This past weekend, my friend Ed and I went shed hunting. After being stuck in the house all winter and hunting season long over, I was really looking forward to searching for antlers the bucks had shed within the last few months. Ed has a friend who owns 400 acres of land in Warrenton, Virginia, and he was kind enough to let Ed wander all over his property in search of those elusive antlers. Ed was kind enough to invite me along.
We started out around 10:00 in the morning on a beautiful April day – one of this year’s first really good days of spring. The sun was shining and the temps were in the 60s. Perfect weather for tromping around looking for sheds. I didn’t even care if we found any – I was just happy to be back in the woods!
I should mention that Ed brought along his kids – two very adorable Wirehaired Vizslas, the most unique, intelligent and probably goofiest dogs I’ve ever met. Winnie and Finn are the size of small ponies with orange hair and beautiful green eyes. They’re great … I don’t even want to refer to them as dogs, because they seem more like people to me.
Although Ed has been trying to teach Winnie and Finn to find antlers, I don’t think they’ve caught on quite yet.
After parking our vehicles and walking a short way onto the property, Ed stooped down and picked up the tiniest skull I’ve ever seen. Judging from the size of it, the large eye sockets and tiny front teeth, we surmised it was a squirrel. Well, it used to be a squirrel. Ed was excited at the prospect of adding it to the shrine of animal skulls he is amassing at his home.
After tucking the squirrel skull safely into Ed’s backpack, I took off to the right of the property in search of antlers and Ed took off to the left. There was an area of trees and brush with deer trails running through it that seemed like a good place to start. Eyes to the ground, I started looking. Rather than coming across any antlers, my first find was a recently demised skunk. Very recently and very smelly. So, I thought, this is how the day is going to go.
Next, I found one very dead cow. It was so large and the hide so tanned by the sun that at first I thought it was some sort of machinery. It took me a minute to realize it was, in fact, a cow.
Where were all the antlers? Four hundred acres of land with deer trails, deer tracks and deer poop all over it and yet we couldn’t even find one antler. Either there are a lot of very hungry mice on this land or we just suck at finding antlers. I never did see any mice.
After a while, I came across a virtual wildlife crime scene. All that was missing was the yellow tape. First I came upon a deer leg, slightly gnawed on.
A little further along, a big swath of deer hair covered the ground.
Next, a set of ribs and upper body with the tiniest of spike heads attached.
Hey – antlers! Not exactly what I had in mind, but at least it was something! So I twisted the head around and around until it came off and went to find Ed.
Along the way, I came across the remains of another dead cow. What was the deal with all these dead cows? So I picked up the skull and took that with me, too.
Dead stinky deer head in one hand and a big cow skull in the other – not what I was looking for but fun nonetheless.
Ed was sitting on a hill and eating a snack with his kids when I caught up to him. He was very complimentary of my finds. Some people are just so polite. After taking a few pictures, we decided it was best to leave the cow head behind since it was so heavy and cumbersome. It was bad enough that I spent the next few hours with a reeking deer head in hand. I didn’t need to be toting a big cow head, too.
As we crested a ridge, we saw a flock of about ten turkeys directly in front of us. They were so close, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t scared them away. We both froze in place. Winnie and Finn were incredibly obedient and didn’t move a muscle. As we watched, one of the toms fanned out his tail and started strutting around in a circle. Come on baby, you know you want me! It was awesome to watch!
After a few more shows of the gobbler’s sexy stuff, I snuck into the nearby woods in an effort to get close enough to take a picture. I hadn’t thought to bring my telephoto lens and I couldn’t get a decent shot from where we stood.
If you’ve ever tried to sneak up on a turkey, you know it’s pretty much impossible. They see EVERYTHING. After about ten minutes of creeping low to the ground through the trees and brambles, I got to the edge of the tree line. I could clearly see the turkeys and was finally close enough to take a picture…but I ended up spooking them and they flew away. Oh well, at least I’d been able to see the show.
That really got me thinking about the opening day of turkey season next weekend…
We hiked the property in search of antlers for a total of five hours. Winnie and Finn kept trying to gnaw on the spinal cord of my smelly deer head. I decided then that as cute as they were, they wouldn’t be licking me in the face anytime soon. After walking downwind of me, Ed commented that it was a good thing we’d taken separate cars.
Smelly deer head and lack of antlers aside, I was reminded that there is nothing like spending a day in the woods with a good friend. Besides being able to appreciate the beauty of nature, you’re also able to totally focus on each other without the common distractions of everyday life. Well, other than something dead here and there.
We wrapped up our day with a trip to Foster’s Grill in Warrenton, Virginia. I had never been there before, but Foster’s had the best damn burger I’ve ever eaten. It could be that we had hiked for five hours and I was really hungry. Or it could be that the draft beer was nice and cold and I was sharing the meal with a good friend on a perfect day. Either way, it was a delicious meal in a relaxed atmosphere and you should stop in if you get a chance. (http://www.fostersgrille.com/)
At the end of the day, our tally included:
– One dead skunk
– One tiny spike head
– Two dead cows
– Two turtle shells
– One squirrel skull
– Two pretty rocks
– Four ticks for me
– One tick for Ed
– One memorable day spent with a very good friend
So, no antlers. And I really could have done without the ticks, but that last one on the list — yep, that made it priceless.