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Sunday, March 24, 2013
A friend recently told me he’d taken to an old-fashioned form of motivation to inspire his kids to work harder at school.
“I give them $40 for each A they get on their report card,” said my buddy and fellow outdoors writer Kevin Rhoades, who was kind enough to host me during a recent quick trip to Missoula, Mont., for Outdoor Writers Association of America-related business.
I made the mistake of telling my kids the story.
When they brought home their great report cards on Thursday both had their hands out, smiling.
“Not a chance,” I said, giving them the answer they expected.
Not that I mind handing over cash for a good reason.
In fact this winter I have been plying them greenbacks.
In the woods.
Each winter I like to do some hiking in the hopes of finding deer antlers that have recently been cast by their furry owners.
Sheds are the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Deer, especially mature bucks, like heavy cover.
Where the cover is heavy, the grounds is often littered with sticks, brush, thick leaves and the sort.
To find a shed in such an area often requires nearly stepping on the antler.
Sticking to heavily used trails can help, but it still requires covering lots of ground while staying attentive.
I have had some practice.
During my ill-fated attempt to learn to golf I spent lots of time scanning heavy cover for white things.
I rarely found my own lost golf balls, but I would usually emerge from each trip into the woods with at least one or two balls that once belonged to golfers as terrible at the game as I was.
The more eyes you get in the woods the better the chances of finding antlers.
Some shed enthusiasts have taken to training dogs to help them find sheds.
That makes sense. Dogs can cover more ground than we can, and presumably one with a good nose can even sniff out a recently dropped antler.
I don’t have a shed dog, but I have kids.
“I’ll give you $10 for each shed you find,” I announced one evening when I was looking for some company on a hike. “But it has to have at least three points.”
We headed for one of my spots not far from home, and started walking.
We had covered about a mile and things were looking bleak when we walked into a pine thicket.
The trunks of several of the smallish pines were rubbed bare of bark, having been attacked by one or more big bucks.
That was a good sign.
Pine thickets are great shed spots because they provide good cover during the winter, but also the ground tends to be pretty devoid of messy branches so antlers can be easier to spot.
Almost immediately I spied something white.
Maddy saw it a moment later, as I was hustling over.
Now, I realize some dads might have pretended to not see the shed — a nice one with four points.
I tend a little toward the Great Santini school of parenting, however.
“Boom!” I said as I picked up the four-pointer.
“Ah, man,” Maddy said.
Maddy looked harder.
“Got one!” I heard her shout.
But then her excitement was tempered.
“Darn,” she said. “It’s got only three points.”
I took a look.
“Actually, that point isn’t an inch long,” I said. “So it’s only got two points.”
The Great Santini strikes again!
Actually, I was a little nicer.
“I’ll give you $5 for it,” I said, drawing a smiling nod.
A few minutes later I spotted another forkie.
As we neared the truck I steered us into a rough thicket and promptly almost stepped on a great shed with five points.
Four sheds in 2 miles?
It doesn’t get better.
And our next few trips drove that point home.
Sometimes on my own, sometimes with the girls in tow, we covered another 15 miles and found one meager fork horn.
I was starting to lose momentum when I headed out for a hike Friday morning.
My reward for sticking with it? The best find of the year, a heavy five-pointer with a split G2 tine.
I was eager to show it off to the girls when they got home from school.
“There are more out there,” I said. “Who wants to go?”
So off we went, the girls with hopeful optimism and me with $40 in my wallet, just in case.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday