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Real men hunt for sheds, not go for walks

The bucks have almost all lost the antlers of which they were so proud last fall. All they have left is a couple of sore spots on the top of their heads where new antlers will grow bigger and better as spring turns to summer. In the mean time, this is the perfect time to go find those shed antlers.

Hunting sheds is mostly just a good excuse to go for a walk when a person can not go hunting. Real hunters do not go for a walk just for exercise, or at least we do not tell people about it when we do. We have to have a purpose. When talking to one's friends, rather than saying, "my wife and I went for a nice walk this weekend" it sounds much more macho to say, "Me and the wife threw a couple dogs in the truck and went shed hunting." The results are the same, but a person has to maintain a certain image.

My wife and I did load up two dogs and went to the farm to look for sheds. It was not quite like throwing a couple hounds in the back of a ramshackle truck, since Dulce, the poodle, and Coty, the giant loafing labrador, rode in comfort in the back of the SUV. We also picked up a couple of grandsons along the way. With a crew like that, we were bound to find every dropped antler worth finding.

Up to this point, the deep snow has been a real impediment to successful shed hunting. If the antlers were dropped before the snow and covered up, they were buried well out of sight. A few warm days had decreased the snow cover and the sharp noses of two astute hunting dogs would surely make them easier to find.

At first the hunt showed lack of organization. Coty took off tracking a raccoon and Dulce promptly treed a squirrel. The boys headed over the hill toward the nearest ditch, happy to be outside again. My wife and I went for a nice walk. We did have a purpose and we were looking for antlers so it was not just a walk for the sake of walking.

Before long, I was able to gather the group together and explain exactly what we were doing. "Remember when Grandpa spent every available minute trying to stick an arrow in that big buck last year?" I started. The boys remembered. The dogs seemed to understand, and my wife had vivid memories of my coming home after dark, bemoaning the fact I had seen him but not gotten a shot. She probably would prefer to not remember the stories she had to hear night after night.

"He has lost his antlers and I want to find them," I continued. I showed the boys a shed antler we found and explained how they would fall off when a deer jumps a ditch or bumps it on a low hanging branch. I let the dogs smell the antler, hoping they would know this was the object of the hunt today.

The boys took off, on a deer trail this time. One dog went one way and the other went the other. They were hunting, but did not have a clue what they were supposed to be doing. My wife and I followed fences and ditches, but did not find the rack dropped by the big old deer I had been hunting. After a few hours, we were beginning to wear down. We corralled the grandsons, who were still running over hill and dale, and called the dogs. Coty came with the boys, but Dulce was not to be found. She was back at her tree with the squirrel.

We loaded up the refreshed but tired group for the trip home. The dogs fell asleep immediately. The boys took a couple minutes before they dozed off, and if I could have convinced my wife to drive, I would have been asleep next.

It seemed like we had gone for a really long walk, but actually, we were shed hunting.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.