Shed Hunting for Beginners

Hunting season is over. Winter is in full swing. Cabin fever has set in. Ever wonder how you’ll survive the rest of a long, cold, gloomy winter? Do you and your four legged friend crave some crisp Winter air? If you can relate to any of these statements, shed hunting might just be for you!
I started shed training and hunting with my Labs about 2 years ago. We were all feeling cooped up and needed to burn off some energy. What better way to do that, than a walk in the woods!
Shed hunting, in my opinion, is pretty simple. I believe you can train any breed of dog to find sheds for you. From Retrievers, to Poodles, and Border Collies, and everything in between, it can be done!
Here are some easy tips for you to get started:
• Make it fun for your pooch!  I reccomend using a shed you already have, or you can purchase one online, or at most outdoor retail stores. Start by introducing the antler shed to your dog. Let him sniff it out, and hold it in his mouth. Praise your dog and get them amped up as if they just did the best thing imaginable.
• Start in your yard and play some good old fashioned fetch with Fido. I always associate a word or phrase with the antler. Some people use, “hunt it up”, “find it”, “shed”, or “bone”. You can use any phrase or word you want. This just helps the dog associate the phrase with what task you want him to go out and do for you.
• Once your dog gets the hang of it, start hiding, or planting a shed when hes not looking. Use your word or phrase and put Fido to the test! I wouldnt recommend planting a shed in a crazy spot. Think of where a big whitetail goes. Sometimes antlers drop in the middle of a field, bottom of a tree, along a fence line, even on the edge of a trail, just for some ideas. Don’t make it complicated, and most importantly, don’t forget to praise your pooch for every time they find a shed.
• Lastly, hit the woods, stay consistent, and have fun! It’s as simple as that. Oh, and dress warm! You wont always go out and find sheds, but you’ll never know what you’ll find or see by sitting on the couch. I usually take a shed out with me and plant it for my dogs as a reward for them. This will keep them interested and motivated to keep hunting for more.
I have really enjoyed introducing this sport to my furry friends, and they love it too. Since I started 2 years ago, we have been actively competing in both N.A.S.H.D.A. and UKC Elite Shed Dog Trials. It’s fun for the whole family, and what better way to take in the great outdoors, and stay conditioned during the off season.

Holly’s First Duck Hunt

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, I ended 2018 with a real bang!

This year I had the opportunity of becoming part of an awesome women’s outdoor group called The Sisterhood Of The Outdoors. It has really opened a lot of opportunities for me to get outdoors and enjoy more hunts that I would probably never have had the confidence to experience without these ladies. I’ve been able to meet several other members of the group with various backgrounds and experiences in hunting. These ladies inspire me and help educate me daily.

In the last couple of years, I’ve really enjoyed dove hunting with my friends, so I knew that this year I wanted to try some other types of bird hunting. As I looked through the Sisterhood’s schedule of hunts, I decided to book my first-ever duck hunt. It was being hosted by Amy Ray, our president, and would take place the last weekend of the year in Arkansas at Bust-A-Duck Guide Service. We would also be joined by Lana Van Winkle, the Sisterhood’s hunt coordinator and world-champion duck caller, and Barbara Baird, publisher of Women’s Outdoor News.

As I prepared for my weekend in Arkansas, I was filled with emotions of excitement, but also a little bit of anxiety not knowing what to expect. All of my worries would shortly subside as we arrived at the lodge and began to meet the guides and other hunters staying for the weekend. Luckily, Amy and I arrived a little early, so we were able to enjoy the evening sunset that cascaded over the far tree line. The lodge sits on a river bank – with a fire pit going and food ready to grill. We had heard the rumors that the ducks were scarce, but I still had high hopes that I would get my first duck before the weekend would end.

Our first morning in the blinds, our guide Matt and our girl Lana, started calling out hoping to get the ducks’ attention. My eyes were peeled to the sky, just hoping for some of the ducks to take our bait, but unfortunately, we just wouldn’t have any luck. The ducks were flying high or not flying at all.

The second day was by far my favorite day there. We started our morning in Arkansas, in the flooded timbers, where I was praying for an opportunity at a beautiful wood duck. After a while with no ducks, we quickly changed plans and decided to pack up and head to Mississippi. Buster Cooper, the owner of Bust-A-Duck, was our guide for the day, and he had heard that some of the farms he hunts in Mississippi were loaded with ducks. He wanted to give us the best opportunity not to leave skunked, so we headed out to try our luck. We purchased our Mississippi hunting licenses online, as we motored toward the state line.

As we arrived at the pond in Mississippi, thousands of ducks took off and landed in the pond at the farm just beside us. I wish one of us had videoed that moment, because it was breathtaking and had me dancing with excitement!

The trip to Mississippi was all worth it as we had our first group of ducks land in our decoys! I stood up out of the blind, had my eyes locked on one, and began to shoot. When I saw it fall into the water, I threw my hands in air like I had just scored! I just knew I was the one that hit it and thankfully, Buster saw it as well and could confirm it was my shot. Sometimes, when bird hunting, it can be difficult to know just who hit a bird when so many others are shooting. Knowing that I had finally got my first duck was the best feeling! I waited for Lady, our retriever, to bring back the duck so I could see and hold it. It was a beautiful green-wing teal and I was so grateful for that moment. As I held my duck, I had the biggest smile on my face. We may not have stacked up ducks, but the fact that I was able to leave with my first duck ever, would make the trip a success in my eyes. I am hooked and ready for my next duck hunt, whenever that may be.

After we got back home from our trip, I immediately contacted Shane Smith, World Champion bird taxidermist, so I could take him my teal. I know there will be several months before I get it back, but I can’t wait to display it on my “wall of adventures,” as I like to refer to it.

Book your duck hunt for next year with Bust-A-Duck Guide Service, Augusta, Arkansas. Or, check for next year’s Sisterhood Arkansas duck hunt.

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