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What Is Shed Hunting All About?

What Is Shed Hunting All About?

If you have heard of shed hunting but, aren’t real sure exactly what it is, you aren’t alone. Most hunters are excited to try new things, especially with their hunting dogs and shed hunting will not disappoint those dog enthusiasts who want to have a lot of fun and gain some knowledge of the land they hunt along the way. However, anytime something new is introduced into the hunting world, we hear plenty of questions and complaints. Shed hunting dogs are no different. So let’s shed some light on the subject.

What exactly is shed hunting?

Shed hunting is basically a hunt for antlers. Each year after the breeding season ends and a buck’s testosterone levels plummet a buck will lose or shed his antlers in order to begin growing new antlers for the following season. They simply drop them off and leave them behind. Where they shed their antlers is important. Most bucks will shed their antlers near their bedding area or where they find their best food source. This time of year a buck’s focus is not so much moving around, they tend to focus on food, minerals and protecting themselves from the elements in well covered areas that might prove to be hard to get to, making the hunt more challenging.

Why would we hunt for antlers?

Shed hunting is a perfect way to see which bucks will be there the next season and what they did in that area. Notice the surroundings where you find the antlers, you could discover bedding areas rubs, or scrapes. The same deer that scraped the ground and left his antlers behind in January will more than likely will be in the same area when hunting season begins in the fall. Typically each year the bucks antlers grow bigger so you will know if there’s a chance of a big buck being available. It can be pure motivation to hunt the next season, if nothing else.

Locating the antlers and the bucks territory is exciting and insightful but, it’s the antlers themselves that become the addiction. There is just something majestic about finding that hidden gem. The first time your dog comes back with a hunted antler it’s quite an intoxicating feeling.

Who to bring when you shed hunt?

Shed hunting can be a bonding activity that brings families together in the natural world. It can become a family tradition that everyone looks forward to, and there is no need to keep quiet so that enthusiastic child who loves to talk is a welcomed addition to a shed hunt. It also doesn’t require a gun so gun safety and gun training aren’t needed. It’s a great way to introduce a youth or wife to hunting and getting them out in your world.

Of course, your most qualified partner for shed hunting would be your hunting dog. Most any breed of hunting dog can be trained to hunt sheds and some dogs, like my lab naturally find antlers and bring them to me. It can become just as exciting to your dog as it can to you. Some shed hunters claim, that using their dog during the off season to hunt sheds makes them better retrievers during hunting season. Puppies who haven’t yet mastered retrieving can be particularly useful in shed hunting because they are usually enthusiastic and willing to do anything to please you. It’s also simpler for puppies or older dogs that aren’t as trainable because they feel useful and can just enjoy spending the time “hunting” with you and their isn’t much chance of them messing up a shed hunt.

Just get out there

So in this case the new excitement over shed hunting might actually be worth checking out for yourself. If nothing else it can cure your cabin fever.

Training your dog to shed hunt

Training your dog to shed hunt is a lot like training him to retrieve upland game birds but without the birds. Freshly shedded antlers have a strong scent so you can use antlers that you already have to teach him to use his nose.

Start in Close Quarters

If your dog is already a seasoned upland hunter then it won’t take as much training. However, shed hunting is basically for every dog even if your dog has never hunted a day in his life or is too young or too old to hunt alongside the more agile dogs then you can still train him to shed hunt. Begin an unseasoned hunter in a small area like a closed yard or even inside your house. To begin the training you will only need an antler, preferably a newly shedded antler but, if you don’t have that, any antler will do. Just make sure that if you are training a puppy that the antler is smaller or easy for him to manage because he won’t want to retrieve it if it’s cumbersome for him to carry. In all cases the antler needs to be manageable to begin with, not having any long sharp points that might hurt him. Once he catches on to what you are trying to get him to do, all of this won’t matter as much. After you have determined that the antler is the right one, slide it across from him so that he begins to chase it, let him touch it and get it in his mouth and then let him have it. Ask him to bring it to you and praise him when he does so that he’s catching on. Repeat the process, hiding the antler and asking him to find it. Once he masters this process and finds it immediately you can move on the the next phase of training.

Broaden Your Training Area

The next phase of training will require you to be outside or in an open area, like your backyard. You will want to have a few different antlers and either a long leash or a training collar. You start by placing the antler in full view and asking him to find it and praise him when he brings it you. You gradually begin to hide the antler in places that he can get to and encourage him to find it and bring it to you the same as he did before. He’s learning to use his nose to find the antler so hide it, at this point, in some areas that he has to sniff it out. If he begins to run with it, or starts to chew it, you can use the training collar or long leash to remind him that he is supposed to be retrieving.

Take Him to The Field

The next step is pretty simple, take him to a field or an area that you would most likely find antlers naturally. Start by setting out several antlers all around but, not too far from each other. Repeat the process that you started in the yard. If he has trouble understanding what you want him to do, it is fine to show him or at least get him close to the area that the shed is located. Remember to offer lots of praise and encouragement along the way.

Year Around Training

Shed hunting is great physical conditioning for your dog and he can do it year around. Because it is easy to train most any dog to do it, it can be a fun way to utilize their natural ability to sniff.

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