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.

Posted by: Roger, on 2/14/2008, in category "Training Antler Dogs"
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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 or call 816-289-1154

Remember our motto, “If you’re hunting antlers without a dog, it’s just a walk in the woods.”

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User Feedback

Comment posted by Dennis Fishbaugher on Saturday, February 23, 2008 2:20 PM
Enjoyed the article in Bugle. Was easy to find on the internet. I am interested in a Yllow Lab femail. Do you handle getting the pup and start out with them or do I find one here. I live in La Crosse Wi but have a friend in Mt. and have been talking to him about getting a pup there. I will be retiring in a few years and need to have some one to get out and exercise with. Looking forward to hearing from you. When I lived in Mt. I had a Yellow Lab Femail and had her spaded, she was a wonderful friend. We traveed all over together. Sincerely,  Buck
Comment posted by Grace Wellendorf on Monday, March 10, 2008 6:27 PM
Roger and Sharon, We really enjoyed your show at Cabela's in Kansas City on Saturday March 8th. It was very informative. You both really enjoy what you are doing and it reflects on your work with the Labs. It is amazing what you can do with the pups to get them to hunt antlers. It takes alot of patience and love. Thank you. Is there a puppy for us? Denny and Gracie from Onalaska, Wisconsin
Comment posted by mike lees on Wednesday, December 24, 2008 2:48 PM
i recently got a chocolat lab female. i'm trying to train her to pick up sheds. is there any more advise you can give me? thank you mike
Comment posted by John Rudisell on Sunday, March 15, 2009 5:42 AM
Hello Roger and Sharon,  I received your video (love it )and have a new 11 week old yellow lab ( Autumn ).  We get out and work each day. Sometimes I think we are making real progress and then she will stop working and play with a leaf for 10 minutes.... Is this a puppy trait that she will outgrow.  Am I expecting too much too quickly.  How many hours per day should I work with her and finally..... I intend to give her about an acre to roam, should she be in a kennel when I am not working with her.  Thanks..
Comment posted by Sammy Prudhomme on Sunday, March 15, 2009 11:33 AM
Hello Roger, I have an 11 week old Black Lab (Champ. Hunter), picked her up at 8 weeks old. I read from another antler dog trainer that you should let a pup be a pup for at lease 6 months then start training them. After having her just a week I could not stand it I had to see what she would do with it. I took her out in the yard, let her smell it and tossed it about 25 yards. She ran after it and brought it back to me. I had to work with her a little, but I now have her fetching it as far as I can throw it. She returns with it, sets at my feet and is starting to drop it at my command. I work away from home and only have worked with her about 5 times for about 5 minuites each time. Not sure if I am starting her too early, but when I pull out her antler she starts jumping about and her ears go in the attention mode. She really loves it. I don't let her play with it or even see it until we are working. I really want to do this right. Could yoy please give me some direction with my new Lab pup (Libbey). Thanks, Sammy Prudhomme Eunice, Louisiana
Comment posted by Steve Henneman on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 11:45 AM
I really like the Weimaraner breed. Have you had any experience training one to hunt sheds? How do you think they would do?
Comment posted by andrew p on Monday, March 22, 2010 9:53 PM
hi i got boxers and they love antlers i can hide them and they will find them, but the problum is i thinks they know the smell of there antlers, is there any kind of deer scent you could suggest to me to spray on them so when we go looking they know what fresh antlers smell like in the woods. (WHAT KIND OF DEER SPRAY OR SCENT TO TRAIN WITH?) THANKS ANDREW P
Comment posted by Garrett W on Saturday, January 29, 2011 1:52 PM
Hi. I have 3 month old male German Sheperd and I am asking if there are any good tips on how to train him to look for antlers. Do you have any experience with them? How should I train him?
Comment posted by Jacob Ross on Sunday, February 6, 2011 3:18 PM
Hi just got a 13 week old lab and was wondering if you could email me some more in depth info about training her to be a shed dog?
Comment posted by Josh H on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 5:46 PM
Hi. I have a 8wk old Female Black Lab. She is ver well mannered and already retrieves antlers that i throw to her. We play like this 10 min a day and she loves it and is doing very well. My biggest problem is that i need to know if its ok to let her have other toys. ie:, tennis balls, standard squeaky toys, and chew toys. I keep the antlers away from her till its time to play but im not sure if im going about this exactly right. I'm trying to do this right and turn her into the best shed dog possible. any help is apperciated.
Comment posted by Matt Fox on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 10:44 AM
Hello, I'm getting a 9 week old lab puppy in a few days that I'm hoping i can train to find sheds by next season. My goal is to have a very well behaved dog that i can give simple commands ie. heel, sit, stay, and hunt along with never need a leash.  Then one day train him more advanced methods like hand signals.  I dont have the money to spend on professional training what Videos do you offer or recommend
Comment posted by Jim Anderson on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 2:15 PM
Hi, I have a seven month old lab who loves to play with his antlers.  He fetches them nice now for me but I want to start working his nose.  My question is what do you use for a scent when you start this process?  I am a bow hunter and if and when I get a deer should I be using the tarsel gland for scent?  Just not sure were to go from here.  Is there an artical I could read out there that would better help me with the scent part of training?  Thanks alot for your time. Jim
Comment posted by Brandon Green on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 12:06 PM
I have an issue I wondered if you would advise me on. I purchased a lab pup at 6 months old that was unfortunately never worked with previously. She is now 8 months and acts really good while hunting but simply has very little true interest in sheds or deads. I've found two sets and 2 deads this year already that I ignored until she found them. I acted very excited for her and she liked the attention but when I toss the bone a few feet away she will run to it but then lose interest and not pick it up. Should I give up on her not being "natural" to antler, or what can I do to make her want to fetch it?

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