I have never found a shed antler before. Even though I have not set out purposely to discover any, I try to keep an eye open for them. This weekend was all work for me on the hunting property, but a treasured moment with my son made it all worthwhile.
This weekend began with a trip to the family property in Antrim County. We go often to see relatives and spend time in the outdoors. Only recently I have had the opportunity to begin hunting the property. Having been stalked by the belated Grandpa Jack for more years than I have been alive, the property has likely seen it’s better deer days.
When you walk the property, ancient wooden tree stands, stools, and blinds remind you of the legacy that has remained since the last time Jack fired his rifle or bow. The memories fade ever so slightly when one of those haunts tips over and makes its way to the burn pile, but it seems that the more I explore this beloved heirloom, another forgotten spot pops out at you.
I have been hunting this land since I began deer hunting in 2012. For the last two years I have seen nothing but trail cam images of the deer that hang around throughout the season, and even then there are only a few. Those old stands may see a passing deer from time to time but never when I am near them! Though the evidence points toward the existence of the great grey ghosts it appears there is much work to do to encourage their continued stay on the land.
Finally getting family permission to do some habitat management I have begun doing a bit here and a bit there. Without too much excess drawing unwanted attention from family members interested in the property that do not enjoy hunting as I do, a few clover plots have popped up over the past couple months. A few tree stands and some minor hinge cuts later, I am feeling good about this coming fall season.
But the best was yet to come. Last season I hunted hard for one deer I new was bedding in the area. He had long pushed off the bachelor group that was frequenting the doe group nearby, and was rubbing, scraping, and teasing me just enough to keep me awake at night and asleep in the stand. Finally catching a good photo of him revealed a decent deer for this neck of the woods!
Even though I have not laid bare eyes on this buck, I do know he is still around. I have speculative trail-cam photos that could be him, but uncertainty is not enough evidence for me to remain hopeful.
As the weekend wrapped up I took my youngest son for a stroll on the ATV to go rearrange cameras until the next hike North. I changed the approach I normally take just to not be too predictable to the deer when I noticed something odd on the ground. Normally looking for tracks and trails this turned out to be an antler shed.
My heart jumped. My son, who is barely 18 months, loves doing everything I do. When I got excited, he did also. I got off the ATV to inspect our find and discovered it looked just like the rack from that elusive deer I never saw last season. My son wanted to get his hands on it too. We looked around the area a little more hoping to find it’s mate only to discover it a few minutes later under a young hemlock tree. Wouldn’t you know it this deer was bedding in this patch of evergreens barely 50 yards from the main road.
I never – never – ever, thought to look or setup in that area. Go figure. My new stand is not far from there, and I am now reconsidering future stands, but this Father’s Day, I found my first shed with my first son. I only wish my daughter was there too. At the age of 3 she already says “I can’t wait to be big like you and go shoot deer so we can eat them all up!”
The trip home came with a flat tire, screaming kids, and no tire-repair shops still two hours from home. A plug from the big box store and a deflated donut later, we made it home safe and sound. I cannot wait to get back into the deer woods this fall. But most importantly, I cannot wait to pass on a legacy to my own children for future hunting generations to come.
Hopefully, I leave behind some stands that are usable!