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Saskatchewan at Bentley Coben’s

April 21, 2013

This spring has been unbelievable! April 18 we got another foot of snow! This is usually the time of year when I’m hitting it hard, and here I sit, unable to shed hunt. I have never seen a winter like this!

Well, last week I took a little trip. It has been a long time coming. I first shed hunted at Bentley Coben’s in Saskatchewan in 2006. I found the shed from the front cover of my book at his place, and to date, that is STILL my biggest whitetail shed. (I also found my biggest muley shed on that trip too.) Roger Hirschland, who regularly posts on this blog, has been bugging me (maybe that’s not the right term :) ) to join him for a shed hunt at Bentley’s, so this year we did it.

Things were off to an ominous start. Bentley has experienced a winter like the one I’ve, er, enjoyed. He frankly told us not to come until May. But the trip was already planned, so we went anyway. More bad news. With a snowstorm raging, my flight was delayed and I ended up spending 24 hours at the Denver airport. Roger missed his flight too, but got into Saskatchewan later the same day he was scheduled to arrive. It was very snowy there. Roger got a whitetail shed in the morning before he and Bentley picked me up at the airport.

We were on snowshoes for our first walk. It was hard enough just getting around and we could have easily been walking literally right over the top of sheds. But what else could we do? On our first short 2-hour walk that evening I found the skull from a nice mule deer buck. However, you are not allowed to take an antlered skull in Saskatchewan, so after a couple pictures, I left it lay. We came up shed-less on that hunt. That night, Bentley showed Roger and I just some of the thousands of sheds he has found over the years. That alone was worth the trip! Then he showed us photo after photo of all these giant bucks he has on his trail cameras. And then he expected us to sleep after that? We knew we were in a place where the next antler you found could be from a Boone and Crockett whitetail or mule deer. The scouting cam photos proved it. Or the next shed could be a moose. Or an elk. So many possibilities! Bentley said elk had just arrived in his area last year. Just a few weeks ago, he and his brother, Max, spotted a herd of 40 and 17 of them were bulls. Elk shed in late March and into April, so at least maybe these sheds wouldn’t be buried under snow. Bentley said the whitetails in his area dropped in December this year, so those sheds were BURIED!

My first full day we began with a 3-hour walk in the place where I’d found my big whitetail shed on the last trip. The reason for searching there? Not only were there lots of deer there, but more importantly, there were some low ridges that had melted off. It was one of the few areas where you could see bare ground. Even so, 90 percent of the landscape was covered in snow. Our search was focused on not where we necessarily wanted to look, but where we physically could see the ground. Of course, this usually meant southern exposures, which is a good place to look anyway. But it sickens me to think how many sheds we missed because they were under knee-deep snow. Any forested areas served as snow fence and the snow piled up there 4 feet high. Obviously there were sheds in these places, where deer could bed in cover, but there was no way to get them. On that walk, after 2 hours, I hadn’t found a thing. I was getting frantic, and that’s NOT how you want to shed hunt. I tried to force myself to chill out. Finally, as I reached a slight slope that had melted off, I saw tines. It was a fresh, medium-sized 4-point whitetail shed. I needed that one pretty bad! I was doing a little filming as I picked it up, and I say right on the camera, “Oh, for a minute there I thought I saw an elk shed!” As I was standing there with the whitetail shed, something about 50 yards away sure looked like an elk antler on the ground. After filming, I decided to walk over and look at it, and it actually WAS an elk shed! This one is pretty cool. The elk must have had a broken pedicle, which seems to be fairly common among elk. The antler has a 90-degree bend at the base. Those two sheds were all I found, and Roger got a small mule deer shed on that walk. Max got a pretty nice muley shed. Later in the day we tried to go to a couple other places, but the snow was really too deep. We poked around a little but came up empty.

The next day we tried another spot. There were hundreds of deer wintering there. We saw lots of deer and found lots of dead ones. It was going to be a tough winter in that spot. Again, more snow than we wanted, but we were able to find bare spots here and there. We went for a 2-hour walk and were supposed to be back at the truck at 12:30. I finally found a whitetail shed at 12:25! Roger got one too, and Max, who sat in the truck for all but 20 minutes, picked up 2 in his short walk!

That afternoon it was back to the place where I found the elk shed. We took snowmobiles to the base of some small foothills. These areas had the least amount of snow of any areas we had seen. Max and I were literally parking the snowmobile to start searching when I spotted an elk shed up on the hill! It was a gorgeous 6-point side and we did some serious whooping and high fiving! We had to get Roger’s and Bentley’s attention. It was a pretty nice find and it encouraged us that there could be more! After grouping up to look at the shed, we split up, energized to find some more. I followed the elk’s tracks in the snow, hoping to find the other side. Within 10 minutes, I found more bone: this time it was two antlers lying 3 feet apart. I was filming and not really paying attention to what I was seeing. I just assumed it was a set. As it turned out, it was two right sides, one from a mule deer and one from a whitetail! Later on I found my smallest-ever, unbroken shed. It’s a spike that measures less than 3 inches long. Booners running around, and I find a tiny spike? Go figure! I found a smaller one once, but it was a shed that had broken on the buck’s head just above the base. I believe there was still blood on it. That last walk was nice because at least there was a decent amount of bare ground. Roger got a couple deer sheds and Max got one too. Max also found the match to the elk shed I’d gotten the day before. We confirmed it looking at scouting cam pics. The highlight of the walk, however, was Bentley’s find. He had been sitting in the truck most of the time, holding back on us. Finally he got out and took a little walk and had a big score: A matched set from a 7×7 bull elk! They were about 100 yards apart.

That was all the time we had. I missed out on a whole day because of my flight getting cancelled. From a pure shed hunting standpoint, it was a tough trip. We didn’t find sheds in numbers like we had hoped, but when the snow is knee high, you can only look in so many places. The sheds were definitely there. We saw the deer in the fields and the trail cam pics to prove it. Wish we’d have come a month later! The thing about this trip though, more than anything, was the fun. I said over and over while I was with the guys that I couldn’t remember ever having so much fun on a shed hunt, even if finding antlers was tough. Max and Bentley are top-notch guys and Roger is a real class act. He was even polite enough to laugh at a few of my really poor jokes! Bentley’s wife Dianne is a sweetheart and a great cook. You don’t lose weight at Bentley’s, even if you can walk all day! I really want to thank Roger for making this all possible (and for getting me the pics shown below). And thanks to Max, Dianne and of course, Bentley. We found sheds and we had a great time. What more can you ask? The best news? Those elk antlers were too big to fit in my bag. I had no choice but to leave them at Bentley’s. I guess that means I have to come back next year to get them!

Bentley getting ready to give me a ride. Too snowy to be ideal shed hunting conditions, but you don't see any glum faces here!

Bentley getting ready to give me a ride. Too snowy to be ideal shed hunting conditions, but you don't see any glum faces here!

 

Our first successful walk. Max Coben, myself and Roger Hirschland. Note the strange base on the elk antler.

Our first successful walk. Max Coben, myself and Roger Hirschland. Note the strange base on the elk antler. Roger's muley shed had trouble shedding and left a lot of bone at the base.

 

 

Roger, myself and Max Coben with a 6-point elk shed.

Roger, myself and Max Coben with a 6-point elk shed.

Our last walk. Deer and elk antlers. Note the tiny spike shed in my hand!

Our last walk. Deer and elk antlers. Note the tiny spike shed in my hand!


3 Comments »

  1. Hi Joe,
    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Great account of a marvelous time. Yes, the sheds were really hard to find, given the snow — but Bentley said that he was surprised we’d found ANY, so I don’t think we did too badly. As you say, we had a super time, and seeing hundreds of deer — mostly whitetails, but mule deer, too — out on the open prairie, along with a number of coyotes, was fascinating. Bentley and Dianne do a great job of hosting and guiding, and brother Max is a wonderful addition to the effort. I couldn’t agree with you more that the fun far outweighed the somewhat frustrating efforts of the zealous shed hunters. Thanks for your post — and for a great time up in Saskatchewan.

    Comment by Roger Hirschland — April 21, 2013 @ 7:31 am

  2. Still a blast to walk that wild country Joe! great elk shed and mulies!! Were heading to Saskatchewan in May. Were I am goin theres 3ft. of snow and no bare spots yet! Talking to my friend weekly who lives up there. Can’t wait!
    I am done here in Iowa due to green up and with turkey season has started. I ended up with 73 sheds. It was a lot of fun! Now waiting for the Grand Finale!!
    Congrats on your finds in Saskatchewan Joe and good luck back home!!
    Bill
    ‘Sheddogger’

    Comment by Bill — April 21, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

  3. nice we ran into snow in new mexico too. came out with 20 elk sheds and had too leave a mulie head behind as well. go horn dawgs

    Comment by Randy Van Sant — April 22, 2013 @ 2:21 pm


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