The hunting season has long since ended and the woods are quiet.
Deep in the middle of a long winter. This time of year has a privacy about her, almost a lonely feel out in the fields and trees. Everything’s calm, everything dormant.
Frigid and colder than last year’s, but in typical Southern Indiana fashion, a warm day or two thrown in to tease us with what spring has to offer in coming weeks. Not one to waste a 65 degree day in late January, I took to my favorite hunting spot in search shed deer antlers.
Shed hunting takes a special kind of person, the kind of person I am not. Someone who is patient, detail oriented and the kind that won’t leave any stone unturned. It’s slow, it’s tedious. I know of a handful of guys that find them by the double digits. I do not, but occasionally, a blind hog finds a nut!
I march my stubby legs along at a steady clip and glance the field edges for any sign of an old buck’s headgear. Walk, glance, walk some more…
Nothing spotted and I move on.
Now, a more patient hunter will pick apart every likely looking spot with his binoculars, carefully inspecting every inch before moving on. Like a snail, slow and steady.
I zoom around the field, slipping in the mud left behind from the melting snow and constant drizzle, looking for a prize. I had seen several deer using the cutover bean field the past few weeks and had hoped that one of the bucks would leave an antler behind.
Much to my disappointment, nothing in the field but muck.
I hit all the likely spots: Every fence crossing where maybe a buck had shed after jumping the barbed wire strands.
I weave my way through the maze of briars, autumn olive and multi-flora rose bushes that make up the remnants of an old pasture where the big, old boys like to take a siesta. I search all the hidden beds.
Skunked, no bones to be collected.
Across the ridge to a stand of cedars on a south facing slope. It’s warm over here, almost comfortable and I can see why the deer are drawn to this spot. I criss-cross the hillside and sneak along under the cedars. Several impressions dot the ground and show where the deer have slept, but still no dropped antlers.
A quick jaunt through the open hardwoods full of white and red oaks. Maybe one of the big’uns has shed while looking for a stray acorn or two.
Then I spot it.
Something white, something that looks out of place, something big!
I trot up to the antler only to find it’s a bleached out tree limb.
One more spot to check and I hit the nasty thicket on the northeast side of the farm. Choked out with sumac, cedars and vine maples the size of your wrist. Deer trails lace their way through the jungle of trees. I look in vain, no antlers to be found as I pop out of the bush and into the bean field.
A quick look at my cell phone’s built-in pedometer: two and a half miles.
I think to myself. “Not too bad…”.
I slog my way across the bean field taking about three pounds of mud with me to the truck. No antlers found, no prize for the fireplace mantle or to add to the pile, but I was outside, I was in the woods.
I was where I was meant to be.