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Training Your Dog to Find Shed Antlers

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September 30, 2009

Training Your Dog to Find Shed Antlers

By David DiBenedetto

I’ve never found a decent shed antler. Ever. I’ve found just about everything else in the woods—arrowheads, old bottles, deer, and cattle bones—but never a good shed. Granted, I haven’t spent a ton of time in the woods post deer season, but I do know some dog men who have gone as far as to train their pups to find sheds.

Captain Jamie Hough, a Charleston, S.C. fishing guide and hunter, worked with his dog, a redbone-treeing walker mix, from the day he brought it home. Jackson, (pictured above) spent his puppyhood chewing on antlers instead of rawhide, and quickly became adept at uncovering the racks wherever they were hidden. Nowadays, when Hough is out in the field in late winter Jackson is on a perpetual shed hunt. And he finds plenty. But training a shed dog, it seems, isn’t always that easy—or cheap.

While there’s not much literature out there on the proper way to train a shed dog, I did find a kennel that offers classes on the subject. For $7,500 you can purchase a fully-trained shed dog from Ventosa Kennel that will do just about everything but grow its own rack. The folks at Ventosa take their work seriously—they have the largest training facility for Police K9 dogs in the nation. If you’d rather use your own dog, Ventosa offers a 3-day seminar for $595.

The kennel does offer some advice for picking a good shed dog. It seems hunt drive and retrieving instincts are paramount, which means the retriever breeds—Labs, Goldens, Chesapeakes—are excellent candidates, but the working breeds do well, too.

For now, Pritch and I are too focused on preparing for the upcoming duck season to bother with any other type of training, but I’m curious how many of you shed hunters have trained your dog to help out. Or if you’d be willing to part with 7,500 smackers to have shed-finding machine?

Comments (21)

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from boof wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

Eh...I would prefer if Daisy just worried about retreiving my waterfowl and pheasants. Being she is already 3, it seems too late to try to make her a shed hunter.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I've taken my dog along on some shed hunting trips and then played some fetch with one. I hid it around the house and around the backyard some and sent her after it. I also gave her a spike shed I found to chew on, to help get her interested. I haven't tried real hard to get her to find them, but I'm hoping she'll be better this winter than she was last.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I just gave my lab old sheds to play with and chew on as a pup...then took him out shed hunting with me and would walk him up to sheds before I touched them and have him pick them up, then reward him with praise...before long he learned finding a horn equaled getting praise, it's been game on ever since...though the grouse in the shed hunting woods often distract him, as he is primarily a bird dog, and I catch evil glares when I don't shoot the birds for him......dogs don't understand hunting seasons..

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

awesome photo! and very cool concept, but no way i'd pay $7500!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I have never found a shed either, which is surprising to me because i go looking at least a couple times each year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigbassfisher wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

there is no way that i would pay $7500 dollars for a dog to find antler sheds or the $595 to train my dog to find em. i'll just hope that my dog will find one this winter when i try to look but i won't find any.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

$7,500? Guess I'd better be in the business of finding and selling antlers to justify that cost. Hmmmm, do the Asians buy ground-up shed elk antlers?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

MLH- I hear that shed antler business can be pretty lucrative...antler furniture ain't cheap!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

My pup Jill found a skeleton last Feb. It was a 10 pt buck. That was the only one she found.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from albertahunter wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I had an Akita few years ago and always took him hunting all year round and he had a steady diet of moose and deer bones. he was the greatest at finding deer any time of year and used to drag sheds and bones home on his own. Best ever was when he showed up at my shop after wandering the river valley carrying a full 5x5 rack with skull attached. Good boy Bear, miss you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from taylorhayward wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

They seem to be going for $20 a pop on eBay.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I want to keep my beagles as far away from deer as possible.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

No shed antler hunting here but we did get out for the first time this season today.I will post pictures.Only got to hunt for about five minutes two flushes two Pheasant thats the limit here.I have had a great day and so has Magnum.
NEVER SET YOUR GUN DOG UP TO FAIL U.K.SPRINGER

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

kelmitch- Congrats on a great day! Good to hear you and Magnum made it happen.-D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

TKS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

TKS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I hunt in a area of Mississippi that is known for large racks. My in-laws had a lab that would bring several nice sheds each year. I tried to train my lab to find sheds. The first time I took him out after deer season was over he retrieved a box turtle. Everytime he went out in the woods after that he would bring back a box turtle. Go figure.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

