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Shed Antler Hunting Tips and Strategy

  • Shed Dogs and Antlers Yield Solid Deer Management Insights

    Deer hunting is now over in most of the country and shed hunting season is the next place us crazy deer hunters and land managers are turning our attention!  Well, using a shed dog to find antlers can be a valuable tool in managing your properties for monster bucks!  Shed dog training is wildly growing in popularity for tons of reasons but the management insight it adds is invaluable!  Not to mention is tons of fun and get you out of the cabin when there is not much else going on in the woods.

    Solid Shed Antler Proof:

    It is undeniable proof that if you find a shed antler of a buck, it has lived through the toughest part of the winter and you should have a chance to hunt it next year.  There is no better proof that the monster you have gotten so close to has actually made it through the hunting season….the neighbors didn’t kill him….it didn’t get hit by a truck…he didn’t die of old age or some other type of dieses.  HE IS ALVIE!!!

    Shed Antlers Are Proof of Travel, Feeding, and Bedding Areas:

    Finding an antler in an area is undeniably a please that deer has traveled and will most likely continue to travel.  Assuming there was no pressure that made that deer travel to that area, then it is fair to assume the place you found the antler is part of that monster’s home range.  It is very likely that you will also be able to tell what type of area it is for that deer based on your knowledge of deer in the area or possible even in conjunction with trail cam videos.  Depending on where you find the antler the area could be a bedding area, feeding area, or a travel corridor.

    Shed Antlers Help Score Deer:

    It is hard to score deer on hoof or by trail camera…now many people claim they can, and granted some are very good at it, but one thing no one can argue with is proof.  Antlers provide hard tangible evidence that your approximate score of that animal was within the range of accurate.  And if you are lucky enough to find a match set of that deer then you are even closer to the promise land of establishing a realistic gross Boone and Crockett score of that Deer.

    More Antlers More Deer Herd Management Info:

    All of these advantages of having the antlers provide management insights with or without a shed dog but what a shed dog does is allows you to collect a much larger data sample…which is just more shed antlers in this case.  Shed dogs keen noes allow them to find antlers that humans eyes would certainly have walked right by in the woods.  The extra antlers you will find with using a trained shed dog in conjunction with other management tools (such as trail cameras and surveys) will yield you a much better holistic view of the deer herd you have on your property or wherever you hunt!  So if you have not looked into training a dog to find deer shed antlers, now is the time!

  • Waterfowl, Upland, Sheds…How Do I Start Dog Training?

    While at a training group last week, a potential puppy buyer was looking at one of my fellow trainer’s stud dog.  We got talking and he said he would love to have a dog that duck hunts, pheasant hunts, and finds shed antlers.  He wasn’t sure if it was even possible.  Is it?  Can you have a dog that does it all?

    Shed Dog training in the snow

    Of course you can!  Dogs are amazing animals, and if you have the right one with a good attitude and a lot of hard work you can teach them to do just about anything.  In the situation of duck, pheasant, and shed hunting- training for each individual task will actually help your dog to get better at the other two.  You will want to start your dog as young as possible.  8-10 weeks is a great time to get the taste of bird wings and shed antlers in their mouths.  During puppyhood, you want to make birds (waterfowl and upland) and sheds the best thing in the whole world to that dog.  You really want to build a strong desire in your puppy for birds and sheds.  You can do this by playing with them with bird wings or sheds, getting them all excited, and then putting the bird or shed away.  You always want to put the bird or shed away with the dog wanting it.  In doing this, they will be excited the next time their bird wing or shed makes an appearance.

    All three of these aspects of training rely heavily on obedience training.  You will want to establish a very reliable obedience foundation.

    Bird Dog Golden retreiving

    From there, you will want to teach a strong “HOLD” command.  This will ensure your dog will hold anything that you put into his mouth whether it is a duck, pheasant, or antler.  Teach your dog to hold all sorts of things.  After that you have the option of force fetching which will give you a reliable “FETCH” command.  Training a dog to be force fetched can be very complicated and easily messed up.  It is best to leave it to a Pro.

