Two weeks ago — before snow blanketed the yard and created big drifts among the trees; before a walk outdoors turned our noses red and our fingers white — I went shed hunting with a bunch of amateurs.
Shed hunting, for those of you who may not know, is the elusive search — the needle-in-the-haystack kind of quest — for deer antlers that fall from the heads of (shed by) bucks this time of year.
As I said, I was out with a crew of first-timers.
They were so excited they seemed not to know what, exactly, they were looking for. Hence, one girl excitedly referred to our expedition through the trees as a search for antler poop (OK, perhaps the chill in the air affected her thought process), and another girl said she’d like to find a reindeer antler. (This was the day of our delayed family Christmas, after all. Perhaps she had Santa on the brain.)
As for me, the chance to go shed hunting with the great-nieces and great-nephews was a welcome opportunity for this introvert to escape the farmhouse in which all 29 members of the Buntjer family were gathered. Oh, how great and wonderful are the outdoors.
No one had planned to go shed hunting that day. Jan. 12 seems a bit too early for such an adventure. However, as I walked across the front lawn at the farm with my nephew’s family, one of the great-nieces ran up to me exclaiming, “Look what I found!”
In the grip of her hand was a three-point antler.
Nephew Matt and I exchanged looks at the seemingly effortless discovery by the 8-year-old. I mean, she wasn’t even looking for a deer antler and there it was in plain sight on the front lawn. She didn’t have to walk through matted down grass, duck under tree branches or follow a trail of deer scat. Lucky duck, that’s what she was.
Kiera’s morning discovery led to a plan for the day. She convinced Alayna, Adrianna and Emily to walk through the trees, while Brody and Trenton split off from the girls to do a little shed hunting of their own. I, meanwhile, donned my boots, mittens and winter coat and walked off in the direction of my lucky spot — the area of the farm where I’ve found three, maybe four deer antlers in past years.
I walked back and forth through my lucky spot, stepping over fallen logs and ducking under creaking branches until my eyes started playing tricks on me. It was time to return to the farmhouse.
I was just inside the garage when 8-year-old Brody, who’d seen where I returned from, asked if it would be OK if he and Trenton went back out and walked along a different set of trees.
“Sure,” I said, knowing it would have been my next place to look if I hadn’t needed to warm up for a bit.
Well, I don’t think 10 minutes had passed before Brody came running into the house, beaming with a 5-point antler in his gloved hand. It had been found about 150 feet or so from the point where I’d given up my search. Yes, I’m still disgusted with myself for calling it quits. Yes, I tried to convince Brody to give me the antler, and no, he wouldn’t give it up. After all, it is his very first deer shed — one he and I will remember for a very long time. He found it laying right on a pile of deer scat. We recreated the scene for a photo.
There was one more deer shed found that day, in the most unlikely of places. It certainly was Kiera’s lucky day. She spotted her second deer antler about six feet off the ground, caught between some branches in a tree. My guess is it was shed a year ago, judging by the gnawed off points and overall condition.
We have speculated how the antler got in the tree. Aside from the idea that the buck may have perched his front hooves on the tree and caught his antler in the branches, Nephew Matt suggested perhaps a squirrel tried to carry it up there. Regardless, our quest for deer antlers now has us looking both on the ground and up in the trees, and my bifocals are making me dizzy.
That’s why a pair of 8-year-olds ended up with three antlers that day … yeah, it was all because of my glasses!
Seriously, I’m happy for them. The next generation of Buntjer kids has found one more thing to enjoy in the outdoors at the farm.