I’ve come to the realization that as hunters we suffer from a particularly cantankerous case of Spring Fever. We greet the period of receding snows with the same attitude as an old grizz who has emerged from a backcountry den hungry for opportunity, but greeted with nothing more than a flock of squawking magpies. Like the grizz we partake in our own winter denning process – digesting the protein derived from our kills, studying maps, calculating draw odds and dreaming about hunting. We, too, are greeted by magpies in the spring, though our magpies come in the form of hunt application deadlines and steep application fees. These fees and deadlines are a constant hassle. They gobble up our money and time, and their ever-lurking presence causes days and weeks of stress and anxiety. Hassled and hungry for opportunity, we are desperate for the only antidote for Spring Fever – hunting.
Turkey hunting is a proven cure for Spring Fever. While turkeys are fun to hunt and good to eat, nothing lifts my spirits in the spring more than finding a big, freshly-dropped elk antler. Take my advice for curing the spring blues: Get your boots on, your pack out and go pick up some sheds.
A good shed hunting companion is a must. My faithful Labrador Zia (a.k.a. “Z-Dog”) is my constant companion while shed hunting. She’s patient and spends her time looking for grouse or quail depending on where we happen to be. Birdy as hell, but definitely not interested in sheds.
I will cache antlers as I hike so as to minimize my load throughout the day. On good days I will have a series of caches such as this tucked away. I retrace my route on the way out, picking up my caches as I go. While I hate retracing my steps, I typically find a number of antlers on my way out that I had missed earlier in the day.
You never know where you will find a shed.
Very few times in my life have I found a matched set of antlers resting together. I will typically find antlers from the same animal lying miles apart.
Many days I return to camp with nothing more than sore feet and a tired Z-Dog. Southwestern sunsets and a cold beer always ease the pain.
This is one freshly-dropped shed. I take care not to spook animals in the spring as most are recovering from a hard winter or are getting ready to calve. Nothing pisses me off more than people pushing animals in the spring for the purpose of making them drop their antlers.
I occasionally get lucky and find a number of antlers from different animals lying within yards of each other. I found these three beauties within thirty yards of a remote water source.
Sometimes it’s a good hurt. I typically carry a pack frame but was unprepared for this load after dropping into a canyon for a quick hike and not expecting to find more than a couple of antlers. See that antler in my right hand? I didn’t know it at the time, but I would go on to find the bull that dropped it later that year – ultimately killing him within one mile of where I had picked up his antler in the spring.
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