March 17, 2023
By Josh Honeycutt
Those who find many sheds generally don’t do so by accident. Instead, it is because they time the antler drop well, know where to search and use the tools at their disposal. Also, just maybe, it’s because they have the help of a good shed dog.
No, not all dogs can be good shed dogs. Shed hunting isn’t innate with dogs of any species. While shed hunting blood lines are advertised, this is a relatively new thing, and it takes many, many generations to engrain a behavior, if it’s even possible. Searching specifically for deer antlers isn’t specific to any one breed. But some species can learn easier and faster.
Some of the best options include the American foxhound, beagle, bloodhound, German shepherd, German wirehaired pointer, other pointers, spaniels, setters, and the weimaraner. Still, the Labrador retriever and golden retriever are the two best options for shed dogs.
Regardless of the breed chosen, consider a professional trainer to develop your future shed hunting partner. If that isn’t an option, perhaps take a shed dog training course to learn how to prep your dog over time.
Obviously, start slow. Teach basic commands. Learn to fetch. Introduce deer antlers. Teach a dog to seek out these antlers. There is a lot to training a shed dog (far more than we can cover here). But the most important factors are to be consistent, use proven practices and make the experience enjoyable for the shed dog in training.
Once in the field with your dog, hunt everywhere, but focus on downwind sides of focal points. Key in on locations that you’d hunt if you were alone. Having a shed dog doesn’t really change where you look (other than it allows you to squeeze into thicker cover), but it does make you more efficient.
Having a shed dog doesn’t guarantee huge gains over what you normally find. This is even truer for the humans who have sharp vision and drive. Still, shed dogs can provide a 10-30 percent increase over what you’d locate alone, and dogs certainly go into areas that are too thick for humans to access.
The biggest reason those with shed dogs often find more sheds isn’t necessarily the extra set of eyes and nose, though. Rather, it’s that they generally have access to better ground. Furthermore, they cover more ground and go more often, which statistically increases the number of sheds discovered each year.
A good shed dog takes much time to develop. A great one takes even more. It requires a dog with the right genetics, personality and drive. It requires a person with patience, understanding and wisdom. Pair a great hunter with a great shed dog, and it might just lead to a shed-hunting dynamic duo. Throw in some advanced shed hunting tips and tactics, and it might just lead to the best shed season of your life.