With Craig Robbins
This winter has seemed to be the longest and hardest in recent memory. Heck, the last time I can remember this much snow and sub-zero temperatures for weeks on end was when I was a little hunter. The word on the street is most folks are ready for some sunshine.
It is no secret that I am not much of an ice fisherman and it took Tim Thomas, tournament director for the New York State Ice Pro-Am, to get me on Chautauqua Lake earlier this year. Heck, I figured eight inches of ice would hold me and I was right. Not to worry, I am not going out to buy ice-fishing gear.
For those who have been left on land, the snow pack has made it interesting to get into the woods, but last week's meltdown has changed that. With a fresh layer of snow, it should be easier to find.
Generally, I wouldn't be putting trail cameras out until March, but this season I thought it would be interesting to get a jump on my preseason scouting by placing a couple of new cameras out in mid-January. I am not sure what it is, but taking a walk in the woods anytime of the year is a good thing. Also, stretching your legs during mid-winter on a weekly basis is good for the body and one never knows what new adventure is just around the bend.
Another great wintertime activity in the outdoors is shed hunting. Looking for sheds is exciting and challenging, and is a great way to keep a tab on your buck population. Along with the use of trail camera pictures and actual eyeballing, finding sheds is a surefire way to know what bucks have made it through the hunting season and the first part of winter.
Some hunters like to look for specific bucks, and find their sheds each season. I have spoken with many hunters who have found several sheds from the same buck and then were successful in killing that buck. There is something exciting about keeping a timeline of a buck's life through their sheds.
Looking for sheds can also help hunters put together a good plan. Understanding where a buck is living will help you fine-tune your game plan for the coming seasons.
Looking for sheds on field edges, bedding areas and food plots will be your best bet. One of the keys to shed hunting is getting to sheds before Mother Nature and other critters use them for their high-calcium content. Ridge tops and travel trails will be sure stops on your hunt for sheds.
Knowing what to look for while shed hunting is important. Oftentimes sheds will be laying in the thickest stuff you can find and will generally stick out like a sore thumb on the dark-colored woodlot ground. Remember the glimmer of those antlers you saw bouncing through the woods last fall? That's what you are looking for, except for the fact that they aren't moving. Look for anything that looks out of place and you'll find more sheds.
Just remember, while it seems that Mother Nature will never loosen her winter grip, spring is one day closer than it was yesterday.