If you go back to my posts of February 9th, February 20th, and February 21st, you will see where I thought I had figured out where the moose had spent the late winter, which left me optimistic that—with enough effort and a little luck—I might find a shed. The conditions could not have been better this winter for shed hunting. Minimal snow makes for better visibility to see antlers protruding the snows surface and makes for easier walking. The down side is that these conditions also are optimal for ticks. A friend sent a photo of a calf carcass the she and her husband found while shed hunting. Even though there was little meat left on the bones, the hide still had many ticks on it. The calf survival rate is less than 25% these last few years.
Setting those depressing things aside, Debbie and I took our granddaughters out on a shed expedition without any expectations that our luck would be any different than the last few such outings. The girls were enjoying themselves, each in their own little world of wonderment about the woods. The oldest had been on a few of these expeditions before, so she was not getting her grandfather’s full attention and the lessons in what she looking at. Her younger sister however was in full learning mode, as grandfather showed her moose and deer rubs and droppings and how to tell how old they were and which sex did what. She was really into it, and she very practically pointed out to me that the droppings were nothing more than fertilizer and restoring nutrition to the forest. I was impressed.
Finally, we decided to split up into two teams. The youngest would continue her schooling with Grampy. It wasn’t long after we split up when my team ended up at Stand #3, which my granddaughter insisted on climbing. She was pleased with her accomplishment of reaching the top and made sure I took her picture. While she was making her way down the last few steps, I focused on a white pine that a bull had almost completely stripped during the mid-winter.
I was convinced that the bull had spent much of the time that he might be shedding his antlers in this area. As I mentioned in earlier postings, there was a ton of sign here back then, but nothing fresh now. I walked towards the white pine in order to point out to my granddaughter what had happened here some time ago. It was my intention to take a picture of her standing next to it to show how massive the destruction of the tree was. As I approached the tree, about three feet to my left, I noticed the ground and the leaves had been disturbed. I looked to investigate and determined it was the work of rodents, probably done under the snow. Suddenly something white caught my eye, and as I focused on it, I realized that it was a chewed tip of an antler. Suddenly, there, in seemingly full view, was a large antler!
I yelled for my student, who came running like she had done something wrong or I had hurt myself. There was a wall of young pines, spruces, and balsams between us that she just burst through.
“What?” she screamed. Just then, I held up the antler, and at that moment I would have killed for the camera. The look on her face was, as they say, absolutely priceless. Her mouth was opened so wide as she yelled “Wow!”
Having her there at that moment made it ten times more special than if I had been there by myself. That’s a serious understatement.
As you all know by now, I love being in the woods, and I spend much of that time alone. When I can show someone else the wonder that exists there, especially someone I love, it is the greatest joy of my life.