By the way, brought home my new Boykin pup Saturday. Let the training begin.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

revots--Sounds like your Lab had...turtle recall! Okay, okay, bad joke...but congrats on the new pup and best of luck. Hope you're getting some sleep.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

i would love to have a dog that could find sheds. i think its a good part of scouting knowing what survived the hunting season... i think i will try and teach my next dog to do that. and also like pointed out dogs can find wounded or dead dear so why not have such a valuble tool in supply if it can be taught.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Allison Kimbrel... wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I am getting a lab catahoola mix he is 4wks old I am going to start with basic obedience first and give him a shed to play with and chew on (no toys) any suggestions on best way to train him to hunt sheds without spending big bucks. My daughter wants him to be great so she can enter him in shed completion's and have people be amazed at her dog which she has already named Remington.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

revots--Sounds like your Lab had...turtle recall! Okay, okay, bad joke...but congrats on the new pup and best of luck. Hope you're getting some sleep.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from boof wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

Eh...I would prefer if Daisy just worried about retreiving my waterfowl and pheasants. Being she is already 3, it seems too late to try to make her a shed hunter.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I just gave my lab old sheds to play with and chew on as a pup...then took him out shed hunting with me and would walk him up to sheds before I touched them and have him pick them up, then reward him with praise...before long he learned finding a horn equaled getting praise, it's been game on ever since...though the grouse in the shed hunting woods often distract him, as he is primarily a bird dog, and I catch evil glares when I don't shoot the birds for him......dogs don't understand hunting seasons..

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from albertahunter wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I had an Akita few years ago and always took him hunting all year round and he had a steady diet of moose and deer bones. he was the greatest at finding deer any time of year and used to drag sheds and bones home on his own. Best ever was when he showed up at my shop after wandering the river valley carrying a full 5x5 rack with skull attached. Good boy Bear, miss you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I want to keep my beagles as far away from deer as possible.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

No shed antler hunting here but we did get out for the first time this season today.I will post pictures.Only got to hunt for about five minutes two flushes two Pheasant thats the limit here.I have had a great day and so has Magnum.
NEVER SET YOUR GUN DOG UP TO FAIL U.K.SPRINGER

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I hunt in a area of Mississippi that is known for large racks. My in-laws had a lab that would bring several nice sheds each year. I tried to train my lab to find sheds. The first time I took him out after deer season was over he retrieved a box turtle. Everytime he went out in the woods after that he would bring back a box turtle. Go figure.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I've taken my dog along on some shed hunting trips and then played some fetch with one. I hid it around the house and around the backyard some and sent her after it. I also gave her a spike shed I found to chew on, to help get her interested. I haven't tried real hard to get her to find them, but I'm hoping she'll be better this winter than she was last.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

awesome photo! and very cool concept, but no way i'd pay $7500!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I have never found a shed either, which is surprising to me because i go looking at least a couple times each year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bigbassfisher wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

there is no way that i would pay $7500 dollars for a dog to find antler sheds or the $595 to train my dog to find em. i'll just hope that my dog will find one this winter when i try to look but i won't find any.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

$7,500? Guess I'd better be in the business of finding and selling antlers to justify that cost. Hmmmm, do the Asians buy ground-up shed elk antlers?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

MLH- I hear that shed antler business can be pretty lucrative...antler furniture ain't cheap!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

My pup Jill found a skeleton last Feb. It was a 10 pt buck. That was the only one she found.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from taylorhayward wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

They seem to be going for $20 a pop on eBay.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

kelmitch- Congrats on a great day! Good to hear you and Magnum made it happen.-D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

TKS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

TKS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from revots wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

By the way, brought home my new Boykin pup Saturday. Let the training begin.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 4 years 27 weeks ago

i would love to have a dog that could find sheds. i think its a good part of scouting knowing what survived the hunting season... i think i will try and teach my next dog to do that. and also like pointed out dogs can find wounded or dead dear so why not have such a valuble tool in supply if it can be taught.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Allison Kimbrel... wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I am getting a lab catahoola mix he is 4wks old I am going to start with basic obedience first and give him a shed to play with and chew on (no toys) any suggestions on best way to train him to hunt sheds without spending big bucks. My daughter wants him to be great so she can enter him in shed completion's and have people be amazed at her dog which she has already named Remington.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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