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Early antler hunting brings results

Saturday, my son Damon and grandson Zane were out cutting firewood. More accurately, Damon was cutting wood while Zane and his trusty dog Boudreaux went exploring.

To hear Zane tell it, they traveled miles and miles over hills and through the woods. They saw everything from bears to alligators. For a seven year old, a walk in the woods can be quite a hazardous adventure. He did though come back with one interesting souvenir. Either he or the dog found a freshly-shed deer antler. I am not too sure about how it was found or who found it. It was sometime after the alligator sighting and before they flushed the moose.

It had been several days since the weather has been decent enough to get outside and enjoy being there. My wife and I decided to take off Sunday afternoon and go shed hunting. A little fresh air and exercise does a body good in the middle of winter. It wards off cabin fever and other wintertime maladies.

We loaded the giant Duke dog, slipped on our hiking boots and headed for the farm. Damon, Amanda, and Zane bought Boudreaux and met us at a predetermined spot in the woods. None of us were sure if the dogs would aid in the search, but it would not hurt to try. If they were no help at all, they would enjoy an outing as much as the rest of us.

Several inches of snow covered the ground as we entered the hardwood timber. Duke went with me as I crossed the creek and searched the bank opposite my wife. In places, the snow was packed in trails as though a hundred head of sheep had crossed in the night. Other tracks scattered randomly about showing where single deer had wandered off the main trail to browse on young trees or brush.

Duke was impressed with the number and variety of new smells. He would run up a deer trail, great face flopping, and nose working as hard as it would go. He would not go too far, lost in his chase of the fragrance, when he would realize I was no longer right behind him. In a panic, he would retrace his steps and be ever so happy to find me as if I had been lost for days rather than minutes. He likes the wilds of the woods, but does not want to face it alone.

Perhaps he has heard Zane tell of alligators and bears, neither of which he cares to confront without my help. He knows between the two of us, we could take on anything. Alone most wild things are kind of scary. If they are not actually eating his food, there is really no need to start a fight.

Duke and I met up with my wife at a V-shaped point over a deep ditch. Three spots were melted in the snow where deer had bedded down. The interstate highway for the local deer was in this area. Major paths led in every direction. Trails wound down the ditch, into the woods, and out across the open field.

My wife found one antler on this well-traveled trail and Zane found one more. I was hoping to gain some insight into how he had been so successful when I asked him where he had found his sheds.

"In the woods," was his immediate response. "I know, in the woods," I answered somewhat shortly, "but where in the woods?"

Looking at me with all the honesty that can be mustered by a little kid he said, "On the ground." He was factual but not a lot of help.

So far, for the antler hunting season, we are up to three. The one my wife found and the two either Zane or the dog found. We could get a lot better at this game if we could teach the dogs what we are hunting for, or convince a little kid to let us in on his secret. Considering how early it is for bucks to be loosing their antlers, I think we have done fairly well and it was good to get outside, if even for a just few hours of walking about in the woods.

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