    While you are doing all of your obedience training and yard work, you will also want to be showing your dog situations that he will see out hunting.  Do lots of marks on land and water using ducks and pheasants.  It is great to give puppies and young dogs shackled pigeons or another small bird to build their bird desire.  Make hiding sheds for your dog to find a daily occurrence- even if it’s just in the backyard.  Make sure you are using enough shed scent to make finding the shed easier on your pup.   I absolutely love Dokken’s Shed Wax… I carry it in my training bag and just smear some on the antlers that I’m hiding that day.

    Hunting Dog - Golden Retreiver

    When you have a dog that will listen to its obedience commands, retrieve a duck or pheasant thrown in an easy situation, and fetch up a shed in some short cover you have a great basis started.  Its always good to remember when training young dogs make it fun, keep your sessions short, and when they give you what they want… Praise!   Now get out there and start working with your puppies!

    Written By Bre Krueger

    Professional Dog Trainer

  • The Importance of First Impressions- Shed Dog Training

    In this month’s ESD blog, I thought I would talk about an important part of any retriever training, the importance of the first impression.  Whether it be with hopes of ultimately turning out a great gundog, upland dog, shed dog or any other working retriever, the importance of good first impression is crucial. The thing about this is that when we introduce our pups to anything and everything in the training process, we need to remember as handlers that it is our responsibility to ensure that we “tee it up” for our pups to make sure that we begin with the end in mind.  When I say that, I mean that there are going to be things that we encounter with our pup in the training process that are going to be “firsts” for that young dog.  Some of these things will be as simple as riding on a 4-wheeler or ATV/UTV, swimming for the first time, feathers and or live birds, gunfire, etc.

    Dog Bone picture

    For our shed dogs, the actual antler is going to be one that is critical!  More specifically, it is going to be critical to introduce the antler when our pups are 100% confident that the shape, the scent and the feel of a hard horn in their mouths are a GOOD thing.  If we, as handlers, toss a real shed antler for our pups or dogs, they will likely rush out to pick up the antler and bring it back, especially if he or she has retriever instincts. The problem is, that relative to dummies, tennis balls or game birds, a shed antler is hard, heavy and pointy. Young pups, especially, have small, sensitive eyes, noses, muzzles and mouths and when your pup is improperly introduced to that hard, heavy, pointy shed their first impression is one of pain, not gain. If you are lucky, your dog will drop the shed antler and move on to something else without injury. More than likely, and as I have experienced myself, the dog will drop the shed and refuse to go near it again, all due to the improper introduction to sheds.

    Gundogs aren’t born afraid of gunfire, but when we introduce loud noises to our dogs improperly…we end up with gun-shy dogs.  The same is true with our shed dogs.  We overcome the risk of negative introductions with our shed dogs by starting them out with the Dog Bone dummies (all available at Everythingsheddog.com) allowing us to still condition the shape of the antler, but without the risk of the negative introduction.  Keep in mind when training…the things you do with your young dogs will stick with them for the entire life, both good and bad. So, be sure to begin with the end in mind.

  • 200 Inch Deer- How To Start Finding Their Sheds

    Find Huge Shed Antlers

    There are a couple factors to finding big sheds; obviously being in an area that holds big bucks is the biggest factor to finding big sheds.  If you are in area that doesn’t hold a ton of big buck doesn’t mean you can find them, with a quality shed dog and the determination to get out in the woods before everybody else should increase your odds of finding that big shed. Most people that shed don’t have a dog, but that is changing on a daily basis more and more people are using dogs making it harder for people without dogs to find sheds.

    Getting off the beaten path and getting farther back into those off the wall spots will increase your odds of finding a big shed, this is where a good shed dog comes into play.  Most of those out of the way places are thicker then thick and are hard to pass through but a good shed dog should be able to get through and find those hard to get to sheds, does this mean you are going to find big sheds all the time?  “Nope” but it sure does increase your odds of finding bigger sheds.

