Oh, how I love these days when the sun shines, clearing away the remnants of winter’s snow drifts and luring me outdoors for leisurely strolls through the trees and the dried prairie grass.
I enjoyed such a day not long ago with my four-legged friend, my always faithful canine companion, Molly.
Molly will be 13 years old in another month or two, and while she is showing her age, to see the excitement in her step when I invite her along on a walk still makes me smile. She actually pounces — it’s the funniest thing. It’s like she’s been given a renewed lease on life — a reason for living.
And so, on a beautiful sunshiny day much like today, Molly and I stepped out of the garage of the farmhouse, trudged through water puddles and soft driveway sand, stepped across ice patches and sunk in melting snow as we embarked on an afternoon stroll in search of the ever-elusive shedded deer antlers.
Molly, who always stays a good distance ahead of me, seemed to know exactly where I was headed. It’s my first go-to section of CRP land — the spot where I found two antler sheds two years ago. The path is well worn by deer traffic — well fertilized too, by the looks of their trail. A year ago, Nephew Reece — on a shed-hunting adventure with me — called it scat. It was a term I wasn’t familiar with. Now, I see scat and think of that day with Reece. It makes me smile while I sidestep the droppings.
Searching for deer sheds is kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack — or in the space between the arm rest and the seat of my La-Z-Boy recliner. Nephew Matt, in teaching me the tricks to successful deer shed searches a few years ago, said the antlers often blend in with their surroundings — light-colored antlers in matted down, tan-colored grass; darker shaded antlers blending with the dark, rich soil.
This I keep in mind as Molly and I continue to trudge along. She’s sniffing around trees, burying her nose in clumps of grass. Her search proves futile and she moves on.
I, on the other hand, am looking right and left, left and right, and every once in awhile a few feet ahead. It was then, when I raised my eyes to the path in front of me, that I found it. An antler — just laying there, undisturbed along the path.
“Molly!” I exclaimed in a burst of excitement. “Look what I found!”
Did she understand? I think so.
She came running — ran right over the antler in fact, and then came back to sniff it. I don’t think she was as excited as I was. After all, it wasn’t a critter — certainly not a rabbit. It didn’t move; it was just a boring bone with four points. She moved on.
I pulled out my phone, took a picture of the treasured find exactly where it laid, and proudly picked it up before continuing on my journey. Where there is one antler, surely there must be another, right?
Now, that’s getting a little greedy. There’s no telling where Mr. Buck dropped his second antler. It could be down the trail or a mile away — or perhaps still on his head.
I didn’t find a second antler that day, nor did I find any antlers on my second search a couple of days later.
The four-point antler has since found a home in, well, my home — right atop the antique buffet with the small collection of other antlers I’ve either found or been gifted in recent years.
“What are you going to do with them?” my Dad asked.
Keep them, of course. They’re memories of the farm — memories of my walks with Molly.