By Mark Kenyon
When it comes to written works on shed hunting, there’s typically not a whole lot of literary value. Pull up a random shed hunting article and you’re usually going to see some kind of “how-to” piece, a few photos and a helpful tip or two. That is, unless you happen to be reading the book “A Thousand Deer.”
This book, written by the ridiculously talented outdoor writer Rick Bass, features what I believe is the absolute most beautiful and impressive passage written on shed hunting – EVER. Given that the peak of shed hunting season is upon as at the moment, it seemed as a good a time as any to share with you an excerpt from this moving bit of shed hunting prose. If you enjoy what you see, and I think you will, I’d highly recommend the entire book – A Thousand Deer by Rick Bass
A thing I love to do in the spring, after the snow is gone, is to walk in the woods looking for the winter-dropped antlers of deer, elk, and moose. It is not unlike a naturalist’s Easter egg hunt, in that from the antlers you find you can determine rough life histories – sizes, sometimes age, and even temperament, if the antlers have the battle scars of combat. But mostly I like to find them because they are beautiful. The full basketball curve of the main beam, and the splaying fingers of the other tines … Finding the giant elk antlers is as incongruous and exciting as coming upon a beached whale in the woods. The antlers speak silently to last year’s lives, which are now memories, and some not even that.
The most beautiful time to find a fallen antler is in an open stretch of woods late in the afternoon when the sun is dropping soft tiger stripes of light down through the cedars or pines, and one of those shafts of light happens to fall across the antler’s gleaming brown polished curve.
Sometimes the antler falls right-side up, like an open basket, cradled in the leaves as if to hold light and air, and other times the antler falls with the tines sticking down, like a pitchfork, so that the antler sits like a dome. And then in the cedar jungle, in that end-of-day light, with all the vertical trees and the horizontal twigs and branches on the ground, and the near-horizontal sun rays, the incongruity of that beautiful curve there on the ground, and the beautiful burnished gleam of the antler, will leap out to the practiced eye. And it is a thing worth seeing, in this life, a moment of no small consequence as you come to a spot where a deer lost part of himself but kept on going, a kind of parting of the ways in that precise spot where you’re standing, and the deer went on into the rest of the winter, having jettisoned it all, and kept living for at least a little longer.
… It doesn’t matter if I find any. It is somehow the act that matters, the devotion to the pure improbability of it: like finding a contact lens that has been dropped out of a helicopter and into the ocean. – Rick Bass