If you find a shed antler, please bring it home.
I'm not talking only to wives. I'm also talking to girlfriends, mothers, anyone who loves someone with the incurable fever that inflicts serious deer hunters - antler fanaticism.
Antler fanatics hunt for deer with antlers on their heads, but that's not all. Some also hunt for the antlers themselves - shed antlers - those protrusions of external bone bucks wear until they have no further use for them. After they've displayed them with pride, demonstrated their dominance with them, even used them for combat, the antlers just fall off. Then they grow a new set. (Some people don't believe that, but it's true.)
How likely are you to find a shed antler? Not likely, I know. They're hard to find even for those of us who have a pretty good idea where to look. One reason is that Mom Nature recycles. Porcupines and other rodents eat them, nibbling until nothing is left. (Some people don't believe that either, but it's also true.) Yes, equipped with specialized central incisors, rodents gnaw and grind the hard bone into powdered calcium, which they eat to supplement their diets.
So, lots of porcupines, mice and other nibbling critters make them quickly disappear.
Another reason they're hard to find is that coyotes and foxes occasionally take them back to their dens and use them as playtoys. Still another reason is that once spring's vegetation begins to grow, leaves hide them.
You might be wondering why we want you to bring them home. We want you to follow the example of Dave Altman's wife, Rena. Dave is a friend of mine from Brookville and Rena played a key role in his harvest of a giant buck last season. The story began a couple of years ago when Rena was out walking with a friend one evening. As the women skirted the edge of a cornfield, Rena happened to notice an antler lying on the ground.
Did she know what it was? Yes. And she called Dave and asked if he wanted her to bring it home. (By the way - no need to call. Just assume your hunter would like to have it, so bring it home.)
Only one word describes that antler. BIG! Dave put a tape measure against it and the main beam, the lengths of the tines and four circumference measurements totaled 75 inches. Nearly desperate to find the other antler, he searched unsuccessfully for two weeks. But, assuming the opposite side was similar, and adding about 18 inches between them, that buck grew nearly 170 inches of bone on his head. Hardly any of us will ever shoot a buck that big in Pennsylvania. Or anywhere. Or even see one.
So, wives, girlfriends, mothers and all, if you bring us an antler here's what might happen. It might just lead to our next big buck, as it did for Dave. This past season on the second day of the firearms season, he shot the buck that grew the antler Rena found two years earlier. Not only is it Dave's best buck ever, it ranks with the all-time greats among bucks ever killed in Pennsylvania, with 200 inches of antler.
So, bring home every antler you find and, next thing you know, maybe you'll be looking for a place on the wall to hang that buck's head or, like Dave and Rena, moving furniture to create space for a full body mount.
Two more things - and they're essential. Don't tell anyone where you found it. And then do what Rena did. On the morning Dave killed that buck, she wrote him the best little love note of his life. "Good morning Honey - Well, good luck. Go get the big buck! Be careful. I love you. Lots. Rena XOXOXX." He calls it his good luck charm.
Now a note to guys. Dave has two things you should try not to envy. One is that 200-inch buck, but the better one is Rena. "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22.)
When The Everyday Hunter isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.EverydayHunter.com.