Shed Hunting: Finding Antlers The Hard Way
Filed under: Hunting Blog, White-tailed Deer
In my last blog post I outlined my initial plan for shed hunting our property, The Proving Grounds. My initial focus was to resist the call of the easy food plots and the lure of the open hardwoods and search along all the creeks and water sources for deer that succumbed to EHD this past summer.
I have to tell you that looking for the skulls of deer is not as joyful as hunting for the thrown shed antlers. Seeing the antler sticking up is a real rush that quickly is tainted with sadness when you see that it is attached to the skull plate.
The first buck Crystal (my shed hunting Labrador) and I found along the creek bank is one that we called Clover Mountain 10. Upon finding that buck I made my usual call to Grant to let him know I had found an intact set of horns. I felt like I was calling to tell him that one of our friends had died. As I waited for him to join me to evaluate the buck the usual joy from finding a big shed antler was missing.
Over the last three weeks we have found seven bucks that died seeking water as the disease drove them to water sources. These bucks included: Clover Mountain 10, Bean Flipper, 8 Ball, and Last Lick Lefty. In addition to these bucks AJ, our current wildlife student, found a fifth buck – Cave Stickers. Each buck had been appearing on the Reconyx trail cameras over the summer with Adam noting the last known sighting of the bucks. He had hopes that they had simply been avoiding the cameras by spending more time in a different part of their range. With each buck those hopes were dashed along with the anticipation of having one less mature buck to hunt this fall.
Finding the remains of the deer that passed this summer due to EHD is not an easy task (Watch GDTV 142 for more info) They’ve been lying around the creek bottoms long enough for scavengers to eat and spread the bones. Leaves have fallen and covered up the skeletal remains. The bucks get all the glory of being shared on facebook posts and here on the blog while the various scattered bones go undocumented. We have had very little heavy rain to clear the leaves until just this last week. That rain helped to uncover the remains of two of the bucks we found as they were lodged in snags/log jams in the creek.
I have to give Crystal some credit for assisting with the finds. One of the keys to shed hunting with a dog is to know your dog and watch their body language. Although Crystal doesn’t like to retrieve a skull with antlers attached (I believe this is because in her early training I had her retrieve an intact skull/antlers and she hurt herself), she does go to them and stand over the remains which makes me follow to see what she has found.
In the next weeks, we’ll share more of our shed hunting adventures and explain why the antlers on the bucks that died in velvet look and feel different from cast antlers. In the meantime – share your shed hunting success stories and photos with us on our facebook page.
May God bless you with some special shed hunting!
Enjoying Deer together,