SHED HUNTING


A GUIDE TO FINDING WHITE-TAILED DEER ANTLERS

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Easter Basket

April 24, 2011

My family had our Easter celebration a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to get everyone together. So today I really didn’t have much to do. I took a little walk today in a spot I usually check about once a year. Don’t usually have much luck there. It always looks good, but I don’t think many deer use it in the winter. No matter, it was a beautiful day. I was overdressed with my sweatshirt and spent most of the day topless. Quite a change. It’s been a long, cold spring, but hey, it’s prolonging my shed season! And only 3 ticks so far this year! I had just gotten off the phone with my Mom. I was leaving one pocket and heading for another when I saw something like I’ve never seen before. I was probably 20 yards away, in the woods. I saw this broad thing with what looked like tines. It HAD to be an antler. There was nothing else that remotely resembled this anywhere. The only other possibility was maybe some type of broad leaf, but this was way too big. I started walking closer, trying to tell myself that this was the real deal! But I knew right away it was an antler unlike any I’d ever found. Sure enough, it was a deer skull. A tree had actually fallen over it, right between the antlers. The skeleton was there (I need to go see if the jaw bone is there!) Looks to be a couple years old. I’d been in there last winter and probably missed it by 50 yards or less, but I’m guessing it was buried. Meant to go back last spring and never did. Wish I would have, but it’s in really good shape. Some of the tips are chewed, but not bad. The mass is incredible. The tentative plan for today was to go looking for moose antlers. I’m going tomorrow instead. I’ll be happy to find something this palmated tomorrow! One of those racks you’ve just got to see to believe! The mass measurement on the left side between the G2 and G3 is over 10 inches! Truly a rare find. I showed my friend Aaron. Not a lot of knowledge of this deer, but a trail cam photo has now surfaced, but it’s not from the same year. Truly an amazing animal. And one that has never seen a cornfield or a food plot. Oh, and by the way, 5 minutes later, I found a spike shed. Sweet day!

Mass measures more than 10 inches between the G2 and G3!

Mass measures more than 10 inches between the G2 and G3!

 

Right side is a little funky. The left is pretty normal, just palmated.

Right side is a little funky. The left is pretty normal, just palmated.


Grid and Bear it!

April 22, 2011

Hate is a strong word, but I hate grid searching! But sometimes there’s a reason to do it. In one of my most recent postings I mentioned that I found 12 antlers in one day a couple weeks ago. I ventured back to that spot this week. When you find 12 antlers, with no matches, odds are there have got to be more! I had some additional incentive. I found two sheds off a deer I’m calling Ugly Buck, but they were consecutive years, opposite sides. Same goes for another 10-pointer we’ll call Short and Stout. I really wanted some matches off these guys especially. Last time I was there, there was still some snow on the ground in some areas. I hoped that they were simply under the snow and that’s why I missed them. I began gridding the areas that previously held snow. It was all gone now. I was taking about a 10-foot swath through the brush. Really painstaking. Not fun. But the potential rewards were worth it. In an afternoon, I came up with 4 sheds. 1 was in a fringe area I hadn’t searched before, 2 would have been buried in snow and one I just plain missed. In fact, this one was so low to the ground, I almost stepped on it this time too! The first two sheds were totally new bucks to me. The third one, however, got me excited! I was looking to my left on one of the passes because the sun was in my eyes. On the next pass, it was lying there on the ground larger than life! Don’t know how I missed it on the previous pass. Even from a distance, I knew it was the match to Short and Stout. That means I found 3 antlers off that buck this month. The set is from this year and I also have one of his sheds from last year. That was exciting! But I REALLY wanted to find the match to Ugly Buck. His right side from last year was one of the first sheds I found in this spot this year. It would have had 7 points, but he’d broken off 3 of them. I think this guy likes to fight! As I was leaving that first day, I found his left side from this year, less than 200 yards from his shed from last year. I knew I was in the right spot. If his right side has 7 points again this year, and if he didn’t break them off, he’d be about 70 inches. I kept gridding the area and almost stepped on another shed! This one is old and fairly small. I wasn’t too excited about it. It wasn’t what I was looking for. It was old. It was small. It had chews. I picked it up and didn’t think much of it. A few seconds later, I noticed it had a little sticker at the base. I did a double take! “Let’s see that base!” I thought. (Ugly buck has 3 to 4 stickers at the base and a unique base shape). You’ve seen in cartoons how someone’s jaw drops when they are surprised. My mouth literally popped open when I saw the base! This was a shed off of Ugly Buck from 2 years ago! I now had 3 sheds off this guy and STILL no matches! He obviously spends a lot of time in this spot. Why oh why can’t he drop his antlers together??? I went home with just those four. The next day I went to a different spot and blanked, then came crawling back to this spot for more grid searching. Got one more real old shed from a buck I can’t identify. I now have 6 antlers off of 2 bucks in one season. That’s pretty sweet. But I would love to find some more matches!

