3. Control your dog, or leave it home
You may have trained Rover to ignore deer and elk, but that’s no reason to let your pooch run hogwild through the foothills. If deer and elk can sense a human tiptoeing through the sagebrush a half-mile away, they can definitely sense a bounding Labrador retriever with a jangling collar. And they’re likely to see all canines as predators, so in their eyes, your friendly, harmless dog is no different than a coyote or wolf seeking its next meal.
If shed hunting with your dog, keep it close, under control, and if you see big game animals, head elsewhere.
4. Hunt a place to hunt
Glassing for sheds and wildlife from a hilltop can be a useful tool in a shed hunter’s toolkit. Using a spotting scope or even just binoculars can save a person some time and energy combing the hillsides with their eyes instead of their thighs.
Modern optics can be your friend for shed hunting just like they are when hunting. You can use them to spot shed antlers from a distance, but you can also use them to spot far away herds and know to avoid those areas, at least for the time being. When the animals have moved on, you can return and look for sheds.
Also remember that during winter, the bucks (and by association, their antlers) typically aren’t hanging around the does, which tend to be down at lower elevations. Utilizing optics to find far-off bucks or bulls up at higher elevations can be a good strategy for shed hunters scouting locations where antlers might drop later in the season. For mule deer, that means around December and January, and for bull elk, March and early April.
The main point of this shed hunting story
It’s not complicated. Next time you’re out hiking around or hunting for antlers, if you see wintering wildlife, find another route. Glass the hillsides from the trailhead, or look for recent sign like fresh hoof prints or scat on the ground. Chances are, if you’re seeing does and cows, you’re in the wrong area anyways. Be patient, those higher-elevation sheds will still be there later in the season.
So trust your gut, sharpen those eyes and avoid putting stress on wintering deer and elk.