Antler Dogs on the Canadian Prairie
In shed hunting, much like in bass fishing, the hunter dreams of the day when he catch’s or finds the really big one.
2/14/2008, in category "Hunting Trips"
Also like bass fishing if you are going to catch the big one, you must be where the really big ones are. The same is true with sheds, that’s what led me to the shed hunting trip of a life time.
I had read story after story about the big deer in Saskatchewan. I had spent many a fall roaming the Canadian prairie in search of birds when I trained bird dogs. I decided to take my nephew Marc and my string of Antler Dogs and head north to the prairie, this time it would be in the spring, not the fall.
If you want to do things right, get all the help you can. That’s what lead me to purchasing a DVD entitled; “Saskatchewan, Treasures in The Buck Brush”, by Bentley Coben master shed hunter and professional guide. On his DVD he talked about finding 40 or more sheds in a day. This definitely sounded like the place to find the big one, so I contacted Coben set a date and the rest is the story that follows.
My motto is, “If you are hunting sheds without a dog, you are just going for a walk in the woods”. I love everything there is about the outdoors and the only thing that can improve my time there is, sharing that time with my dog. For you who aren’t familiar with the sport of shed hunting with a dog, I describe it as hunting with the best of a bird dog and a drug detection dog, rolled into one. The dogs hunt like a bird dog quartering 50 yards ahead of the handler, hitting the cover for scent of the antler sheds. The dog is like a drug detections dog that is trained to hunt an inanimate object like cocaine. The antler dog has been trained to find the sheds by scent discrimination. Until he is trained to identify the scent of the antler, it has no more meaning to him then a stick. They are trained to sniff out antler sheds, old or fresh and retrieve them.
LET’S GO HUNTING: Diary of Marc Sigler
We arrived at Bentley Coben on April 7th; the weather was cold, no snow, but only about 15 degrees. We were letting the dogs run in the open row crop fields near Bentley’s house while we awaited his return from his daily shed hunt. Looking around at the vastness of the area it was hard to imagine finding the exact location of the deer herds without the help of a knowledgeable guide like Bentley. Who would have thought that we would have multiple days of 40 or more shed finds.
Day One of the Hunt:
After preparing for the mornings hunt, we were guided to a wide open field that seemed to have no boundaries. There was plenty of deer sign but it was not easy to find where they might have been herding together. We branched out in different directions; I found a couple sheds just out in the open fields. Roger and two of his antler dogs, returned with four more. The vastness of the field made it difficult to hunt, so we decided to try another location. As we were leaving that field, Roger spotted one from the road. He knew where it was and wanted to give his yellow lab, Ayla a chance to find it. He led Ayla to within about 50 yards of the antler. She scoured the ground, you could hear her nose pop from a mile away, and she found it with easy. Without hesitating she retrieved it to her master. This really showed us that the dogs not only worked perfectly, but that the more success they experienced in the field the more eager they were and would work even harder for the antler finds. After she returned the antler to Roger he sent her out again. It was obvious that there were many bucks in the area, as Ayla came out of a patch of woods carrying another nice whitetail shed.
The next location was much different. It varied between smaller crop fields, rows of trees and fields of brush and thickets. I started in a field of thickets and the other fellows went to the other end of the area we were hunting. After an hour of hunting in the thicket I decided to work my way toward a crop field. As I worked my way onto the deer trails toward the field, I started to find whitetail sheds. Over the radio every one was making claims that they were finding sheds too. I could see them in the distance, I could see the antler dogs scouring the ground and returning with antlers. They were covering two or three times or more ground, than we could even think about covering.
As the sun began to set, we counted our sheds and took a picture to remember the best day of shed hunting in my life. So far, 48 sheds were found along with a deeper passion for shed hunting. To all those who witnessed the dogs hunt for the first time, a new passion for shed hunting with an antler dog was realized. They hit areas that we would never have been able to reach.
Day Two of the hunt:
In the morning, Bentley told us that this had been a particularly hard winter. The frozen ponds kept the moose and deer from drowning the ticks that almost covered them in the spring. The ticks can suck the life right out of them if the ponds are not open for them to rid themselves of the parasites. After an hour of hunting and no shed finds I actually came across a place along a row of trees where a deer had laid down and some of the ticks had been left behind. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was blood covering the area where the deer had been. But my enthusiasm was renewed, they must be around, the ticks were a sure sign. However as the morning passed, I was all but hopeless to find my first shed of the day. Then I spotted one right at the end of that row of trees where the ticks had been left.
I worked my way around the end of the trees and up into a low-cut field where I was finding shed after shed. The deer were shielding themselves from the wind here I would suspect. Thinking about the frozen prairie ponds led me to wonder how many sheds were actually frozen under the ice. Unbelievably I turned to look at a small prairie pond I had passed, and sticking out of the ice were three little tips of a pretty nice mulie shed. I broke through the ice to claim my prize.
In that same field I found the biggest mulie of the day, sadly we would not find its match on this trip. Roger and his antler dogs found something amazing though. As the afternoon was gaining on us and about 2.5 miles away, Roger sent his dogs hunting into some thicket and brush. They returned to him carrying the match to the shed that I had found in the ice. I was flabbergasted. I desperately searched for the mate to my giant in the same thicket. I didn’t find the match, but I did come up with about six more sheds.
Bentley must have sensed that we were not ready for the day to end. He pulled over to let us enjoy about another 20 or 30 minutes of paradise. We all went out in different directions. I crossed over two fields following a deer trail into some woods. It was buck heaven. Whitetails had marred nearly every tree around. I found two sheds in a hurry and decided I had better head back before the sun went down completely. We waited for Roger to get back so we could tally up and take a picture. . I was hoping that my uncle could find his way back in the dark, when in the twilight we spotted him. The dogs were literally jumping like crazy with excitement. They returned with a few more whitetails from the same cubby that I had just left. The black lab had found the match to the most perfect whitetail shed I have ever seen. The beautiful glow of the last rays of the sun faded out as we took a picture of the days find.
So how do you find 97 sheds in two days in Saskatchewan, you use a knowledgeable guide like Bentley Coben and of course, Roger’s incredible antler dogs. It was a trip that I will never forget.
You can get more information on Roger’s web site: www.antlerdogs.com or call