By Paul Gremmels
“Got one!” It was my wife.
“Got another one!” She was on a roll.
She was on the other side of a thick grove of pine trees. We were out for a walk looking for antlers that the deer had dropped during the winter. “Shed hunting” it is called – looking for shed antlers. My wife, as usual, was having great success. Me, not so much.
“Here’s another one!” It was my wife. Again.
This last winter has been a long one. And the spring has been slow to improve upon the weather situation. But there have been little glimmers of hope on the occasional sunny, warm days or at least on the days where the wind doesn’t blow. On one of those nicer days, my wife and I decided to go out for a walk and do some shed hunting.
Shed hunting, or at least being successful at it, is kind of an art. Some antlers that have been dropped in an open area and are bleached white by the sun are easy to spot in the dead, brown grass. Others, dropped on the edge of a wooded trail in the leaf litter and forest duff are much more difficult to see, because they retain their brown/grey color and look surprisingly like fallen tree branches. It helps to have seen one of them in this environment before, because it’s important to remember that we are human and – we can only see what we know.
The white-tailed deer drops its antlers every winter and re-grows them beginning in the spring. The antlers are often considered to be one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet. There have been reams of data published on the white-tailed deer and its antlers. Even, articles on how to “Shed Hunt.” My strategy is simple; find a deer trail and amble along its winding route for as far as I can and still remain on the permitted property.
It seems appropriate that the prime shed hunting time is usually around Easter. Yes, it is much like an egg hunt, but there is also the element of loss and recovery.
I see an antler lying beside the trail and do not immediately pick it up. I crouch down and look at it for a good long while. I think of the buck whose head it fell from and wonder if he was relieved by its departure. I wonder if he survived the winter. I think that I am looking at something that is exactly as it was thousands of years ago. I think of what a precious find this would have been for a post-glacial hunter. A treasure to be used for tool making and jewelry for trade. It would have been a good day for him. Just as it has been a good day for me.
“Here’s a big one!” I hear my wife exclaim.
And an even better day for others.
Paul Gremmels is a freelance writer, essayist and a columnist. He lives with his wife, Ann, in rural Pope County. His column is published in the Pope County Tribune on the last week of each month. He welcomes and responds to all correspondence. He can be contacted at: