Hunting Antler Sheds With The Use of a Dog!
Hunting antlers has long been enjoyed by not only deer hunters, but hunters and sportsmen from various hunting disciplines.
2/14/2008, in category "Training Antler Dogs"
It doesn’t seem to make any difference, bird or big game enthusiast, shed hunting is enjoyed by all. The season is limitless, a license is not needed, and there are no age restrictions. Young or old, everyone gets excited when they find an antler. If you’re lucky enough to find a matched pair, you are hooked.
There are organizations that cater to the shed hunter. It’s a rapidly growing sport for not only personal enjoyment, but for financial remuneration as well. It is not unusual to sell or trade sheds for hundreds of dollars. No matter whether you just want to enjoy the great outdoors and find an antler or two, or whether you are looking for the biggest or most unusual set, it is a sport for all seasons.
Hunting antler sheds with a dog, is very similar to hunting pheasant or quail with a close working bird dog. The dog quarters 25 to 75 yards in front of the hunter, down wind. When the dog hits scent he will go directly to the antler and retrieve it to his handler.
Roger has trained several disciplines of hunting dogs. He has also had the opportunity to work with some of the best bomb dog and rescue dog trainers in the country. There is a common thread in training these dogs; they all had to be trained to find a particular scent. A dog’s keen nose and sense of smell can find something as small as a drop of blood in gallons of water. The tough part of training a shed dog, just as it is with a drug, or bomb dog, is letting the dog know which scent it is that he is looking for. Locating live scent is a bit easier then inanimate objects. For instance, birds not only have a lot of scent, but they move about which gives the dog a better chance of locating them, they can follow a trail or catch scent on the air movement.
*As far as we know there are very few trainers that are training antler shed dogs. In the past couple of years we have trained more then twenty dogs and have them in ten different states. We had to start with no background information and create our own program, “The Science of participating training” Beginning from what breed would be best suited for shed hunting, age of the dogs to start formal training, male vs. female, it was a real challenge, one that has been truly gratifying.
They really seem to enjoy the job. The Labs that we have selected are not the old style lWe have tried several breeds of dogs. After careful evaluation and lots of trial and error, the Labrador retriever is the breed that we have found to work best. It is not by chance that the Lab is the most popular breed in the country. They are smart, very trainable, wonderful with families, and great hunting companions. The Labs that we have trained seem to have exceptional noses for scent work and te dogs, but they are fast moving, high energy dogs. We have worked with other breeds and we own a Pit Bull ourselves, that is a great shed hunting dog. However, a Pit Bull is not for everyone, but that’s a whole another story.
Before purchasing a dog, it is very important to research breeders and their bloodlines. Because of the demand for Labs, care must be taken to get a pup from a reputable breeder. High demand always seems to cause the breed quality to show defects. It is not unusual to find dogs with hip dysphasia or even mental problems. It is always wise to get a verification of clean health, along with a guarantee of healthy hips and elbows.
There are some advantages to purchasing a puppy instead of an adult dog. The first reason for purchasing a puppy is the very important bonding period in a dog’s life. Those first few months set the pattern for the lifetime of the dog. A pup needs to be nurtured and his confidence built, to help him be able to go out and hunt on his own. When a dog hunts for antlers, he must be able to go about his work totally independent of human support. Of course, you will take him to woods or the field, etc., but ultimately he will have to go into areas that his senses tell him to hunt. If you have a properly trained dog, his nose will find antlers even in a harvested cornfield. In corn stubble, it is nearly impossible for the human eye to detect an antler.
A puppy takes a little more time to develop into a trained animal than an adult dog, but the advantages are worth the time and effort. Finding an adult dog that will work well for this kind of training is difficult. It not only has to be the right breed, but age and background experience are important factors. We would never use a dog that is more than one year of age and never one that has already been used for upland game. If the dog has been hunted for live game, it will be very difficult to make the change necessary to hunt antlers. He will always revert back to his original training, when the opportunity arises on the trail.
After you have decided to purchase a puppy or an adult dog, that meets all of the requirements; you have to decide whether you should get a male or a female. As both have pros and cons, most people have a personal preference. On a reasonable level, you can make a case for selecting either. Males normally develop a little slower and can be a bit head strong, but they are less trouble in the field. Females on the other hand, while quick to pick up the training, can be soft and can’t be forced into training too strongly. Females also have a way of coming into season just about the time that you want to go on a hunt with your friend that just has to happen to have a male. This can be a problem! We strongly suggest that dogs that are not going to be used for breeding should be spayed or neutered. Every vet that we have talked with feels that the dogs are not only healthier; they concentrate on their job more efficiently. Thus, we get back to that personal preference; most people have had prior experience with a particular sex of dog and already know which they prefer to work with.
It has been exciting working with these dogs and watching them mature into great hunting companions. We have started puppies and we have worked with year old dogs and we have found each dog to be an individual just as people are individuals. The key to training an animal of any kind is taking the time to understand each of them. Learn to recognize the strong drives of the dog and use them as a reward base for the dog.
Antler hunting with a dog can be a wonderful experience for the entire family. You don’t need any extra equipment or an expensive gun, just take to the fields or woods and enjoy yourself.
For more information contact Roger Sigler at antlerdogs.com or call 816-289-1154
Remember our motto, “If you’re hunting antlers without a dog, it’s just a walk in the woods.”