Shed hunting dogs have become notably popular in recent years. While roaming the woods with your buddy during the off season has a great appeal to many to find antlers and other hidden treasures, it does take time and dedication to train a dog to shed hunt. While the cross over from upland bird hunting to shed hunting is very similar, it offers a way to continue training and keep hunting senses sharp for the regular hunting season, not to mention strengthening the relationship you have with your shed hunting dog.
2023 is the second shed hunting season with my Fox Red Lab, Ridge. We spent the 2022 season shed hunting together in Missouri, Iowa, and finished up in our home state of Illinois. At the time, Ridge was only 15 months old and was in his first year searching for wild sheds. Ridge performed well above his expectations, and I couldn’t be any prouder of his ability to hunt and find sheds. Having found over 20 plus sheds by himself in his first year was an accomplishment I could not have imagined, or even think was possible, but Ridge soon proved me wrong. Although Ridge was started on antlers at Antler Ridge in Smithville, Missouri, his training did not stop there. We continue to put sheds out on the farm and will have Ridge find them, so his excitement of finding antlers continues. Setting aside time for constant training is needed when owning a shed dog.
Deer antlers are found mostly in their wild habitat areas. The common places to find a lot of antler sheds are:
Bedding Areas: Areas where animals spend most of time during the day relaxing, usually in heavy grasses, timber and hidden bushes.
Travel Corridors: Usually far away from human activity where deer pass over fence rows and creeks
Cedar Beds: Where deer bed for the night you can usually find dropped antlers
Standing Crops: Deer use these areas to search for food and usually drop sheds while spending a lot of time there
Mating Areas: It’s one of the best places to find the shed antlers as mating involves a high amount of body movement, which can cause antler shedding.
If using dogs to shed hunt is something that intrigues you, you can learn to train the dog yourself, have one that is started or has completed advanced training from a professional. Depending on who you ask, the breed that makes the best shed hunting dog will vary. Some people will say they prefer pointing dogs or herding dogs. It is best to find the right dog that will fit your training style, lifestyle and hunting style.
If you choose to do the training yourself, there are many resources you can use to get the best results from your shed antler training, such as DogBone Hunter training systems.
If you choose to have the dog trained for you, I recommend researching trainers and their techniques to make sure they align with your desired style. Some trainers will train with antler scent and others do not. Some will train them to have long range or short range. Some will train for the dogs just to locate the antlers and others will train them to retrieve.
Both Ridge and I are geared up and ready for the 2023 shed season, which is underway! Best of luck to you and your shed hunting partners this spring!
Rod Shepard is the Illinois and Southeast Iowa Leasing Agent for Base Camp Leasing. Rod was raised in north central Pennsylvania, where he became an avid whitetail hunter. At the early age of eight, he started hunting, fishing and trapping with his father. Like many hunters, he credits his father for introducing him to the outdoors and passing down the passion to pursue the whitetail deer. It’s something he has loved and appreciated for over 40 years.