With his chocolate Labrador, Easton, by his side, Josh Miller walked into a training field not far from his kennel. Slung over one shoulder was a game holder weighed down not with pheasants or ducks but deer antlers, objects of Easton’s intense desire.
Commanding the dog to sit and stay, Miller then strolled ahead of the alert retriever and hid one antler, or “shed,’’ in tall grass, out of the animal’s sight. More demonstration than training regimen, the exercise that followed nevertheless thrilled Miller, and especially Easton.
“Good boy,’’ Miller said as Easton, 11 years old, scoured the countryside on command. With vacuum-like proficiency, he located the antler quickly, grasped it between his teeth and returned it to his master.
Welcome to shed hunting. Or at least the training that precedes competitive shed hunting, the Big Daddy of which is slated for next weekend at Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels (www.dokkensoakridgekennels.com) near Northfield.
“I’ll be running three dogs, and my assistant, Dave Larson, will run two,’’ said Miller, who has twice won the open division of the World Shed Hunting Championship, an event now in its fifth year and founded by Tom Dokken, whose kennel bears his name.
Arguably, the sport is the fastest growing among hunting-dog competitions, though entered dogs aren’t required to be any particular breed. They needn’t even have fancy pedigrees
Or any pedigree.
“But you do want a dog with a strong retrieving instinct,’’ Miller said as he petted Easton, the 2011 world champ. “It helps also if the dog is fast, but not so fast that he overruns his nose.’’
Shed hunting competitions are rooted in the desire among hunters to find and collect antlers that deer shed in winter.
Who exactly among dog owners first realized that some canines could be trained to seek and find antlers at a fast pace, while covering a large area, is unknown. Certainly within a dozen years or so ago, word spread among retriever owners particularly that the scent carried by antlers could alert dogs to their presence, even if covered by leaves or brush.
Perhaps predictably, bragging about whose dog could find antlers the quickest followed soon thereafter, and then competitions.
Miller, a professional trainer whose River Stone Kennels (www.riverstonekennelscom) are located not far from New Richmond, Wis., was intrigued early on by shed hunting, because he’s a bow hunter and nearly as fascinated with chasing whitetails as he is with training dogs.
“I love looking for sheds in the spring,’’ he said. “And using a dog to help only adds to the fun. It also gives an owner something to do with a dog at a time when there’s no hunting season open.’’
Yet the sport is finding aficionados among non-hunters, too.
“A lot of people own retrievers and other sporting breeds, but they don’t hunt with them,’’ Miller said. “Sometimes it’s because they don’t like being around guns. In other cases, hunting isn’t something they were exposed to as kids.
“Either way, they’re a good fit for shed hunting competitions because there are no guns, or even gunfire, as there is in gundog trials or tests. Instead you’re judged basically by how fast your dog can find and retrieve antlers in a given area.’’
• • •
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|Detroit||39||3rd Qtr 10:57|
|Sacramento||40||2nd Qtr 5:25|
|Boston||8||1st Qtr 6:15|
|Dallas||12||1st Qtr 8:14|
|Denver||11||1st Qtr 6:04|
|Brooklyn||13||1st Qtr 8:20|
|Oklahoma City||11||1st Qtr 6:59|
|LA Clippers||8:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||0||1st Prd 14:49|
|Temple||52||2nd Half 12:35|
|Winthrop||44||2nd Half 15:34|
|Lafayette||42||2nd Half 12:20|
|Northeastern||35||2nd Half 13:40|
|Wake Forest||39||2nd Half 16:43|
|Rhode Island||38||2nd Half 15:35|
|Delaware||57||2nd Half 11:51|
|South Carolina||40||2nd Half 15:03|
|New Hampshire||33||2nd Half 14:12|
|Seton Hall||60||2nd Half 11:54|
|Binghamton||33||2nd Half 17:00|
|American Univ||38||2nd Half 15:40|
|Elon||33||2nd Half 15:19|
|Wright State||39||2nd Half 13:22|
|Minnesota||34||2nd Half 13:38|
|Duquesne||34||2nd Half 14:40|
|SMU||42||2nd Half 12:26|
|Hartford||38||2nd Half 14:04|
|Albany||31||2nd Half 11:00|
|Hofstra||47||2nd Half 13:25|
|William & Mary||61|
|UNC-Asheville||46||2nd Half 14:50|
|Radford||45||1st Half 1:00|
|Texas Tech||16||2nd Half|
|Oregon State||12||1st Half 12:01|
|Morehead State||12||1st Half 14:09|
|Drake||19||1st Half 14:14|
|Lehigh||4||1st Half 14:58|
|Rice||8||1st Half 12:50|
|Missouri State||5||1st Half 13:17|
|Loyola-Chicago||6||1st Half 15:10|
|Nebraska Omaha||9||1st Half 14:10|
|South Dakota St||15|
|Northern Iowa||7||1st Half 13:00|
|St Johns||8:00 PM|
|East Carolina||8:00 PM|
|Georgia Tech||8:00 PM|
|Miss State||8:00 PM|
|Air Force||9:00 PM|
|San Jose St|
|UMBC||41||2nd Half 15:48|
|Akron||41||2nd Half 12:31|
|Ball State||55||2nd Half 13:24|
|Memphis||41||2nd Half 13:38|
|East Carolina||18||2nd Half 20:00|
|Murray State||49||2nd Half 9:28|
|Kent State||39||2nd Half 11:57|
|UT Martin||48||2nd Half 12:02|
|Eastern Michigan||35||2nd Half 15:29|
|Bucknell||48||2nd Half 10:52|
|Indiana||41||2nd Half 13:31|
|Colgate||48||2nd Half 12:41|
|Fordham||47||2nd Half 9:29|
|Duquesne||47||2nd Half 13:10|
|George Mason||38||2nd Half 13:39|
|Detroit||33||2nd Half 11:48|
|SMU||8||1st Half 14:55|
|Oklahoma St||6||1st Half 14:03|
|West Virginia||11||1st Half 12:19|
|Denver||14||1st Half 12:38|
|Northwestern St||11||1st Half 12:59|
|Austin Peay||12||1st Half 11:44|
|Kansas||6||1st Half 14:18|
|Bowling Green||5||1st Half 13:33|
|Penn State||14||1st Half 14:10|
|San Jose St||8:00 PM|
|Boise State||8:00 PM|
|Utah State||8:00 PM|
|San Diego State||9:00 PM|
Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?