook primary deer trails leading into or out of bedding areas. Trails along south-facing slopes with mature hardwood trees, conifers or plum thickets nearby that have lower-hanging branches are always productive.
* When snow covers the ground, train your eyes for colors and shapes, like a tine sticking up out of the snow or the curve of a main beam.
* Any spot where a buck has to jump a fence, creek, ditch or large log is a good place to search for shed antlers.
* Hang trail cameras around feeding areas such as agricultural fields, or along the main trails leading to and from those feeding areas. Once the bucks in your images become antlerless, it will be time to start searching for sheds.
* Rainy days are optimal for seeking sheds because the antlers can shine and catch your eye. A good pair of binoculars can also be a great aid in locating shed antlers at a distance.
* Kids should also be included in shed hunts. They are lower to the ground and are more likely to see sheds before adults do.