    Once you know where bigger deer hang out from finding their sheds, you can go back to that area year in and year out until the deer is harvested, and hopefully you get a chance to see the antler growth from year to year.  Just remember that the deer don’t drop their antlers in the same spot every year.  But you have a better chance of finding antlers in the same area that you did the year before.   Get your shed dog out in the general area and let them find the sheds for you.

  • The Foundations of A Successful Shed Antler Dog!

    Even with shed hunting, a good foundation of basic obedience is very important.  An obedient dog in the field and in the home will lead to more time enjoying yourself being in the field with your four legged friend.

    Here……HERE…..HERE!!!!  We have all had those days in the field when your dog, or maybe your buddy’s dog, is not on the same page as you. It’s going to happen, and the difference between a good day with your dog and a bad day is whether you can break the cycle and get him/her locked in and not spend your whole hunt training your dog. Here are some of the basics that should be solid with any dog to prevent you from more of these training days then hunting days.

    “SIT”

    When we teach the command “SIT”, that’s exactly what we are demanding our dog to do. They are to “SIT” not walk a few more feet and then sit. We mean NOW. SIT means “sit and stay there”. If you teach the SIT command correctly you should never have to use the command “Stay”. The SIT command is also the main heartbeat of all the other commands you will teach your dog so naturally you want this command to be flawless. Teaching your dog to sit on command no matter where they are is the most important command you can have with your dog. This command can stop them from getting into trouble or can even save their life.

    “HERE”

    The command “HERE” has to be the next most important command we use.  We train the dog to come back to us no matter what is going on. When training the command “HERE”, start in a controlled environment like inside of your garage or in a basement. Keep things simple because simple = success = progress = more time hunting less time training. You should start with the dog in the “SIT” position and then stand about 10 feet away and give the command by saying your dog’s name followed by the word “HERE”. Slowly, as your dog catches on to this and doesn’t break before your command, you can back away.  As you get to your limit of space and your dog can do the drill without fail, start putting distractions off to the side of your dogs’ path to you. Place objects that the dog knows and might see on a daily basis on the floor first then work your way up to putting some decoys out, and then some bumpers. This now lays the groundwork for working on single and multiple retrieves cleanly and gets your dog used to coming to you when you demand it.

    By:
    Rick Schmitz
    Behind the Blinds Kennel and Dog Training

  • Top Shed Antler Hunting Tips

    Whitetail Shed Antler- Shed Tips

     

    1. Use Snow To Your Advantage
    2. Use Ridges and Hills
    3. Deer Bedding Areas
    4. Use Your GPS To Find Antlers
    5. Check Thick Areas For Shed Antlers
    6. Shed Antler Hunting Dogs

     

    Hey guys and girls is Mid February 2013 and the bucks are going to start dropping
    their antlers and you are going to want to get out and find those antlers. This is a
    perfect time to test out all the hard work you have put in to your new shed dog.
    Here are a couple tips to make your trip into the woods more successful:

    1. Use Snow to your advantage: If you are in an area that has snow still on the ground you can use this to your advantage follow the deer trails in the snow and let your dog wonder
    the area looking for sheds remember don’t travel to fast as some sheds
    might be covered in snow, trust your dog and let them work like you would
    if you were bird hunting.
     
    2. Use Ridges and Hills: Locate southward facing ridges and hills; this is where bucks will hang out during the colder months to soak as much heat from the sun as they can.
     
    3. Deer Bedding Areas: Locate bedding areas and a food source then work both areas and the area between the two, remember during the cold months deer will congregate
    in these area so they don’t have to expend as much effort for food.
     
    4. Use Your GPS To Find Antlers: Mark waypoints on your GPS from year to year bucks don’t always drop their antler in the same exact spot, but sometime having a starting point
    the next year will increase your odds of finding more sheds.
     
