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On the hunt for antlers

Briggs Woods hosts hunt for deer castoffs

April 2, 2012
Hans Madsen - For the Daily Freeman-Journal ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

The sooner a hunter looking for shed deer antlers can get out in the woods to find them - according to Hamilton County Conservation Park Ranger/Naturalist John Laird - the better off you are.

Or rather, the more of them might be left.

"They don't last long," he said. "The rodents start feeding on them, they're an excellent source of calcium."

Article Photos

-Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Hans Madsen
Helen Lamb, of Jewell, is all smiles as she finds a shed antler Saturday afternoon in Briggs Woods Park during a Deer Antler Shed Hike hosted by Hamilton County Conservation. The antlers had been placed along the trial by Park Ranger/Naturalist John Laird.

This was one of many facts participants in a Deer Antler Shed Hike in Briggs Woods Park could learn before going out into the woods and searching for antlers.

He said a buck will use about 50 kilograms of calcium to produce each years set of antlers. Their size is determined by the animals age, diet, overall health and genetics.

When they grow them, it's at a frantic pace.

"This is the fastest growing tissue there is," Laird said while holding an antler aloft, "It can grow one half to an inch a day."

All that growing is mostly to impress the does during the fall mating season before they fall off in January and February.

Once on the trail, participants got busy looking for the antlers Laird had placed there.

"It will give you an idea of what it's like to find them in the wild," he said. "It's kind of like an Easter egg hunt."

Except deer antlers - even those hidden by a naturalist - are not that easy to see.

Trey Shannon, 8, of Webster City, discovered this as he looked for them with his mom, Amy Shannon.

"I wish antlers looked like antlers - not sticks," he said.

The two are frequent visitors to the park and often walk the trails. In the future, they might be looking for around a bit.

"I hadn't ever thought of it," Amy Shannon said. "Now we will."

Brian Greenfield, of Williams, is a dedicated hunter and outdoorsman, his reason for coming was simple.

"I wanted to learn how to find sheds," he said.

Elmer Lamb and his wife Helen, of Jewell, came out to take a break from a conference.

"I'd rather be outdoors," Elmer Lamb said.

He is one of the fortunate few to have found a set of antlers while roaming around outside - just not here.

"It was awesome," he said of the experience. "They were good-sized ones."

He was also enjoying the service half of the hike, picking up debris and litter along the trail.

"If you can't give money," he said. "You can give time."

At the end of the trail, all of John Laird's hidden antlers and deer skulls had been found, several bags filled with garbage and one jaw bone picked up and examined.

Trey Shannon got to keep it.

"It's probably a raccoon," he said before it was identified as having once belonged to an opossum.

His immediate plans for the bone?

"Take it to school and show it," he said.



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