No sheds, then a find out of reach: Quest for shed antlers (wandering the woods) has O’Henry end; Stray Cast

A day spent hunting shed antlers was glorious, though empty of sheds, then comes an O’Henry surprise ending; plus a Stray Cast on ethics.

SHARE No sheds, then a find out of reach: Quest for shed antlers (wandering the woods) has O’Henry end; Stray Cast
A big buck skeleton caught on a branch in a river, a challenge if shed hunting. Credit: Dale Bowman

A big buck skeleton caught on a branch in a river, a challenge if shed hunting.

Dale Bowman

Wandering the woods, I thought someone should build an app for scat identification. I had the name, “Scoop on the Poop,” only to find “Scoop the Poop” has been used many ways.

Good thing I’m not an entrepreneur.

I wandered multiple sites Thursday looking for shed antlers. In reality, I spent a glorious day contemplating life. As to shed hunting, the capper came later from a faithful reader.

Feb. 10 is early for the hunting sheds, dropped annually in the winter by white-tailed bucks on a bell curve, roughly January to March, peaking in February.

I went Thursday because two warm days knocked the snowpack down so walking was easier. Enough snow remained to make antlers show up better. Cold winds rattled dried locust seedpods and made bare trees creak.

I started along a bike trail at a park notorious for deer. When deer trails flared, I followed to likely areas, such as low-hanging branches that catch antlers, ditches or fences where jumps jar antlers loose, and bedding areas.

Beds were easy to spot in the snow. I was in the right areas but found no sheds. I found lots of corn cobs in the woods, lots of squirrel and rabbit tracks, a set of raccoon tracks, and good birds: red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Cooper’s hawk, robins, mallards, Canada geese and crows.

Gnawed corn cobs on a deer trail in the snow. Credit: Dale Bowman

Gnawed corn cobs on a deer trail in the snow.

Dale Bowman

Next I hit a golf course/nature preserve, where I found multiple bedding areas, thickly traveled deer trails and a fox hole, but no sheds.

Keeping sheds is prohibited in the parks, forest preserves or nature preserves that I know. Good thing I was mainly practicing find-and-photograph shed hunting, think catch-and-release fishing.

State sites are more complicated.

Sheds may not be collected, based upon previous Illinois Department of Natural Resources legal opinions and state law, from state parks, nature preserves and anywhere else where specifically prohibited, according to an emailed response from Jayette Bolinski, IDNR director of communications, last fall.

“The public may however collect shed antlers from all other lands managed by the IDNR, including Fish & Wildlife Areas, Conservation Areas, Recreation Areas, and Boat Access Areas, provided the area is otherwise open to the public,” she emailed.

Next I hit an FWA, again no sheds, only notables were following the tracks of somebody snowshoeing and having a hairy woodpecker and a white-throated sparrow.

I finished as dark came at a FWA/State Natural Area where the snow was deeper than I wanted to hike at day’s end.

It was time.

But, on Sunday, Ed Safiran emailed about finding the carcass/skeleton of a big buck, which he couldn’t retrieve because he was driving with a friend.

The small park was close enough I had time before Super Bowl festivities to drive there. I found the remains partially frozen in a river, but far out enough that I wasn’t comfortable wading out. Plus I wasn’t ethically comfortable on whether it was on park property or the river.

“Though technically not a shed, I guess I’m looking for possibly the first assist on Shed of the Week,” Safiran emailed.

Yes, an Ayo Dosunmu for SOTW.

Wild things

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Friday through Monday. It’s something I highly recommend for teachers and scout leaders.

Stray Cast

People cutting diagonally across parking lots have the same moral fiber as those shortcutting switchbacks on hiking trails.


Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 17-20: Chicago RV & Camping Show, Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont

Friday-Sunday, Feb. 18-20, and Feb. 23-27: Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show, Indiana State Fairgrounds

Saturday-Sunday, Feb.19-20: Chicago Travel & Adventure Show, Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont

Saturday, Feb 19: Midwest Musky Club Swap Meet, Village Sportsman’s Club, Alsip,

Saturday, Feb. 19: Russell’s Fishing Tech Chicagoland Advanced Salmon and Trout Tactics School and Tackle Show, Wood Dale

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