Shed Hunting 101: An interview with an obsessed bone collector
Whitetail deer do not have “horns” as many call them. They actually have “antlers.” Among other differences, horns are permanent structures and are not shed at any stage of life, whereas antlers are shed and regrown each year. This may seem commonplace to those who love the outdoors, but those impressive masses of bone on the heads of whitetail deer (and other cervidae) are shed each year and regrown the following year. This has led to the pastime of “shed hunting” which has become absolutely huge and in some places in North America those trophy antlers can fetch five figures at auction. Shed hunting has made it to the mainstream in recent years. There have been articles in popular magazines, it has been featured in other media, and the major outdoor stores even have sections devoted to the passion where you can find books, videos, training sheds, scents, etc to help in one's quest to find shed antlers.
Today we have the privilege of talking with a neighbour of ours who might be the most obsessed and accomplished shed hunter in all of New Brunswick: our friend Dave Rogers. For around 30 years he has pursued his obsession with all his energy and whenever he was able to find time. As many of us are nestled around the fire or gathering together the week after Christmas, he might be found stomping through swamps with a single purpose: to find a shed antler from a whitetail deer, preferably a matched pair.
The area around our camp used to be one of the best areas in the entire province for hunting trophy whitetail deer back in the 80s and into the 90s, but it is no longer the case. During those days, Dave would obsessively be looking for as many sheds as he could find. We have had the privilege to visit his house on numerous occasions and enjoy his tales of hunting and fishing in the area over the years. He has quite an impressive collection of dropped antlers and literally has buildings in his yard full of them. His eyes light up whenever he discusses “chasing sheds” and you can see how much he loves it.
Although he tells us how he's lost some of the stamina and legs he had in the “old days,” he's still finding sheds every year. The man has a love shed hunting and an eye for it. Seeing some of his pictures of sheds the way he found them makes us realize just how frequently we have likely walked past sheds without seeing them while focusing on something else. You really have to want it! Our friend Dave certainly does.
Wilderness Obsession: How long have you been shed hunting and was there some special event that spurred your interest?
Dave: I have been shed hunting since 1986 or around that time. I was cutting lumber off a private woodlot and I would see this 10 point buck almost every day on my way out. Only one day I found 1 of his antlers on my trail, so I decided to try and find the other side. I did find it 17 months later. But while I was looking for it I had found other ones. That started the obsession.
Wilderness Obsession: Shed hunting is said to be very addictive and "nearly as fun as hunting deer." Do you agree and why?
Dave: If you are interested in deer as much as I am it is addictive. For me finding a nice set of sheds is way better than tagging a deer.
Wilderness Obsession: Can you give us any tips about your strategy in finding sheds?
Dave: Tips about finding sheds ? If I reveal that you may find more than me! Just kidding. Here are a few tips: search apple orchards, small logging operations, cedar swamps and crop fields. For orchards look under every tree, for logging look around the piles of tops, and trails leading from there to bedding areas, that could go to cedar swamps and crop fields.
Wilderness Obsession: Is there a shed hunting "season" for you? What would the start and finish date be for your searching?
Dave: I would start after deer season stops, just watch where the deer are going and coming from. Then about a week before Christmas I would start looking,from then until snow is too deep. You don't want to disturb the deer when the snow is deep. Then again in spring when the snow is gone, trying not to disturb the deer to much, until greenup.
Wilderness Obsession: We've seen your buildings full of sheds. Do you have any kind of count or estimate of how many sheds you have collected over the years?
Dave: I've collected over 300 deer sheds and about 6 moose sheds.
Wilderness Obsession: Have you had any luck finding sheds of moose or only whitetails through the years?
Dave: Never collected too many moose sheds, guess maybe if was in moose country would have found some.
Wilderness Obsession: People tend to say that if you don't find sheds early on after they are dropped, the likelihood of finding them goes down. Many claim that porcupines chew on the sheds. Are these things true?
Dave: One shed I was looking for I found about 17 months after the first one. Another set I found in May were chewed on some. The ones that were chewed on real bad I left in woods. Porcupine, mice, and rabbits all chew on antlers.
Wilderness Obsession: Have you ever used dogs to find or retrieve sheds and do you find that effective?
Dave: Yes I had a dog that found a few sheds for me. I think if I would have had her when she was a pup she would have been better at it. Right now you can buy pups already trained to find sheds. They are more common in the USA.
Wilderness Obsession: Now with technology changes, are there tools that are available today to help a shed hunter that you didn't have when you started? Do things like trail cameras (scouting), GPS, cell phones, etc have a place in your gear?
Dave: The only new technology that I think is useful would be trail cams. If you know the bucks are there, and if you have some sort of feed the sheds shouldn't be far away. GPS ,cell phones have no place on me. I like to go light because there is a lot of walking involved. I do not even take a gun with me.
Wilderness Obsession: How often are you able to find a second shed antler nearby to the first one?
Dave: Just last winter I found a set of 8 point sheds about 8 feet from one another. I would say about 60 percent of the time they are nearby one another. Sometimes side by side or on top of one another.
Wilderness Obsession: When you find a particularly appealing or impressive antler, are you driven to find the matching one?
Dave: You are always trying to find the matching side. I looked for 2 years to find the match to one non-typical shed I have but could never find the other side.
Wilderness Obsession: Are you able to see patterns between years? Perhaps finding the sheds that are definitely from the same deer in subsequent years. Could you share that information?
Dave: Yes there are patterns. Some bucks winter in same place every winter as they did years ago. I found three and half sets of same buck all within 200 yard area. We cut lumber in that area for 5 years, and it wasn't clear cut. That area now has mature tree all over the 100 acres block.
Wilderness Obsession: Do you believe that finding sheds has helped you to become a better hunter, does knowing where to find the deer in the winter help at all with knowing where they are in the fall?
Dave: No it hasn't made me a better hunter. I was a good hunter but a better shot with a rifle. Usually deer used to travel to wintering areas, but now they don't have a wintering area. I never hunted much where I found sheds. I usually just hunted here behind my home on crown land and dad's 100 acres But now I think the deer around stay around here most of all the 4 seasons.
Thank you for giving me the chance to talk a little about shed hunting for whitetail deer antlers. It really has been an obsession for me for awhile now. Shed hunting has been my passion for more than 30 years now, but I'm getting older and the legs don't work like they used to. Dave
The shedhunter's collection is an impressive one, and one that catalogues the history of deer hunting in his area. With a collection amounting over 300 whitetail sheds, he has seen the good, bad, and ugly of the deer herd in central NB. Thanks to his remarkable dedication, anyone interested can learn a great deal about whitetails.
Our friend Dave has offered to take us out this winter to look for sheds, and we are going to definitely take him up on it. Although there aren't the number of deer around that there used to be in our region, his passion has us excited about finding our first shed. Just spending time with him and watching his reaction when we find one should be worth a trip! We can't wait to see him shed his sheds in his shed sheds, so to speak!
We will keep you posted how it works out...
Contact us and let us know!