Nebraskaland March 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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March 2019 • Nebraskaland 41 properties you will likely be the first person to shed hunt and that first year is usually incredible because there are several years of antlers on the ground. If you have a dog they will certainly enjoy shed hunting as much as you do. Many people even use them as a tool for finding antlers. They train their dog to smell, locate and retrieve shed antlers. In college I read several articles about shed hunting dogs and got interested in trying it. A friend and I began training his dog in our backyard. Over the summer and fall the dog got really good at finding them, even when we buried them in leaves and brush. We were excited to see how many more sheds we would find now that we had a "shed dog." On our first outing we quickly realized we had trained him to smell for the scent of our hands rather than antlers. We spotted a large shed lying along a field edge, but when the dog got near it he ran right past it. Even when we showed it to him he had no interest. He did enjoy his hike, though. While we failed as trainers, many people won't go shed hunting without a dog. If you are interested in trying it for yourself there is plenty of information available online as well as books and DVDs on the subject. Reaping the Benefits After several seasons of shed hunting, you will probably have a large collection of antlers. I like to remember where and when I find my sheds, but this becomes difficult after a pile of antlers builds up. Now I attach small tags with zip ties to the base of each antler. A friend in Idaho who has picked up thousands of sheds places small pieces of painter's tape on the pedicle (the place where the antler attaches to the head) and writes on them with a marker. Cataloging them like this creates a living history of your shed hunting. Many people enjoy using them as home decorations. They are attractive and have hundreds of uses from chandeliers to lamps to cabinet fixtures and dog chews. I prefer to place them around the house as they are, and I've found them to be a good conversation starter. People are always curious about the more interesting sheds I've found like the locked bucks, an antler I found hanging in a tree, two matching sets of antlers from the same buck, and large elk sheds. It's a good thing shed hunting isn't just about antlers because you do a lot more walking than finding. My best day ever I found eleven antlers. Usually I'm happy if I find one. The difficulty makes it that much more rewarding. When you find an antler take the time to admire it and celebrate the discovery with whoever is around, even if it's your dog. Shed hunting is just another way to spend time outdoors in the company of people you care for. All you have to do is enjoy the walk, keep your head up, and your eyes open. Jillian Sparks walks up on an early season shed during a cold January shed hunting session. She is perhaps the world's luckiest shed hunter, since she consistently finds matching sets while her husband scratches his head in amazement.

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