Droppings

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My introduction to antler hunting was a parody.  Seventeen elk sheds the first year and ten the second led me to think I had found a honey hole.  Assuming the following years would produce equally high yields I sold many of them to a local chandelier builder.  $350 was the reward – I had hoped for $900.

The secret spot was discovered the third spring.  Snowmobiles and four-wheelers had scavenged the place.  I witnessed two individuals chase down a six point bull on their four-wheelers, hooting and hollering, trying to get him to drop his antlers.  Their arrogance and lack of respect disgusted me.  Ethics should play a role in all types of hunting.

I’ve been shed hunting for eight years now.  After the grandeur of the first two years, I’ve come to value the antlers I find a whole lot more.  The sentimental value of each one, even if it’s chewed up, has more worth than the money they fetch.  Although the chewed up sheds usually do become dog bones.

My house is loaded with deer and elk antlers.  They are the primary decorative piece, despite my family’s and roommate’s objection.  In my kitchen alone there are twenty two sheds on top of the cupboards.

During the fall archery season I’ve learned there are still abundant opportunities to find antlers.

Opening morning of my first day ever archery hunting, my dad and I were sneaking through the timber when he abruptly whispered, “STOP!”  I froze, peering through the timber for what I presumed was an elk.  My dad then said, in a normal voice, “No, look down.”  One more step and I would have tripped on the most unique elk shed my dad or I has found to date – A huge split G2 seven point.  That evening we called in a six and a seven point bull.  It was quite an opening day, one that would hook most anyone on archery or shed hunting.

My version of a perfect antler hunt was realized this spring.  I spotted what I initially thought was a pine branch in a distant coulee – my binoculars proved otherwise.  Despite having just eaten an entire Hamburger Helper, I sprinted wholeheartedly to lay my hands on a beautiful mature bull elk shed.  I was in the middle of nowhere, no one was there but me, and I still sprinted.  The reaction was uncontrollable.

No matter how often it’s done, the experience of putting your hands on the byproduct of a game animal that shapes many of our lives remains gratifying.  When rewarded with such a treasure, gas money, miles put on foot, and the opportunity costs associated with pursuing such a passion are forgotten.


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12 Comments

  1. Matt E
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Great Post Steven. I really enjoyed the photos, very nice. Congrats on some excellent sheds too!

  2. Jay Woods
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Steven, Ive seen some of your pictures before and they are great! I cant get my self to sell any of my pick ups either. They all have a special place for me. Great post!

    Jay

  3. Al Quackenbush
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Steven,

    Just found your blog via Twitter. Excellent message here and excellent photography to go along with it. Short and sweet and to the point. Well said!

    Al

  4. Cody Cass
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Well written post and excellent images.

  5. bigskydreams
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    WOW! I can’t imagine dusting all those antlers in the kitchen, but I wouldn’t be able to give them away either. I am sure with each set of shed antlers you become more aware of how unique each set is. Beautiful article and photographs, love your respect and love for what you do.

  6. Dave DeAustin
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Wow Steven! Your photographs are outstanding. Excellent use of depth of field, composition and color. Very impressed.

    • Steven Drake
      Posted May 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks everyone! I really enjoy taking photos and sharing them through the MR blog page. There will be more to come on the MR and Sitka blog pages soon!

  7. CHAD BELL
    Posted June 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Most excellent Steven! Awesome photos, great thoughts and lasting impressions on the desire to find a shed or two or twenty….They are all special! I found one side of a nice 5x whitetail in Illinois this spring while turkey hunting with my buddy and his brother…They killed a longbeard and I had the shed strapped to my pack and I was just as excited to show them my antler as they were to show me that gobbler!!

  8. Zach Matthews
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m a fly fisherman and fly tyer. A couple seasons ago I found a nice left-wise whitetail shed which had been gnawed by squirrels; the brow tine was gone and the tips of each point as well. But it was a pretty burly shed so I stowed it in my garage.

    A few weeks ago I saw a picture on a website of a guy in Montana (Kelly Galloup for those who might know him–Slide Inn owner) who had drilled holes through a massive elk shed to use as a tool caddy for his fly tying bench.

    I don’t have Kelly’s size of bench, but I remembered my gnawed antler. Without the brow tine and with the tips chewed, it was easy work to level it out so it didn’t rock when I loaded and unloaded my tying tools. A few 1/8″ holes later, and I have a tool caddy that’s the envy of all the other tyers I’ve shown it to.

    Great photos; loved this post and love the blog.

    • Steven Drake
      Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      That’s a killer idea, Zach! My fly tying bench could use a better and much more aesthetic tool holder.

      I recently made a Cribbage board out of an elk shed. Turned out pretty cool.

      Glad you all enjoyed the blog.

  9. Zach Matthews
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    left-side*

  10. Brad Seyfert
    Posted July 20, 2011 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Hey Steve,
    You may not remember me. But we met in eastern MT during archery elk season in ’08 and ’09. I camp on the edge of forest service in the white truck. I’ve hunted in that area of your family cabin for years and will be back this year. My plan is to hunt the first 10 days of season and would like to talk and maybe meet-up. Give me a shout via email. I would like to talk.
    bradseyfert@yahoo.com
    I like all the pics. Great shed year!

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