Jon Kocan

Jon Kocan

Not all hunting seasons are listed in the local hunting regulations. Before you get your sights on spring turkeys, keep in mind local bucks are willing to give you their antlers.

With most hunting seasons all but over it’s time to look forward to the spring hunting to come. Many immediately think of strutting turkeys in the first green fields or morel mushrooms growing near a wooded creek.

The fact is turkey season is less than two months away but hunting for antlers is catching a second wind. No license is required, just a good pair of boots and a few hours to hike the woods.

The buck you hunted all fall but were not able to harvest is going to give you his antlers. He’s just going to drop them on the ground and all you have to do is walk around until you find them. The catch is, you can’t wait around all spring or these antlers could disappear forever.

I like to consider that last days of February and the month of March as shed antler season. I use the time to hike and take out any remaining frustration from last fall shed hunting. If things work out, I still at least accomplish the goal of holding them in my hands regardless of harvesting the buck.

The weeks to come are my favorite time to hike. This comes from not only the chance to find antlers, but also the chance to find the local habitat welcoming in thick places. The woods are stripped back and accessible in late winter. The jungle of a typical creek bottom can be navigated. The canopy of the forest is open and local critters have few places to hide.

Although recently shed antlers have nowhere to hide, they can be difficult to find. It takes covering a lot of different terrain to properly explore the local habitat and locate a few.

It’s also best to give hiking your best areas a few weeks. Most mature bucks will not shed their antlers until early March. Trail cameras can help to figure out when it’s to start hiking, but Mother Nature will tell you when shed hunting is over.

The further that spring progresses the more ticks will appear like the new growth that will begin to cover up the world around use. Until then there’s a window of time and the event of antlers being discarded that makes it a special time in the woods.

Aside from picking up antlers, it’s also one of the few times that it’s okay to intrude into sanctuary areas and places you otherwise wouldn’t step foot in during hunting season. It’s simply not a big issue to tromp around in bedding areas or other places deer inhabit.

Each year I find new rubs, new scrapes and discover new ways that deer choose to use the world around them. For the first time in months, I step right into their living room and snoop around.

The antlers that capture hunter’s attention all fall are about to discarded. Taking the time to hunt them down could bring new insight into your deer hunting, and also a few antlers that slipped away last fall.

Don’t forget

The finals days remain to take advantage of hunting before remaining seasons close. Both Canada goose and quail hunting will close Feb. 15.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at