    5. Check Thick Areas For Shed Antlers:  If you are in an area that gets a lot of snow look for a “deer yard” generally these are located in thicker areas, such as cedar swamps or pine
    plantations, the low hanging branches will aid in knocking the antlers off.
     
    6. Shed Antler Hunting Dogs: The last and most important tip, is to have a well-trained shed dog to go out and help you find those sheds, and the best way to have a well-trained
    shed dog is to follow www.everythingsheddog.com ‘s blogs written by
    the foremost pros in the field, and to make sure that you have the best Shed Dog Trainig
    equipment for training from everything shed dog

  • Set Your Shed Dogs Up for Success!!!

    Bone Collector LogoSet Your Shed Dogs Up for Success

    In 2010/2011 we were able to train a dog for a great friend of ours, Nick Mundt, from the TV show Bone Collectors.  Nick’s dog is named “Jeb”- an English lab from Wildrose Kennels.  Old Jeb is turning out to be a fine shed dog!  The title of this blog is “Set Your Dogs Up for Success.”  This saying is something we use and repeat throughout our training in countless situations and you will find this out as we continue to post short articles here on EverythingShed.com.   We will use this important rule here discussing our early “hunts” with our partners.

    One thing we are very strong believers in when it comes to working our dogs is that we are never in a rush to get through our training.  In fact, we are often accused of moving along with our training at a snail’s pace, which I’m not offended by whatsoever.  The reason being- I know that when we take the time to ensure we have created solid habits through repetition and consistency, we have truly trained our dog and formed that solid habit of whatever behavior it is we are working on.  Because of this, when the time comes for us to work our dogs in the field on actual shed hunts, our dogs will be set up for success.

    In a typical year, I find between 200-300 sheds depending on a lot of variables (weather, time in the field, locations/access to ground, etc.).   Some folks I talk with think that’s remarkable, while others aren’t so impressed.  We do a lot of shows, seminars and appearances with our dogs and I often get the question, “Do you find sheds every time out?” and my answer is simple…ABSOLUTELY!  My dogs will ALWAYS find sheds when they are out.  Are they natural shed antlers that they are finding? No, I wish it were that simple, but it’s definitely not.  I have some very good places to look for sheds, but there is no way that I’m going to find sheds or even a single shed for that matter every time we go out.

    However, when I’m working with a young dog in training (and even with my older dogs at times) as the handler I have to realize that an actual shed hunt is nothing more than an extension of our training or of our lessons.  In between our spring show schedule I try to line up at least a few shed hunts every year that are “cupcakes” (Iowa, Kansas, Canada for example) that I know we are going to put these young dogs on lots of opportunities for successful picks.  This is a great way to build confidence and put the final pieces together for finish training.  The problem is, sometimes I’m stuck looking in places like my backyard (in central WI) and unfortunately we have extremely high hunting pressure and low numbers of mature deer.  After all, we can’t pick up sheds from bucks that are killed at 1 ½ yrs old!  This forces me to put my dogs in an environment that will ensure success for them each and every time.

    The easiest way I’ve found to do this on an actual shed hunt is to pitch a shed 50 yards from the truck on my way out to the field.  Then, on the return, the last thing I do is circle my dog downwind and end the lesson a high note before putting the dog up.  I also bring a small shed in my back pocket with me and throughout the walk, when I’m seeing my dogs focus fade, I pitch the shed while they are not looking, circle them downwind and let them find it and make the retrieve.  This will bring new life into my dog for another short duration and then I repeat as necessary.  I like to compare it to when I took my son fishing for the first time.  We didn’t go to northern Wisconsin on a musky trip where we may cast for 3 days and never get a hit.  Instead, we went to my dad’s farm pond and caught bluegills one after another to keep him having fun and keep his interest peaked.

    Set your dog up for success and you will find a dog that is eager to learn and continue to work for you.  When we are lucky enough, we make sure to take advantage of those “cupcake” trips, not just because it’s a great time picking up a ton of sheds, but because it allows for some of our best training opportunities.  The picture attached to this blog is from a 1 ½ day trip to Southern Iowa that we took Nick Mundt’s dog, Jeb, along with a few others we had in training.  We picked up 79 sheds during that time and when we came home we had some very tired, but confident shed dogs on our hands to keep moving forward in our training system.

