The sun was shining and there was a crisp chill to the air as Shane Brenke and his family rolled into the parking lot at Rush River County Park on Sunday morning to search for something many people overlook.
For the past 20 years, Brenke has been on the lookout for deer sheds. Deer shed their antlers once a year, usually between January and April, and the Brenkes like to search as a family once the snow starts melting.
Shane, wife Kristie, daughter Rayna, and their German shepherd, Skyla, kept their eagle-eyes on the ground as they looked for this year’s sheds.
“Where do the deer winter is the big thing,” Shane said, as he began hiking up one of the county park’s rolling hills. “Look around trees, their bedding areas, kind of know the deer’s habits.”
County parks are a safe haven for deer, Shane added. He also keeps an eye on cedar trees that may have knocked off loose antlers.
Shane said he found his first shed about 20 years ago and has found about 10 over the years. While some of the antlers decorate his hunting room, he has given his smaller ones away to young kids. His largest shed find to date is a five-pointer, he said.
“As a hunter, you always look for them when you are turkey hunting or mushroom hunting. You can find them all year, but a lot of times the squirrels and the mice chew on them,” Shane said.
His wife, Kristie, found her first shed a few years ago, and brought it with her while searching on Sunday. The antler is small, only about three inches in length, but she managed to spot it while taking a hayride on their property.
“Once you find one, you kind of get hooked on it,” Shane said.
While those who search for deer sheds may have different approaches, Shane said he keeps his eye out for the big ones. It isn’t easy and requires a fair share of luck. Sometimes what may appear to be a white antler turns out to be just a stick…or a leaf…or perhaps even a skull.
Although the Brenkes didn’t find any antlers while searching on Sunday, they didn’t return home empty-handed. Rayna found a golf ball, while Shane discovered a deer skull and an arrow — the latter most likely from a hunter who missed his or her mark.
The hunt for deer sheds is also an activity unaffected by the recent coronavirus outbreak. It can be a family affair or solo activity. When searching with others, one tactic is to spread out to cover the greatest amount of ground, like the Brenkes were doing.