Searching for shed antlers

With the quick warm-up in temperatures over the weekend, the ice on waters across Sunset Country deteriorated very quickly.
By early this week, many of the small lakes were totally open and the ice had pulled away from shore on the bigger ones. So the ice-fishing season quickly came to a halt.
As much as I like to ice-fish, it’s always a good day when the ice no longer is safe because we have so much to look forward to in the coming months in this part of the world.
Over the past few years, because of all the time I’ve spent fishing the FLW Tour bass tournaments in the U.S., I haven’t been able to put in as much time as I used to scouring the woods for shed deer and moose antlers.
Shed hunting is one of my favourite activities because every time you find an antler, it’s like finding a hidden gem on a treasure hunt.
It’s also a great time of year to be outside in the woods. It’s so peaceful and it’s great exercise.
This week, I was able to spend a couple of days looking for shed antlers and it was a lot of fun. My friends and I certainly did not find as many sheds as we did several years ago, when our deer populations were much greater, but we found a few each day.
We also came across a couple of skulls from deer with the antlers still intact that likely were killed by wolves.
If you like to hunt, shed hunting is great because at this time of year, you still can see all the deer sign in the woods from last fall, like the rubs on trees and scrapes on the ground that mature bucks make.
As well, when you find any fresh sheds, you can have some optimism that there could be deer to hunt in that area come fall.
Beyond shed antlers, we find all kinds of things in the woods, like old logging camp sites, skulls from all kinds of animals like beavers and bears, as well as old tools that were left behind many years ago.
You really never know what you might find.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve spent hundreds of days in the woods at this time of year looking for sheds—and I have a couple thousand of them in my yard to show for it.
But I had something happen this week that I had never experienced before.
A friend and I were a couple hundred yards apart from each other following a ridge, and we were yelling back and fourth every few minutes to stay in contact with each other. We were nearing the end of our ridge and were planning to meet up.
I started walking towards him when he yelled that a bear was headed my way.
In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never actually seen a bear while walking through the woods.
I slowed up a bit and changed my route after it became apparent that the bear was not running in my direction. As I got closer to my friend, I looked up in a tree directly above me and saw a tiny black cub way up it.
I quickly had a feeling of “Oh, crap” come over me and immediately started scanning the woods for mama bear. I could see my friend just over the hill and started yelling and quickly heading in his direction.
When I got closer to my friend, I looked back and the bear was running around the tree where I was standing.
There were two cubs when my friend first saw the bears and I likely got lucky that mama was trying to round up the other cub and left the one I saw alone up the tree for a few minutes.
We quickly got out of the area and I felt pretty lucky because this encounter could have been a lot worse.
I probably should get a can of bear spray to keep in my pocket in case this ever happens again!
I’m back on the road later this week, headed for Beaver Lake, Ark. for the next FLW bass tournament.
Look for my practice report next week!