Today’s guest blog is from Dan Cole, who has published the new digital eBook, How to Find Whitetail Deer Sheds. Below are excerpts from the chapter on shed-antler dogs:
The Pros of Antler Dogs
There’s a huge difference between a well-trained dog and one that just finds the occasional antler. A well-trained dog can be worth its weight in gold. A good dog will find sheds that we would more than likely miss finding, and they can run pretty much tirelessly for most of the day, covering a huge amount of area that we couldn’t get to in three days of hiking.
Learning how to exploit the nose of a dog is the trick to having the success you hope for. Although a dog is capable of finding an antler visually, the majority of the sheds it finds will be located through scent. Work your dog on the downwind side of the cover, and work directional patterns into the wind.
Your tendency will be to scan the ground around you for shed antlers. However, until you and your dog learn how to really work together I recommend you keep your eyes on your dog. It’s easy for dogs to become distracted; all it takes is a mouse and they can quickly forget their business. Learning these changes, from hunting to playing or the difference between curiosity and fear, helps establish the working relationship with your dog.
One last piece of advice from the bird dog trainers–you should be the only one that gives your dog any commands. This eliminates any chance of confusion within your dog, and he will always know who its one master is and who he needs to listen to.
Most states have laws that restrict the use of unleashed dogs during the winter months. These laws have been on the books for several decades, long before the shed antler dog craze began. The restrictions are a protection for winter stressed wildlife. And yes, the same restrictions in most cases include private property. It’s up to you to know your state or provincial laws concerning the use of dogs.
If you’re using a dog for shed hunting then you have an obligation to give it the best in-field care you possibly can. This will mean packing extra items in your backpack just for your dog… You need enough water to keep your dog hydrated for the entire day. Let them drink as much as they want, whenever they want it. You’ll be carrying a lot of extra water. My short-hair will go through a quart of water for every couple hours of hunting.
You also owe it to your four-legged friend to be there in case of injury. Things happen all too often when dogs run through the woods. They get sticks in eyes, or thorns in ears, eyes, and paws. You need to carry a small first aid kit specific for your dog. Items such as a tweezers, eye flush, iodine for flushing skin tears, salve and ointment are things that may be needed at any given time. One of the most important items I carry is a small container of super glue. It’s certainly not an end all for a nasty cut, but it will close a bad gash well enough to stop most of the bleeding, and allow you time to get your dog to a vet for proper treatment.
Shed Dog Ethics
I’ll let you decide what’s worse: a dog owner that cannot read a no trespassing sign, or his dog that can’t read the same sign? This is all a matter of ethics. YOU are responsible for where that dog goes and where it ends up! If the sign says no trespassing, that includes your dog.
Having a dog in the field adds a great deal of responsibility. All the rules of etiquette, ethics, and morals still apply, but doubly so. If it’s not allowed for you to do something then it stands to reason your dog shouldn’t be allowed to do it either.
Under no circumstances should your dog ever be allowed to harass a wild animal. If your dog is out of your sight and it jumps a couple deer, will it give chase? This could become a very serious situation…something you will need to deal with as a shed dog owner/handler.
Shed dogs are becoming more popular every year. Hopefully, the people using them are ethical shed hunters that expect the same standards of their dogs as they expect of themselves.