3 sheds from Ugly Buck, all found this month. No matches!

3 sheds from Ugly Buck, all found this month. No matches!

 

3 sheds off Short and Stout, all found this month. The set is fresh.

3 sheds off Short and Stout, all found this month. The set is fresh.


World Record Muley Shed

April 18, 2011

Check out the photo gallery for the story of a giant mule deer that lived right in town in Colorado Springs. As you scroll through the pictures, you get snippets of the story to the right. An amazing deer! A lot of shed hunters were after this buck!

http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/gallery/hunting/2011/04/huge-mule-deer-record-goliath-sheds-found?photo=0#node-1001444262


Career Day!

April 10, 2011

My best one-day shed total came in 2006 when I pulled 20 in one day at Bentley Coben’s in Saskatchewan. I’ve had numerous days in the teens in the western states, but in the big woods near home where I do most of my shed hunting, I call it a good day if I come home with one. Monday my friend Aaron and I were discussing some of our shed goals. He wants to find 7 in one day around home. My best on my stomping grounds is 5 sheds and a dead 8-pointer. I told him 7 would take some work, but it would be possible, especially if you found a couple sets side by side. Possible, but it wasn’t really something I was gunning for. Tuesday, however, would turn out to be a memorable day. I got into a spot I’ve never been in before. It looked incredible. After 4 hours I’d picked up 2 sheds. Usually that’s a great day for me, but it looked SO good in there that I expected to find more. I got deeper in. Finally picked up #3 for the day. And then the floodgates opened. I kept finding sheds in obvious places. Places where they would have been found if anyone had been shed hunting in there. Once I started picking them, I just kept gridding the area. They were thick. After #6 I was thrilled. It was my personal best around home. And then I started thinking about Aaron’s goal of 7. If only I could get another! I did! And still they kept coming. Now I was confused, however. Soon I had 9, but they were all old sheds. What was going on? There was tons of fresh deer sign. Why couldn’t I find any fresh ones? Finally, #10 was a brown freshie. I think maybe my eye was trained that day on the bleached look of an old shed. Those fresh ones were harder to see. I could have easily skipped over one. #10 was nice, but there was an asterisk behind it. One antler may or may not have been a shed. I had 90 percent of the antler, but the base was missing, either because it was old and decayed or possibly because it broke off while fighting. I really wanted to find 10 true-blue sheds. This is where I usually start to get frantic. I start trying too hard. But today I just stayed relaxed. If I got it, I got it, and if not, I’d had a great day. The sun was slipping down in the west. And then, larger than life, stuck in a balsam fir that had been heavily browsed was #11, or my 10th true shed of the day! And it was the biggest one yet! Now I had to get home. Since I never usually find more than a handful, I never bring a backpack. Now I had 11 antlers to get home. 2 fit in my pockets; the rest I cradled in my arms. My biceps burned from curling them against my body. On the darkening walk out, woodcock circled above, doing their mating dance. Right along the trail on the walk out I picked up #12! What a day! It wasn’t until I was in the truck that I realized what I had. I picked up a year-old right side that would have been a 7-point side, but he broke off a couple points. The shed I pulled out of the balsam was the opposite side from this year! Both had little matching stickers at the base. This guy must be a fighter because he breaks off a lot of points. I’m calling him “Ugly Buck.” Kind of a spindly, ugly rack. Two days later, I made another discovery: I got a year-old left side and a fresh right side off another buck! Now I’ve REALLY got to go back there and start finding the true matches to all these sheds. I don’t have a stringer shot of all 12, but here’s some pics of the sets that aren’t actual true sets. Still very cool to find sheds off the same buck in the same day. And a career day I’ll never forget! This has been a great week of shed hunting. Snow goose hunting in North Dakota next week. Maybe I’ll get my first ND shed!

