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Outdoor News: Shed Dog Hunting in Greenwood

Fastest Growing Dog Sport in the World: “Shed Dog Hunting” arrives in Greenwood

World Champion Hunting Dog

Dr. Lance Barton with his World Champion Hunting Dog “Jake” who brought sheds to his master.

It’s the dead of winter. Deer season has ended…even the archery season that lingers into February in these latitudes. You’ve put on weight through the holiday seasons. You’ve put our hunting dogs up as duck and quail and dove seasons have ended. It’s time to lose all that extra weight by sitting on the couch watching March Madness and endless television.

If that’s your life or that of the sportsman in your house, here’s some news and facts to consider: 1. Out there in the woods, bucks are shedding their antlers. 2. Farmers who are planting plots for deer are running over antlers throughout the woods causing endless flat tires on 4-wheelers and trucks. 3. Those antlers have tremendous value to collectors and decorators. (Deer antlers fashioned into door handles, knife handles, lamp stands and chandeliers fetch handsome prices) 4. Landowners are curious about deer populations of their farms and forests. If deer are there shedding their horns, then they weren’t taken by hunters back during the last season and will likely be there next season. 5. Sporting dogs can be easily trained to retrieve fallen antlers, thus keeping the dogs’ senses keen and their bodies in shape. 6. This has rapidly become the fastest growing dog sport in the world today. Shed Dog Hunting has experienced a 400 % growth rate in the last five years. Read on!


Now’s the time to get into this sport.  Before the snakes, ticks, mosquitoes and poison ivy ruin a good walk in the woods and fields, look for those bedding sites. Deer will spend the winter and early spring in the densest areas where there is good bedding and good food supplies. Find those oaks where acorns are abundant and where the underbrush is thick enough to knock those racks around on trees, stumps and vines and you’ll likely find a treasure trove of antlers or “sheds”. Train your dog to go in after them and return them and you’re experiencing the perfect outdoor sport for this time of year. This is a sport that can make a profit in more than one way. We’ll get to that.


2012 World Champion “Jake” retrieving Shed.

2012 World Champion “Jake” retrieving Shed.

Shed Dog Hunting is not competing with anyone and you’re doing a service for the landowner in two ways…removal of the tire puncturing “sheds” and collecting data on deer populations, size of local bucks and density of deer herds. The landowner wants to know what deer are out there and so far, he only knows the stats on how many were taken last season from his property. The “Sheds” on his property are from the deer that survived the most recent season.

The landowner may want to accompany you while shed dog hunting. It’s no distraction to the well- trained dog and landowners can know where paths are cleared of sheds for access to growing plots.

Harold Smith says that there was a time in Colorado when you could see hundreds of sheds on the ground littering the fields and hillsides while scouting for the best places to hunt the next year. You don’t see that anymore because of the value of those sheds to the home decor industry. A deer antler chandelier that weighs about thirty pounds can run as much as $4,000.00 in some markets. The small ones are expensive too and the large ones that adorn lodges, hotel dining rooms and lobbies run into price ranges that are staggering.

The Dog and the Family Get Involved

Enough Sheds to form a Christmas Tree  - collected by Dr. Lance Barton

Enough Sheds to form a Christmas Tree – collected by Dr. Lance Barton

Any working dog can be easily trained to retrieve sheds. Sporting dogs like Labs and Golden Retrievers are the best, of course, because of their retrieving instinct. Dog trainers say that this exercise will not ruin the dog for hunting. These dogs are still going to prefer bringing back a fallen duck or bird. Shed hunting merely extends the season of sport and exercise for the dogs as well as the master and his family. Harold Smith says this training that can include the whole family is the adult version of Easter Egg hunting. Let the kids hide the sheds for the dog to hunt. Once the dog is familiar with the sheds, their look and smell, then hiding the sheds for the dog to find in places that range from obvious to obscure can be fun for the whole family and a great outing on a cold winter day in nature.

Sheds have a “wax ring” when they come off the deer. That wax ring emits a pungent odor for a while and is the key to training the dog. As the training continues, the trainer will wear gloves so as to not confuse the dog into thinking it’s the scent of the trainer that is being hunted.