    Visit and shop the full line of DogBone Product here!

    Remember, set your dogs up for success in training!

    By Jeremy Moore
    DogBone Products

     

  • The Shed Antler You Would Never Find- That’s Why We use Dogs

    8 point Shed Buck

    Shed hunting is hard, even the most experienced shed hunter has a difficult time finding every shed in the woods.  Having a well-trained shed dog to take on your next journey into the woods after shed will increase your shed finding ability almost 50%.  Think of it this way, there are 3 major benefits of having a well-trained shed dog:

    1. If you walk a mile looking for sheds, making a zig zag pattern through the woods you might find 1-2 sheds, but if you figure for every 1 mile you walk your dog runs 3 miles, you are tripling the amount of area that you can cover in the same time and hopefully tripling the amount of sheds you find.
    2. Your dog has a better nose then you do.  You could walk past shed after shed as you stroll through the woods, they could be buried in the snow, cover in leaves or they could just blend in with a small bush and you would never see them. But your dog is using its nose so finding sheds in the snow or under leaves shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

    Your dog can get into to those places that you can’t or don’t want to get into, like those pesky brier patches, thick fence lines, and brush piles where the big bucks like to hang out. The thicker the area the generally the hard it is for a person to successfully find sheds, but with a shed dog this task becomes a lot easier.

    By Shed Dog Trainer,
    Rick Schmitz
    Hortonville, WI
  • How do I Start a Training Program For Shed Hunting?

    Like I said in the previous article start with the basics up until around 6 months, but after that here are some simple techniques to start with when you are getting into a shed dog program.

    Give your dog an antler for a period of time to get it used to the feel and the smell, making sure they don’t chew it to pieces. Remember it’s not a play toy.  The dog should enjoy playing with you and the antler.  Make the antlers something special for the dogs to associate with when they are with you.

    Force fetching
    Force fetching is using an act of stimulation to train a dog to pick up an object on command and reliably return it to the person telling them the command.  Force Fetching is probably one of the most important training techniques that you could teach you dog for shed hunting.  The reason for force fetching is so that when you are shed hunting your dog doesn’t pick up a shed, get distracted, and drop the shed - then you never knew the shed was there.

    Right around the 6 ½-9 months of age is the right time to start force fetching, once their adult teeth come in.  It also depends on how mature they are when determining whether they are ready to teach them to force fetch. I would recommend that you hire a professional trainer to force fetch your dog, you can ruin a very good dog by force fetching it the wrong way.  Most trainers that force fetch know how to read a dog and can generally force fetch a dog with ease.

    It’s not necessary to force fetch with antlers if your dog will be a bird dog as well. But if the only thing you are training your dog for is shed hunting, then you will want to teach them to force fetch with antlers.

  • What Breed Is Best Made For Shed Hunting?

    Is there a certain breed of dog I should look for, when buying a shed dog?

    The simple answer is “No.”  You can teach any dog to do anything; it is all in the training and how much time you spend with a certain dog on a certain task.  As long as you follow the steps in training you can even train a Yorkie to pick up a shed.

    When looking for a shed hunting partner there are a couple of things to consider.  First, make sure the dog fits your family.  Unless you are planning on keeping the dog in a kennel all of the time, you are going to want a good family dog.  The second thing I would look for is trainability.  Look for a dog that is going to want to look for shed (i.e. some sort of retriever).  You want to look for a dog that has the drive to find something in the middle of nowhere and bring it back to you.   To ensure the dog has enough drive throw a ball into thick cover and observe how long he'll search and whether he's using his nose.  The third and final tip that I have for you is, make sure you have a enough time for the dog.  Don’t expect to pick a puppy and have it shed hunting without spending any training time with it.

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