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Shed Fever? Catch It!

Dog Shed HunterSome recent torrential rains in the Minneapolis/Wisconsin area have really knocked down our area’s all-too-plentiful snowpack, exposing large chunks of much-welcome terra firma the likes of which haven’t been seen around these parts since early December. It’s about time. Better yet, the extended forecast is calling for continued daytime highs in the 40s and overnights above freezing, more welcome signs of spring…and delivering more or less ideal shed hunting conditions.

I plan on continuing one of my favorite early-spring pastimes this weekend in northern Wisconsin, after a brief attempt in Minnesota last week. Back on March 3rd I was working from home, (putting the final touches on an upcoming carbon arrow field test I’ll be talking about soon), when I got some motivation and rolled out early, with a goal of casing the local park area for a few of the many-tined castoffs I just knew would be waiting (shed hunting requires taking the “glass half full” mentality to the next level). Some melting had already begun, but after 20 minutes I was thankful I’d strapped a pair of snowshoes to my pack just in case. Plenty of areas still held 2-foot drifts and soon, snowshoes now on feet, I was making my way slowly over the tops of them rather than bulldogging through. Huge difference.

I’d hiked about a mile or so when I came to a wooded finger jutting out into a suburban vast marsh and suddenly “got the feeling.” All around me, it seemed, were trees that showed at least some signs of rubs, many of them worked over fairly extensively. All had been made within the last few months. Jackpot. I spent some time circling the immediate area, knowing I was finally in a big buck’s core area. But, no sheds did I find.

As I was making my way slowly back to the car via a new route, I jumped a herd of deer bedded out in the still-frozen marsh. Too far away to study closely, all I could make out were the running forms of maybe 12 whitetails, dashing in more or less a Shed Huntingsingle file away from me. As luck would have it, 20 minutes later I ran into the same herd, and this time what I saw didn’t add to my enthusiasm. As they filed past me in plain view to my right, I saw the second deer in line was a fine, heavy-beamed 8-point buck I guessed was at least 3.5 years old; the last of the group was also a buck, still carrying his forkhorn rack. The herd had apparently run straight away from me until it hit the road, then likely got spooked by passing vehicles and came back around to my right. They had no idea I was anywhere near.

The morning’s “hunt” seemed to typify the unpredictability of the shed hunting experience. With our area’s rather severe winter, I would never have guessed area bucks would still be holding onto their antlers on March 3rd, but then again, it’s probably not too strange given the fact that this was suburbia, offering plenty of nutrition from area residents who no doubt feed the local herd regularly. Whatever the case, the sight of those still-racked bucks made covering the last quarter mile back to the car a lot tougher than the first…

Stay tuned next week for my report on shed hunting Wisconsin’s northcountry….and hopefully, some trail camera pics from the bucks that eluded me during last fall''s bowhunts....

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