Left: year-old side and right: fresh side from Ugly Buck.

Left: year-old side and right: fresh side from Ugly Buck.

Matching stickers on Ugly Buck. They fit together like cogs in a wheel.

Matching stickers on Ugly Buck. They fit together like cogs in a wheel.

Year-old left side and fresh right side from a 10-pointer.

Year-old left side and fresh right side from a 10-pointer.


Reunion

April 9, 2011

Still trying to catch up on the blog here. Monday I went out in the afternoon for about 5 hours. I was heading back to the truck when my friend Aaron popped over the hill. He was coming home from work, saw my vehicle and stopped in for a quick walk. I didn’t find anything and neither did he. So we were heading back to the parking area. He got there first and took off. It was an hour or so till dark and I wasn’t expecting to find anything at this point, but decided I didn’t really want to quit either. I gave it another half hour. I was walking out, less than 100 yards from the truck, and bam, there’s a small shed! It was in a place that gets pounded by shed hunters. I’ve been in there a few times this year. Best news is I found the match to this shed in late January! This antler laid there, trying to hide from us, for two and a half months! And he would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for this meddling shed hunter!

At left, January shed. At right, bleached April match.

At left, January shed. At right, bleached April match.


Great set!

April 7, 2011

I’ve got some catching up to do on this blog. It’s kind of a paradox: it seems most shed hunters are winding down by the time I get started. We are losing the snow fast, finally! I have been really busy lately. Gone most of March at shows, then catching up on all the loose ends after that. I think I owe it to myself to find some sheds right now. So I’ve been doing that lately. I am going to make a post on here a few days in a row to try to get caught up, so keep checking back. I’ve got some cool stories. I probably can’t top what happend on Saturday. I went shed hunting with a gal named Katie. I was hoping we could at least find a shed. It’s never a sure thing around here. Lots of competition from other shed hunters, so sometimes you come up empty even in good spots. We were finding tons of deer sign right away. It took a couple hours, but I finally found an old one. It’s a real heavy antler. Tines are chewed down. I was kind of rubbing it in that I found one, I guess. Boy, did that come back to bite me. A bit later, Katie found a 4-point. I was glad we were both on the board. But Katie wasn’t done. A bit later, we were walking not too far apart when she yelled to me. I came over to investigate and couldn’t believe what I saw! This antler was so big it didn’t even look real. It looked like someone had made an oversized fake shed! It was huge! We had to find the match! Katie surmised it wouldn’t be far. We started looking hard. I hate being in that situation. I wanted to find it so bad that I know I wasn’t looking very well. I was looking for something huge, when I should have reminded myself to slow down and look for any little piece of antler. We were way apart within a few minutes. When I came back, Katie had the match! I had walked pretty close to it! OUCH! I was happy for her, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous! These sheds belie their score! Unbelievable main beam length and mass! Truly an incredible set! I am never taking her shed hunting again! And after all that, she STILL wouldn’t tell me her secret lake trout lake in Canada. Unbelievable! Keep checking back in the next couple days for more posts. I’m really picking ‘em up this week!

Joe

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