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In search of the elusive shed antlers

Our grandson Zane was spending Sunday afternoon with us while his parents were busy.

I suggested we take the Gator and go move the cows to a fresh pasture. Much to my surprise, both my wife and Zane readily agreed. Since neither of them are particularly fond of the cows, nor do they care if the cows have fresh pasture, I knew there had to be a motive for helping other than the well being of a bunch of cows.

Arriving at the farm, Zane offered to drive. That was his motive. At eight years old, on a Gator that will not top 20 miles per hour, he is a safe driver. I am sure this will change as time goes by but for the now, I feel safe riding in the back with his Nanna as co-pilot. Over the noise of the engine, I could not hear a word the two of them we saying, but they had quite a conversation going as we headed across the farm.

Halfway across the long hayfield, Zane pulled over to the fence and shut off the engine. I was informed we needed to look for sheds. The deer are loosing their antlers, and there is nothing quite like finding them after they drop them.

I have been asked on more than one occasion why I go shed hunting. It is hard to explain. It is a lot like why people climb mountains: Because they are there. We go look for shed antlers because we might actually find some. If we do, we can say we found them. It makes no sense, but is a good excuse to get outside for a walk in the woods when no hunting seasons are open. Other shed hunters know the allure.

My wife and Zane started down the fence, one on each side, while I followed a deer trail toward the frog pond. I circled around toward the lake and headed back up the hill toward the Gator when I met my wife. She was already carrying three antlers, two of them being a set from one deer. She had found a small shed but Zane had spotted a matched pair from an eight-point deer within three feet of each other.

When I finally met up with Zane, he was excited enough to have grown them himself. He was ready to spend the rest of the day and walk every inch of the farm in search of another matched pair. I did not have the heart to tell him, I have found one or two matched set of antlers in my entire life. He may never have that luck again. Even if I had told him, I am sure it would not matter. He was determined to look and the boy can cover some ground on foot.

The three of us spent most of the afternoon searching hillsides, cedar patches and fence lines. We motored around a bit but mostly walked. Limited amounts of outdoor activity over the past two or three winter months was beginning to take its toll on my wife and I. The sun was beginning to set and the grandparents' legs were begging for rest when I told Zane we had to go get the cows. He would not admit to being tired but gladly slipped into the driver's seat and drove to the pasture the cows were in. Fortunately they followed the Gator to the South pasture with no one having to walk behind them.

I am not sure who among us would have been able to walk that far at that stage of the game. We all slept long and well after our hike in search of the elusive antlers and Zane has a nice trophy set for his efforts.

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