With puppies, Harold Smith’s research suggests starting with a 30 foot check cord with a five month old puppy and the same commands of “Retrieve!”, “Return!”, “Sit!”, “Here!” and “Stay” that are used in training bird dogs. Smith says, “When the dog is introduced to the shed, just add to list of commands ‘FIND ME A BONE!’ that is used in training the shed hunting dogs and enforce all that with praise and treats.”  By the eighth month, remove the check cord and if the dog is ready to hunt, he will enjoy some freedoms and if not respectful, he goes back on the check cord for longer training.

The introduction of the bone is a sight and smell training activity. The longer the sheds lay in the open air, the less smell the bone has and the dog must be trained to recognize by sight what it is to retrieve. Trainers use cutouts that look like antlers to “throw the dog off.” The shed is hidden somewhere near the fake antlers and the dog must learn by smell and sight the difference between the demo and the real antler he’s being trained to retrieve. Some dogs and their linage are more susceptible to training for shed dog hunting. Dog owners and trainers formed an organization for this sport…the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association (NASHDA)…founded by a fellow named Dokken in Minnesota to hold time trials for trained dogs.  They award dogs for just how fast a shed dog can put the shed into the hands of the owner…and You Guessed It!

Shed Hunting Dogs

Harold Smith (L) with Dr. Lance Barton (R) and 3 of Barton’s Shed Hunting Dogs.

A New Industry Springs Up

In the last few years this sport has grown by 400% and a well-trained Shed Hunting dog can bring $3,500.00 to $5,000.00 and don’t forget the money generated by the endless breeding possibilities for the right bloodlines. To establish the value of the dog and its linage, there are competitions just like for any other sporting dog.

There are regional timed-trial competitions for shed dogs now in several locations and winners are invited to a World Championship at Dokken’s in Minnesota.

Property owner Mike Malone happy to have shed antlers removed from his fields.

Property owner Mike Malone happy to have shed antlers removed from his fields.

Greenwood’s Dr. Lance Barton recently accompanied Harold Smith for some shed dog hunting on a tract of land up in the Ozarks near Westfork. Smith’s friend Mike Malone has 400 acres or so that proved to be a good area following deer season to put Barton’s dogs to work. Of Barton’s shed dogs, “Jake” has been invited to a World Championship Competition. “Jake” won the fastest time in the “2012 World Championship” and continues to perform beautifully as Smith and Malone will agree.

Dokken’s work in creating a new sport and the industry that has sprung up around it can be followed at and you’ll be amazed at how fast a sport can take off especially when so many already have the dogs, landowners need the help removing the sheds from their property and the sheds have value when found, regardless of size and age.

Deer Hunters Benefit

Ah! Modern technology…! Harold Smith adds this to the equation for deer hunters: take your GPS device with you shed dog hunting and log in the coordinates when you find large numbers of sheds in a specific area. That’s the place to start your deer hunting next season. If you know where they bed and where those antlers are dropping, then you know where it is the reclusive deer feel the safest and least threatened by hunters.

That only makes sense. Smith, Barton and Malone spent the day shed hunting in the Ozarks and saw thirty or more deer as they were exiting the area.

Nest Issue: April has five Wednesdays’, so we’ll take off the first one and readers will enjoy some insight into local Turkey Hunting in our next issue on April 9, 2014!


*Editor’s Note: We know of no other outdoor news feature like this in any other newspaper. This segment features firsthand accounts of exploration, stalking deadly prey and photographing scenic wonders. The Greenwood Tradition is indebted to Greenwood’s Patti and Harold Smith for sharing their photos and memories for this popular segment. They have traveled the world in search of scenic wonders and wild game in exotic locales, some very dangerous. Harold has been a lifelong, avid hunter. Later in life, the hobby became a passion that he a Patti share. It’s how they spend their retirement years in a pastime they can enjoy together. The stories Patti and Harold help with include African Safaris, local deer, turkey and game preserve hunts, hunts in Texas and Colorado and several foreign continents. The adventures are offered in every price range and level of thrill and include other Greenwood area travelers/hunters as well. Harold Smith has been researching Shed Dog Hunting for this story and shares information, insight and photos along with that of Greenwood’s Dr. Lance Barton.

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