I go out antler-shed hunting every spring on public hunting grounds. I'll usually start in late February and then right through May. Once the turkey hunters get out there I try to keep it to mid day. Supposedly what actually causes thier antlers to drop is a drop in thier testosterone levels as the day light hours start to increase in time. This causes some other chemical in thier bodies to start attacking the antler base and errodes it until the antler drops. When the bucks in an area no longer sense any does coming into heat will cause thier testosterone levels to drop. So depending on several different factors, deer densities, hard winters, or even a possible injury can make them drop. As soon as the antler drops it scabs over and the new antlers start to grow, so the earlier they drop the longer they have to grow.
As stated, anywhere they need to jump, ditches, fences, creeks, log piles are good places to look where the deer trails cross. I've found them on private lands in standing and cut corn fields and even alphalfa fields where I've seen deer congregating in spring as the snows melt here near known deer wintering yards. Heavy pine and cedar stands are good places to look where the deer yard up if the snow gets deep.
I started training my Labradoodle to fetch an antler and then hiding it and just telling him to go get the horn. He seems to understand and will go past his ball until he finds the antler. So I am hoping he is going to help find some this year. I found none last year, I blamed it on no snow.
The rodents, squirrels and porcupines around here seem to find them quite quick and will chew them. I have even found one well chewed hanging up in an oak tree.
I just started noticing around here that bucks are dropping thier antlers so I'll need to start getting out there.