April 19, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I felt sort of like a bear that has just awakened from hibernation. Mother Nature teased us with a little premature spring, so I did get out and fish one weekend way back when, but for the past few weeks I have been hidden away in my cave, sleeping away this return of winter.

My dormancy finally came to an end this weekend. I knew the major cold front might have an impact on the quality of fishing we were going to witness, but nobody really cared. The wife, myself and the kids were all just happy to be outdoors. It was wonderful to actually be able to feel the warmth of the sun minus the insulation of winter coats and to be able to smell fresh air thanks to finally being healed from the final rash of colds and flu.

All that said – the fishing did leave plenty to desire. We tried one of grandpa’s best ponds but were skunked. With five lines in the water, you would have thought we would have had at least one bite. Of course, with kids ages three, five and seven, their attention spans lasted about as long as those figures, so five lines quickly dropped to four, then three, and finally to two. In their defense, there was just one line in the water after only a short time and finally we all gave up.

But it was too nice a day to just call it quits and head home.

So we turned our attention to the timber. Nothing beats a little exploring. The kids love to wander “in the forest” and mom and dad like to take that time to search for deer sheds.

The first time I told the kids we’re looking for deer sheds, one of them asked why deer needed sheds? They didn’t have bikes or a lawn mower to store away?

That little confusion was cleared up rather quickly as we located the first old antler that a young buck had “shed”.

I am by no means an avid shed hunter. This was a typical outing for me – a day I had exhausted my first choice for an outing, yet found it too nice to go home.

I must admit that I am glad the fish were not biting. We had a ball looking for the deer horns. It was a successful outing, so I’ll agree that played into the outing qualifying as a top day. But more importantly we were all together and we all had fun. (It doesn’t hurt to top it all off with the fact that we walked so much that all three kids were exhausted and went right to bed without a fight.)

I should have known it was going to be a positive outing. We planned to start our walk on the backside of the big draw, back where the remains of a big buck had been found last fall during bird season.

Over the past two years, there had been three hunters that had reported hitting a big deer with a rifle shot or an arrow, only to never be able to find the downed deer. After the two other hunters reviewed the rack and said it was not theirs, I began to believe that it was possibly my deer that I had arrowed two falls before.

When the rack was discovered, it was obvious it had been there at least one winter, as it was completely clean, bleached white with plenty of wear and tear from gnawing mice and squirrels.

But a talk with the taxidermist fueled my desire to learn if this really was my deer. He told me the rack could be restored and mounted. Now I am in need of just such a fix, as my wife has recently put me to shame with her deer trophies.

So, long story short, we went back to check for an arrow in or near the bones. (None was found but I think I’ll still claim the 150-160 class rack as my own).

But before we could even get back to the spot, I had spotted the first shed of the day, gleaming in the sun on the hillside as we drove by.

That was a sign of things to come. Trust me, we walked a lot that afternoon, but the truck driving proved far more productive. We found the remains of an eight-point buck that had been down for a year or two, but the girls quickly ruled that out as a “shed”, despite the fact that the skull still had one antler intact.

So they were a bit disillusioned by all that walking without any luck. We did nothing to fuel any desire for more hiking, as we proceeded to locate not one, but two additional antlers while driving back toward the farm.

We did find one last shed while walking at our second stop. However, I suspect the next time we plan a shed hunt, the girls will be loading up their toys, etc. for an afternoon drive rather than a stroll.

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