Finding Sheds with Fido

dog with antler in mouth

With conventional seasons around the country slowly drawing to a close, a lot of hunters might be planning on hanging up their boots and dreaming about next fall. But just because you can’t carry your shotgun with you anymore, doesn’t mean you should kick back in a La-Z-Boy for the rest of the year. Instead, shift your perspective from big bucks and piles of mallards to big antlers. That’s right, I’m talking about shed hunting. And what better way to shed hunt than with the company of your favorite hunting buddy, Fido.

 

Start With the Basic

Before you can begin taking your dog out for an actual shed hunt, you first need to get your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted. To do this you need to spend a large amount of time working on basic obedience.

dog getting trained

For shed hunting specifically we need a dog that excels in three areas. Firstly, your dog should be able to heel at your side on command. Secondly, you will need to have a dog with a flawless recall, because the last thing you want to see is your dog running off after a deer into the sunset. Finally, you need to be able to sit your dog on what is known as a remote sit. Teaching a remote sit will hopefully stop your dog from chasing that doe in the first place and save you from a world of anxiety.

There are many ways to skin a cat or in this case teach a dog basic obedience. No matter what methods you use, you need to take baby steps throughout the process. Start in your backyard and actually teach your dog what you expect of it. The backyard is a low stimulus environment and as such you will be able to command more of your dog’s attention.

Once your dog is flawless in the yard, it is time to move to a new location. Each location should offer an increased amount of distraction that your dog will have to work through. You should do this in at least three different locations to truly get a reliable response from your dog. This is because dogs are place oriented, so just because Fido can sit in the yard, doesn’t mean he can sit at the local ball diamonds on little league night.

 

Level 2

Next you need to train your dog that his nose is his number 1 asset in the field. In other words, we need to begin the process of training our dog how to hunt for objects. When it comes to shed hunting a dog will use both its nose and its eyes to locate sheds. Ideally, the majority of the work should be done via scent coming off of the dropped antler.

To begin to teach your dog how to use its nose, start big. Take a typical training bumper and rub some antler scent on it and then go and hide it in short grass. Your hunt training area should be a small semi-confined space. Lead your dog downwind and give him whatever command you’d like to associate with the act of shed hunting.

Once your dog finds it, give it a ton of praise and come back to the same exact area tomorrow and repeat the process for three days. You only need one rep a day. The goal is to instill confidence in your dog by making sure it is successful each time you take it out. Once that is finished, take the dog to a space with a little higher grass and repeat this same process.

 

Putting the Pieces Together

At this stage you should have a dog that is obedient at multiple different distraction levels and one that can find a large bumper in medium cover. To continue your dog’s training, you now need to get your dog searching a larger area and moving with you as you walk a field.

Lay out multiple dummies zig-zagged in a straight line about 75 yards long. Take your dog downwind again and zig zag with him through the field. Use your body language and hand signals to help guide the dog in the direction you are trying to get him to go. At first your dog will stay close to you, but once it has been successful you will soon see it stretching out further from your side.

Finally, take the same drill from above, but now switch out those three” bumpers for scented tennis balls. Repeat the same process as before. If you find that your dog struggles with this step, go to an area with shorter grass, where he can use his eyes to help him more. When your dog is able to go out into medium height grass and find multiple tennis balls, you are ready to move on to the next phase of training (Part II is on the way).

 

Recap

A day in the field with your best friend is priceless. There is something moving about seeing a dog do what it was bred to do.

man with dog

Even though your dog already possesses the traits he needs, that doesn’t mean that he will be great at finding sheds. You need to work with your dog and help instill patterns and behaviors that will allow it to be more successful. Start with the basics, help hone your dog’s nose, and then instill in your dog a willingness to hunt. Don’t get frustrated, enjoy the process, and watch in awe as your dog develops into a shed finding machine.

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About The Author
Lance Louth

Lance Louth is a waterfowl and upland hunter located in northeast Ohio. He owns and operates Honeybrook Kennels, a gundog training facility that focuses on developing a retriever’s natural abilities. Lance chronicles his passion for his dogs and hunting through his writing and photography. He is driven by his love for the outdoors and his obsession with the art of storytelling. You can follow along with Lance as he highlights the endless hunting opportunities that can be found in your own backyard on Instagram at @lancelouth or through his own personal blog, Into The Uplands.