The Ford pickup fires up with a rumble. It’s a beautiful spring afternoon in Duluth and I am headed out for a hunt. While hunting is usually associated with the fall, I am taking part in a different type of hunting. No guns and no bows. Today we are hunting for deer antlers, otherwise known as sheds.
Nate Lassonde is a passionate deer hunter that has found a way to continue doing what he loves even when it is not deer season. Utilizing Duluth’s vast amount of green space, Lassonde is able to shed hunt close to where he lives on the UMD campus.
Lassonde said, male deer go through a cycle every winter where they will drop or “shed” their existing antlers in order to grow a new set. These deer sheds are exactly what he is looking for to add to his collection.
“I found my first one in fifth grade,” Lassonde explained as he led me down one of his favorite deer trails.
“Basically you just follow deer trails and look for signs,” said Lassonde. “If you step off the trail its waste deep snow.”
Walking through the crunching snow we look all around for signs of a deer shed. Lassonde moves slowly, carefully scanning the snow-covered woods. Recent heavy snowfalls make the search all the more difficult.
“Every time it snows they keep getting buried,” said Lassonde.
Even though he knows that the snow would make finding a shed almost impossible, Lassonde still makes sure that he gets out for a little bit to go look.
“It’s something to do I the winter,” said Lassonde, “and I really love finding antlers.”
Lassonde starts looking for sheds every year as soon as the hunting season ends, and he likes to hit the trails thoughout the spring when the male deer are actually dropping their antlers.
“They can shed them anywhere from December to April,” said Lassonde.
Not only does he like collecting antlers, but he also uses this time to help scout for the next season. Following deer in an area he hunts can help him better understand their patterns and behaviors.
“Shed hunting is a part of scouting,” said Lassonde. “You can figure out what deer are living on your property.”
Turning around, we headed back to the truck, planning on driving to another nearby deer trail that Lassonde wanted to walk. En route to the next trail, Lassonde explains the value and thrill of finding a big set of antlers.
“People collect them,” said Lassonde. “You can even sell them to taxidermists and collectors. Other people make stuff out of them like lamps or cribbage boards.” Lassonde shows me his key chain, which has a broken antler that he had recently found. Lately he has been having more success on his family’s farm in Stillwater, Minn., finding three sheds the last time he was there.
Although he often shed hunts by himself, Lassonde welcomes along family and friends when they want to join him for a hunt.
Growing up together, Lassonde’s brother Kyle has been on the search for antlers with him for many years.
“I have been shed hunting with Nate since he started,” said Kyle. “It gets us out of town and in the woods. We definitely have fun.”