I found it!

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Kevin, Douglas and I went out looking for Torn Ear's antler today. We didn't see him all day yesterday...but this morning he finally showed up without his one remaining antler... which meant it could be a lot of places. So we just started in one general direction and started following trails. With all the recent melt it was hard to look for recent tracks but we followed well used trails, large deer tracks, poop trails, and searched areas we know they bed down in. 

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At several spots around the house, usually up on hills but back in the forest there are bedding areas. The deer lie in those spots to watch the house, but also for security reasons. A lot of the time they will lay with their back towards the house (where the smallest chance of a threat is) facing out towards where the more likely threats to them would come from. There are dozens of beds in the forest around the house, but being deer they do travel all over... and since it warmed up to 50 degrees F the past few days, their habits changed... in cold weather they stay in a smaller area, but when it's warm they travel further looking for things to eat. 

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They had been crossing the ponds at some point, but I knew he hadn't crossed any water in the past 24 hours, it's not even remotely safe to cross right now... so that helped rule out a lot of areas. 

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Douglas is not afraid of water, but he doesn't appreciate getting his feet wet either. However in some instances he's been known to jump in the pond, so I kept reminding him that really wasn't a good idea... He believed me.

About an hour in, we had wandered over to a different spot and Kevin and I had split up... he took a trail on flat ground and I took a higher trail that went up on a rocky ridge towards our summer horse/cow pasture which is about 900 feet from the house. Douglas was walking behind me, distracted by something and I was scanning the landscape in front of me back and forth looking for the unmistakable color of bone. Even in snow if your eye is trained, you can spot it if it's not buried. Thankfully in this case the recent major snow melt we had helped us dramatically. If we don't find a dropped antler within a couple of days of it being dropped, it's going to be eaten by spring if we do find it, so it's not going to be in pristine condition, but will have been chewed by critters (porcupines, mice) and be weathered unlike a freshly dropped antler. 

I was focused on one thing and one thing only... anything strange on the landscape I was scanning... and maybe a little distracted by Douglas who seemed to be eating something he shouldn't be... Then I spotted it. 

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I let out a yell. "I've got it, I've got the antler!" Kevin yelled up to me "who's antler?" he thought maybe it was another deer's. I knew the second I saw it that it was Torn Ear's antler. Only one deer I know has an antler that big. It was partially stuck in the ground. He had probably been pressing it into the ground when it came off. When they are ready to fall, deer will rub their antlers on trees, branches, the ground, just to get it off of them, because it's irritating them. 

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I am so, so, relieved we have a matched set again this year. 

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We started for home, scanning some other bedding areas as we walked just in case Deer Norman also dropped his antlers near by.... but they could be anywhere. We'll look, but they will be much harder to find. He wanders further than Torn Ear, and we are not sure which direction he came from after he dropped them, so it will take searching. If we are lucky, we'll stumble upon them... but they were not in the bedding areas across from the house by the cow pasture, so at least we ruled that one area out. 

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Torn Ear's antlers are bigger this year than last year. They are much thicker and the tines are a little bit taller and there is more mass to them. So although old, one eyed and after showing up with his hamstring sliced this fall, he's still in his prime, and he's still strong. Usually at this stage of life, you start to see their antlers decline.

Antler hunting is exciting. You don't always find your reward, and it isn't always easy. It takes a lot of walking, following endless amounts of deer trails and poop, but when you do find one, especially one you really want, it's always a thrill. It really is an art. I think back to myself looking for antlers 7 years ago and I wasn't half as aware of my surroundings as I am now. It really teaches you how to notice things in the landscape and pick things out. I learn more about the forest each time I walk it, what flowers and plants are there and how to spot from far away something that doesn't belong naturally - bone, bear disturbance, an animal watching me.

It's the best form of meditation I know. Walking through the forest, clearing your mind, scanning the landscape waiting for a treasure to appear, and just listening for her to whisper a secret into your ear. 

You can read my post about Torn Ear's antlers from last year, here.  Amazingly when Kevin was tagging the antlers (we write down the name of the deer, the date he dropped the antlers and when we found them) we realized it was the same day as last year!

Comments

Ellen in Oregon said…
That is amazing that you found the antler exactly one year to the day since you found last years set. The antlers are beautiful. When I was looking a the pic. you took of the antlers inside the house, they reminded me of drifwood(only with really sharp points). They are stunning works of art.
The last time I stayed at a B&B in Jackson Hole, WY, they had a glass top coffee table made with antlers. The base was an 8 inch thick X 5 ft. diameter slice of wood. The owner had secured 3 antlers to the base so they were all level and then had a 5 ft. round of tempered glass resting on the antlers. I was surprised that the antlers had no trouble holding the substantial weight of the glass. It was amazing art & at the same time it was functional furniture. If something like that was in a designer furniture store it would likely go for thousands of dollars. The man who made the table at the B&B told us that other than about $150 for the glass, it cost nothing.
Thanks you for educating me about the antlers and the way they are shed. I am sure that your tracking skills and ability to scan for changes in your environmemt is constantly improving. I'm glad you had such a good time on your antler hunt & that your efforts paid off with another matched set. Douglas looks happy to be out & about with you now that much of the snow has melted. He probably enjoyed a little alone time with Mom.
Primitive Stars said…
Wow, how neat is that...can`t believe you found the antler....Lov e to hear good stories about the wildlife, Bless Torn Ear, Francine.
As much as we wandered the mountain trails- we never found any! How exciting!! Since they loose them yearly - they must have to grow in quickly in the spring for them to get bigger every year!! Very interesting!
Very Awesome!!
I'm thrilled that you found it and you can tell by looking at last year's that it is definitely his!
jody said…
how cool donna finding the antlers and yes it does sound like a very calming sereal walk! i bet you know the woods and can spot things out of place. im sure you are a sorce of security for the animals that stick around year after year. how wonderful for all of you! enjoy your day!
jaz@octoberfarm said…
that is just too cool. they sure are impressive!
Kym Bozarth said…
Amazing you found antlers. I have never found anything like that on my walks in the woods.
But then again, I live in New Jersey!
We haven't even had any snow yet this winter and that makes me so sad.

Great and interesting post. I like it.
I also invite you to my blog. ;)
Yours. Have a nice day.
 
You can also find me on the fanpage and keep track of my work:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/In-another-light/413836138693856?ref=stream ;]
Myra said…
OH I would love to go antler hunting with you. Those are gorgeous and so large too. Almost unbelievable that you found it on the same day last year.
That's so awesome that you found it! Antler hunting is my kind of hunting! haha :)
Ruth Dixon said…
Beautiful. We very rarely (Like once every 10 years) find 1 antler, much less a matched set. Thank you for sharing the story of your hunt.
Kerri said…
What a great adventure!
Dreaming said…
OK, now I will have to wait a whole 'nuther year to see what three years of antlers look like! How neat to have both years and both antlers.
Mary Ann said…
I love to do things like record dates and keep records... and the antlers are so cool! I'm glad you kept track of it all!

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