March 3, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

What a boring SundayÖ There were no sports on television. Itís still too early for me to make my first desperation fishing outing or to break out the golf clubs before spring arrives for real. I donít hunt coyotes, and didnít shed a tear when rabbit and squirrel season closed in the middle of February.

So whatís a guy to do with himself. The weather, while not prefect by any means, sure is making it tough to stay indoors and read a book.

Last year I was accidentally introduced to shed hunting. No, I wasnít looking for a storage building, although it might not be a bad idea since my garage is so full itís hard to find the necessary parking space. Iím talking about deer antlers that have been shed by bucks as they drop their old racks in preparation for the new and improved versions that will be tantalizing us hunters come this fall.

Leave it to me to be suckered into another hobby, but what can I say? It didnít hurt that my introduction to the sport revolved around a massive pair of antlers that fell, nearly side by side sometime last spring in a cut bean field adjacent to one of my favorite fishing holes. Sure, it was pure luck that I spotted the sheds as I was driving back to the house. Granted this story probably makes the purists cringe, but thatís what it took to get me started.

Just like my first turkey hunting experience, when I bagged a huge gobbler right off the roost, I soon learned that itís never that easy again. Shed hunting definitely has its share of shutouts. Of course, one can take some consolation in receiving a healthy workout and knowing that time spent outdoors in nature is never wasted.

As I was preparing to make my first outing of 2005, the rain started in. So I decided to hone my skills from right here at home. I got online and did some research on shed hunting, seeking out skills from the experts, or at least the ones that shared their thoughts about the sport along with plenty of photos of their success stories.

Well since Iím related to the Wicked Witch of the West and was afraid I would melt in the rain, I donít have any success stories to share with you. But Iíll do the next best thing, and bestow my newfound wisdom on readers that also may be seeking to improve their shed-hunting skills.

Unfortunately there doesnít seem to be any canít miss clues. Everyone uses different techniques, goes at opposite times, and looks in varying locations.

Some say to stick to deer trails, while others prefer fence lines and waterway crossings where they believe bucks jumping to cross the blockages will jar their falling headgear and speed up the shedding process. Many have success finding bedding areas, normally in some type of cover, which will aid in knocking off the horns as the bucks enter and leave their dormitory.

One guy says to cover as much ground as possible while someone else urges you to take your time in smaller areas so that you donít miss anything.

January marks the start of shed hunting for many. Then there are those like me that truly donít get fired up until March and ultimately do most of our looking in April after failed spring turkey or mushroom hunts.

Maybe thatís what makes shed hunting so popular. There is no right or wrong way to search for the fallen antlers. Itís good exercise that can easily be incorporated to family time if you take your kids with you, or chore time if you consolidate your trips with walking your dog (canines are proven assets in the shed finding and retrieving field.) Regardless of your techniques and even if you donít experience eye-popping results thereís really no way to go wrong with shed hunting.

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