Looking for a new way to explore the outdoors with your dog? Deer antler hunting allows owners to connect with nature and their dogs.
Some days it’s harder for me to get out of bed than others. This morning my neck and quad muscles feel tight, and my feet still ache from all the miles I walked yesterday. A quick glance out the window reveals dark clouds looming overhead. It looks like a good day to stay indoors.
Then I hear the unmistakable sound of toenails clicking on hardwood, and feel a cold, wet nose gently nudging my hand. If I ignore this subtle request, 3-year-old Labrador Retriever Mazie will up the ante by jumping on and off the bed, and emitting a low, extended whine. Looks like a good day for shed hunting, Mazie corrects me. With shed hunting “season” lasting only a few weeks, there’s no time to waste.
Mazie is an antler dog, trained by Roger Sigler of the antler-dog training company, Antler Ridge in Smithville, Mo., to find and retrieve shed antlers. Each year, whitetails, mule deer, elk and other animals cast their antlers, leaving behind a bevy of bone that becomes a meal for woodland critters, or a big find for shed hunters.
Shed hunting has become an increasingly popular activity among hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, some states have enacted regulations designed to minimize human disturbances on wildlife. For example, Colorado instituted a shed antler hunting season in the Gunnison wintering area to protect deer and elk from over-exuberant shed hunters; Utah requires hunters to pass an online shed-hunting course.
Let’s take a closer look at antler hunting, its benefits, why it’s best done with a trained antler dog, how to select an antler dog and training tips from the Siglers that will make man’s best friend a shed hunting savant.
Big game hunters have long extolled the benefits of shed hunting. Find an impressive antler, and you know its former owner made it through hunting season. Shed hunting often reveals other deer signs, such as bedding areas, droppings and rubs (marks that bucks make with their antlers on bushes, trees and shrubs). Hunters then record the locations of these signs and use the information to develop hunting strategies for next year.
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