Scott Rall

Prescription for the next several weeks: Go on an outdoor shed hunt

The Outdoors

There is no way to pretend that this CV-19 thing is not a big deal.

I started out with more than a little suspicion, as I think many of us did. But after a talk with my daughter, Brittany Remme, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, I got the clear picture. I understand all the rules and figure that working in the outdoors by myself or with one other meets the definition of social distancing.

So, if you are looking for something to do for the next few weeks, I have an idea that will get you outside, generate some good exercise and improve your mental health. And you might just learn some things along the way. That outdoor idea is to send you on a shed hunt.

These would be the shed antlers of the white tail deer that occupy most of Minnesota. Male deer shed their antlers every late winter/early spring. They start a new set of antler growth and each successive year the antlers generally get larger than the last. 

This is true until the deer gets to a very old age, at which point antler growth will decline. The best finds include really large antlers, and an even better is if you can find the matched set of any deer.  This would require you to find both the left and right antler, and they don’t often drop them anywhere near close to each other. They might be two miles or more apart.

Shed hunters can be very intense. I have seen individuals walk 40 miles or more in a month looking for sheds. You can train your dog to be a shed hunter, and I might cover that in a column this summer. So, what makes some deers’ antlers really big and others almost tiny?

There are many factors, but one of the most important is age. A deer can grow an impressive rack when it gets to about 4 years of age. The problem in southwest Minnesota is that almost no deer reach this age.

I have said that there is no place in Nobles, Rock, Murray, Pipestone and other nearby counties where a deer can stand up in the open and not be seen with binoculars from the road.

We live in pretty flatland territory and when you can see them, they get pursued and in many instances harvested. Hunters harvest between 60 and 70 percent of all the bucks in Unit 239 where I live every year. The state of Minnesota does not limit buck tags. They adjust populations up or down with the amount of doe tags they issue each year. So, many deer don’t get to reach the age of 4. 

Another reason some antlers are big and others are small is certainly genetics. There are deer that have the genes to grow big bodies and big horns and the opposite is also true. Many hunters who spend their time doing something called QMD which stands for Quality Deer Management will not harvest a little buck and will actually supply different products designed to grow bigger antlers on the deer that do live in their area.

These are mixes of different minerals and additives designed to give the deer the necessary nutrients to grow bigger bodies and bigger antlers. Products vary and some are considered baiting and others are not. You need to know which is which and act accordingly.

There is always going to be that super small percentage of deer that can be smart enough to live to an old age. Finding the sheds of one of these giants is a prize in hand for sure.

You can walk on any of the state’s citizen-owned lands like wildlife management areas. Any Federal Waterfowl Production Area can be walked on and the deer use these spots. You could find sheds on these parcels.

Take your kids and get an outdoor learning adventure started. There is plenty of time on the hands of many folks who can’t work, and a little time in Mother Nature might help soothe some of the day’s mental stress of coronavirus.

It is just a thought, but I know I feel a lot better standing in the tall grass and being thankful for what I have than I do sitting on the couch watching the news talking heads tell me the world is coming to an end.

I for one am watching for the light at the other end of this tunnel thing called CV-19.  You can see it better from outside.

 

Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at scottarall@gmail.com. or on Twitter @habitat champion.

 

 

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