Time for Kids and Sheds (or Whatever You Call Them)

I got the chance to work the Illinois Outdoor News booth at the
2011 St. Louis Deer Classic and Outdoor Expo for a couple of days,
and one of my favorite parts of working the show is seeing the
reaction of children to the animals that are displayed. The kids at
the show seemed to have a really good time this year, but I did
happen upon a young lady who was a bit perturbed with her dad. I
wasn’t privy to the beginning of the conversation, but she had
obviously just questioned him about the sign displaying scoring
fees for “antlers” and for “sheds.”

“They fall off,” said the father, pointing to one antler on the
complete skull cap and rack in his hand. “They’re like this only
they aren’t on the deer anymore.”

“You mean when they cut them off?” she asked.

“No, honey, sheds fall off every year.”

“So antlers don’t fall off, then,” she said, starting to show some
frustration.

By this time I was grinning, because as a father of two, I’ve been
in his shoes before. “But sheds do,” I said to him, just in case he
hadn’t figured out where the communication breakdown
occurred.

“Yes,” he said, slowing down to emphasize each word, “a shed is an
antler that has fallen off of the deer.”

The girl’s hand went to her hip and her tone of voice went from
frustration to aggravation. “Well that’s all you would have had to
say in the first place,” she retorted.

I’m guessing here, but I would bet that her father’s next thought
was about how much his little girl reminds him of her mother.

The whole thing was a little funny, but it also got me to thinking
about how the time has come to start shed hunting in earnest again,
and about what a great tool that can be to get kids interested in
hunting. Sheds can’t run away, and finding them is all about
exploring, so there’s no need to make your youngsters be quiet or
restrain them. On the flip side, though, fallen antlers do hide
really well, so finding them requires patience, persistence and
attention to detail. Those things aren’t really the forte of most
youngsters, but there are some ways to make it more fun and
maximize teaching opportunities.

Kids like a challenge, so why not make up a competition? A
competition to find the most sheds might become boring, since you
may not find them frequently enough to keep the excitement up, but
there are more common items that should be easy to find in late
winter. Explain what a rub is and have a competition to see who can
find the most. Or if everyone has digital cameras or cell phones,
create a game to see who can take the most pictures of tracks or
deer droppings (I once let my little girl collect deer droppings in
a bag and take them home to my wife for their nature collection.
Good times!). Along the way, use the competition and their findings
as teaching opportunities, so they start learning not only what
they’re finding, but why and how the deer are utilizing the places
that you search.

Making it fun also means staying comfortable, so be sure to
circumvent problems that will distract or otherwise annoy your
youngsters. You’ll cover a lot of ground, so be certain their boots
and socks fit correctly before you go and pack along some drinks.
Consider the weather and how it will change while you’re out as
well, and make sure everyone is dressed in layers that will
accommodate the conditions you’ll encounter.

Finally, don’t forget binoculars on any shed hunting trips this
year – kids or not. Most kids light up when they get to play with
binoculars, so they make a good boredom fighter, but good glass
will also save you hundreds of wasted steps checking out “antler
imposters” that show up in the middle of every stubble field. Of
course if you remember the kids and forget the binoculars, just
make them march out there in the stubble to check things out for
you. They have more energy than they know what to do with, and the
more you wear them out the easier they’ll be to handle when it’s
their bed time.

Sheds are where you find them, so look everywhere, and happy
hunting.

 

Categories: Illinois – Jay Nehrkorn

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