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Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 Deer Season kicks off... Shed Hunting with the Kids 2/19/12

In our house deer season never ends. While it's a fact that the State of Ohio DOW publishes their version of the Ohio Deer Season each and every year, those are really only the dates in which you must legally abide by if you would like to harvest a deer and wrap your tag around it's antlers. Looking at the big picture from 5,000 feet however, that's truly only one piece of the entire deer season. It's basically the climactic ending to all the months of preparation. It's the part of the season that all of the marketing campaigns, catalog sales, internet promotions, outdoor retailers, trade shows, and big time TV personalities make their living on. It's the smell of the autumn air, the cool mornings, the frost covered multi-colored leaves, fresh cut corn fields, and wood burner scented air. There's not doubt that on the calendar days falling between those officially published hunting season dates that most people think it's deer season because it's the part of the hunt that we all look forward to. It's game time.

But like I said, in our house deer season never really ends, it's a year round passion with ups, downs, lulls in action, peaks in activity, and breaks when needed. Right now, we're just coming off of the state's officially published deer season dates. Which means that it's the scouting portion of deer season. It's the best time of the year to get out and really walk, inspect, and study the spots that you plan to hunt next fall. The landscape is pretty much representative of what it's going to look like for the majority of "deer season" next fall with all of the leaves, ground cover, and foliage gone you can really get out and "see" the woods. You can map out rub lines, scrapes, bedding areas, trails, and all of the other deer sign that might have been overlooked when you didn't have the right wind to hunt a particular area you wanted to hunt. Plus, one of the biggest bonuses of all is you can try to locate the shed antlers of those surviving bucks that should be around in September, and will hopefully be sporting a bigger, beefier rack than they did last fall.

With that said, the kids & I packed some snacks, drinks, and the camera, grabbed Timber then headed out to the "G" farm to do a bit of walking on Sunday afternoon. As far as finding sheds goes, it can still be somewhat productive, but in general I try to hold off until early to mid March before I really start walking around. The "G" farm was a new property that I just got permission on last year, so I didn't get to scout very much other than some brief walks around to hang trail cameras during the summer. I hunted here a fair amount, but I never hunted a spot more than twice, only hunting spots with a favorable wind, and really stayed on the edges of the woods for the most part. After walking a bit here the last few weeks, I've already begun to gather thoughts on how that will change next fall.

Anyway, one thing that I wanted to try and do on this outing was to have my daughter find her first shed. It wasn't going to be easy, shed hunting never is, so I decided to stack the deck by slipping an old shed into my backpack while I was getting our gear ready. If we didn't come across any sheds on our own, then I could always fall back on good ole plan "B" to make the magic happen.

We rolled into the farm at about 1:30 and no sooner had I opened the door of the truck, were the kids already unbuckled and jumping out. Boots on, ready to roll. Timber bounded out of the back as I dropped the tailgate, off on the heals of the kids, probably racing past cast antlers laying long the fence row crossings. Oh well, they already new what block of woods we were heading toward so I just took my time in pursuit, slowly inspecting all the likely spots where a discarded antler might lay.

Off to the races
We continued down to the woods, inspecting trails, creek crossings, finding more rubs, and overlooked spots to hang stands. After a while I could see that the mud caked boots were starting to wear down the initial adrenaline surge from the kid's legs. It was about time to suggest that we look for a good log to take a breather on, grab a snack, and get ready for the long walk back to the truck.

With the kids occupied I told them I was going to go over and check the field edge for some good spots to hang a tree stand. They were content, with enough crackers & fruit snacks to keep them busy for at least a few minutes. So I made my way over to the planned exit route and looked around like I was actually looking for something. The kids were watching so this was gonna be tough. Then I spotted a big dead fall that provided enough cover to block their view, so I hurried up, flung open the pack, ripped out the tiny shed, and flung it over near a deer trail that entered into the open field. Time to head back and gather the troops for the hike out.

It wasn't much longer and I could put the plan into action. My daughter was leading the way when I saw her walk right past the shed! "Hey!" I shouted to her, "You better stop right there!" She turned around, frozen like a statue. "Did you check the ground when you walked over that trail coming out of the woods?"

"Uh, I tink so Daddy, I didn't see anyting."

"What's that by your left foot? No, honey you're other left foot. I think I see something on the ground."

"You DO see sumthin!!" She answered back excitedly. "It's a shed!!"

Hopefully we just added a little fuel to the fire for another future deer hunter from the Curran family...

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