Wild weekend out west

It’s the end of April and we’re still talking about snow and winter weather. It just doesn’t seem right. Maybe this week, we’ll start to see some sun and warmer weather? Late last week a few friends invited me on a road trip to head west to Saskatchewan to spend the weekend looking for some shed deer antlers. Shed hunting is one of my favourite activities this time of year and Saskatchewan is known for having one of the best deer populations in North America so I jumped at the opportunity.

I have spent many days walking ridges across Sunset Country looking for antlers but because of all the snow still covering everything here, we’re a week or two away from the conditions being good to hike around, which was the main reason for heading west. In case anybody is wondering exactly what I’m talking about when I say shed hunting, deer and moose shed their antlers each winter, then grow new ones starting each spring. We will walk around in areas where they drop these antlers, hoping to find them.

Most sheds drop where deer bed down to rest on south-facing ridges and hillsides where they can soak up some warmth from the sun and hide from the cold north winds that we experience during winter. We’ll also find some sheds on the trails that deer travel and sometimes in low lying areas that provide some cover from snow, like cedar swamps. It’s all about covering ground and finding the little pockets where deer will group up for the winter. It’s a fun activity and great exercise.

Our destination for the weekend was a small town in eastern Saskatchewan, an area that is well-known for having trophy sized whitetail deer, as well as some mule deer, elk and moose. One of the trip organizers called the owner of a resort we planned to stay at and he reported that almost all of their snow had melted already and the conditions were good for shed hunting. We arrived there Thursday afternoon in time to get out and walk for a few hours but it quickly became apparent that there was still too much snow on the ground in this area. Because it’s so flat, it’s deceiving because the fields were mostly clear but when you got near the tree lines and in the woods, the snow was still deep, covering up anything on the ground. Some of the snow drifts were still five and six feet deep. 
The next morning we got up and decided to head farther west to get away from the snow. One of the guys had a friend closer to the Alberta border who reported that conditions were good and that they had a couple of areas that we would be able to hike around on. We weren’t really excited to drive farther but we had come as far as we had already so what was another few hours? We arrived to get in another afternoon hike and as a group of nine, we found around 50 antlers, which was a good start. The area we were in was mostly mule deer, a species that is slightly different than the whitetail deer that we have in Northwest Ontario. It was our first time finding a mule deer sheds.

The third day of our trip we got into a really good area and as a group we found a couple hundred sheds, which was really fun. Many of these were old but we did find some fresh ones from this past winter as well. In addition to all of our finds, we got to see quite a few mule deer running around on the hills as well as several coyotes. It was beautiful country with few trees, much different than it is around home.

The drive home turned into an all day activity because we ran into some bad weather around the Saskatchewan and Manitoba border, which was getting hit with one last winter storm. We were able to drive slow and steady but at a much slower speed than we would normally be able to travel at. In the end, it was a good adventure and I’m glad I went along!

Jeff Gustafson, Matt Goldamer and Chad Reynolds having some fun hiking in Saskatchewan over the weekend.