Dennis Anderson: Young outdoors enthusiast is a champion of budding sport

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2012 - 1:12 AM

  Josh Miller of New Richmond, Wis., is out to defend his title in the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association World Championship.

Josh Miller of New Richmond, Wis., and his chocolate Labrador retriever, Easton, won the inaugural North American Shed Hunting Dog Association World Championship in 2011.

Photo: Special to the Star Tribune, ALL

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Josh Miller never imagined he would be a world champion at age 23. But he is, and achieving that lofty status with Easton, his trusty chocolate Labrador at his side, has sweetened the achievement that much more.

Josh, of New Richmond, Wis., and Easton are at the forefront of what in recent years has been a fast-growing hobby, and now is a fast-growing nationwide sport: shed hunting.

Not sheds as in buildings where lawn mowers are stored. But sheds as in antlers dropped each year in winter by whitetail bucks.

"Hunting'' for the dropped antlers, or sheds, in spring as snow melts has become increasingly popular among sporting types, as deer numbers have increased.

Typically, searches are conducted on foot in areas where deer concentrate, or "yard up,'' in winter. Bucks drop their antlers any time from about Christmas through the first few months of the year, and shed hunters who stumble onto even a single side of a big animal's antlers are thrilled.

Finding both sides -- a relatively rarer occurrence -- is still more exhilarating.

"I stumbled onto shed hunting with my dog,'' Josh said. "I'm really into bow hunting, and shed hunting was just something that I've always done as winter leaves and spring arrives.

"At that time of year -- generally in March -- it's been about the only thing I find to do outdoors.''

A professional dog trainer and sales manager for SportDog, a maker of electronic collars and other dog training aids, Josh grew up in Hudson, Wis.

Some of his first shed-hunting forays were in nearby Willow River State Park.

"I took Easton along with me for the exercise, and while I looked for sheds, he kept finding tennis balls,'' Josh said. "He's a nut for tennis balls, and he seems to find them everywhere. That's what got me thinking: Why couldn't I train Easton to find sheds for me?''

Tom Dokken, owner of Oak Ridge Kennels near Northfield and a dog-training mentor of Josh's, had been thinking similarly.

"I wasn't the first person to teach a dog to hunt sheds,'' Dokken said. "But I've always been a shed hunter myself, and having a dog in the woods really helps. Training a dog to hunt sheds isn't hard. You just change your technique around a little bit, and away you go.''

An astute businessman as well as a renowned retriever trainer and kennel owner, Dokken saw an opportunity to develop a shed-hunting dog group, the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association (NASHDA), and through it organize competitions among dogs and their owners.

He has since developed a website that offers training tips and training accessories for sale (www.sheddogtrainer.com).

Now, following NASHDA's first world championship a year ago. Dokken is heading up the April 21-22 title match.

"Shed-hunting competitions have significant advantages over other types of hunting-dog tests,'' Dokken said. "For one thing, it's not required to own a specialized dog. Lots of people -- particularly deer hunters who hunt sheds -- already own dogs that can be trained to find and retrieve sheds.

"Also, putting on a shed-hunting competition isn't manpower-intensive. And these are walking trials, so anyone can do it. You don't have to run like you do in some bird hunting championships.''

Rack scent is key

Shed-hunting dogs seek their quarry using their noses.

When a buck drops an antler, blood and other material carrying scent is left at its base. It's the odor of this material that a shed-hunting dog seeks while scouring the woods.

To simulate the smell during competitions, a product called Rack Wax is rubbed onto the bases of antlers. Six antlers are then planted in three separate fields, each measuring about 15 acres.

Points are awarded for each rack found by a dog, and each time a rack is delivered by a dog to its handler.

The quicker this occurs, the higher the score awarded.

"The three fields typically represent different cover types,'' Dokken said. "One might be a grass or CRP [Conservation Reserve Program] field. One might be wooded. The other might be mixed cover.''

When Josh and Easton won last year's championship, they bested dogs and handlers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Michigan, Arizona and Florida, among other states.

They also topped Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, of TV's "The Crush with Lee and Tiffany,'' who placed second.

Josh hopes he can win again this year.

"Easton is 8 now,'' he said. "When I was 15, I developed a real passion for training dogs, and I umpired Little League games an entire summer to save up enough money to buy him as a puppy.

"I've trained many dogs in the time since. But Easton has always excelled at everything I asked of him. We'll see how it goes this year.

"Either way, he's still my best dog.''

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close