I don't know about you, but when I was a kid roaming the Badlands of North Dakota, every place I went was a new treasure hunt. It started about age 9 when with my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. I explored the area around our ranch shooting birds, mom's chickens, rabbits, cans and any other victim that happened to get in my way. Later, with a single shot Steven's .22 rifle, I traveled further exploring old homesteads abandoned during the Great Depression.
I loved to learn and explore new things then, and kids today are exactly the same way. Recently, I met Cody, a 9-year-old boy excited about exploring.
It just so happened that he was traveling with his dad and uncle when we met for shed-antler hunting. Shed-antler hunting for a kid is like taking an adult on an African safari, they just can't get enough. Cody climbed the hills and canyons as quickly as my old legs would carry me. When I was ready to rest he was out exploring.
Cody carried his own pair of binoculars and used them to study deer, coyotes and scan the hillsides for antlers. He was a natural born bloodhound finding both the most sheds and the largest shed of the group. His enthusiasm for the sport, being outdoors with men, and just being "included," made the day a great experience for him.
I found a medium-sized chalk-white mule deer antler on one hike. Upon meeting Cody, I presented it to him as a gift. The smile from the young boy made my aching legs a little less tired.
Kids want to be part of the adult world. A day of shed hunting offers them this opportunity. Taking a day to include them in an experience such as shed hunting gives them a sense of belonging and a chance to learn the basic habits of the big game they too will someday hunt.
Looking for shed antlers is somewhat like searching for a four-leaf clover. That is, you look at a lot of white rocks, dead limbs and decaying bones before you find your prize.
Damian, my grandson, followed me over many creeks and canyons on deer and elk hunts. He watched me pick up sheds and pack them back to camp. He listened carefully as I explained what type of animal - deer or elk - had shed the antler and what was particularly unique about it. It was no surprise to me when on one scouting trip Damian wandered off, and returned carrying a shed mule deer antler.
"Grandpa," he said, "I thought you would want this."
I was proud and pleased that I had started him on this activity ahead of girls and cars.
When you attend one of the big game shows this winter, take a kid along and let them look at the displays and the antlers. You'll see and hear their excitement as they absorb the surroundings. Many of these shows have fishing ponds and BB gun target ranges for them to enjoy.
Introducing kids like Damian or Cody gives them a sense of purpose for being in the mountains with their family. They see and hear the excitement when someone locates a shed antler. This causes them to look harder, so when they find one, they now are the center of attention and part of the group.
I know you can cover more ground without a 9 year old following your path. But Cody walked every step and the look on his face when he found a shed was priceless. Cody's largest whitetail shed measured more than 65 Boone and Crockett inches, placing it high in the Oregon Record Book. I'm certain that this will not be Cody's last entry in the book.
While on the subject of Cody's family, let me relate an interesting story regarding his uncle, Tim.
Tim was a 16-year-old junior at Pilot Rock High School in 1979. I was the principal at Pilot Rock, when during the fall hunting season Tim skipped school. He had spotted a large mule deer buck early one morning and decided hunting the buck was a better plan than attending school.
Later that afternoon Tim entered my office carrying the head and horns of a freshly killed buck. It carried 9 points on the right antler and 12 points on the left antler. Tim did not realize how large the buck was and gave the horns to another family. He felt collecting a buck like that was easy; 23 years later it is still his largest.
The buck was returned to Tim this winter. When I measured the buck it had an amazing score. The greatest spread was 294/8 inches after 23 years of shrinkage. The main beams measured 253/8 inches and 226/8 inches.
The G-2s were 187/8 inches on the right and 206/8 inches on the left. The buck's net typical score was 1945/8 inches, placing it No. 2 in the record book. When I added 216/8 inches of non-typical points, the buck's final score was 2163/8 points, placing it No. 4 as a non-typical. The buck will be listed in the next record book in both categories.