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Time to treasure hunt for deer sheds

Photo courtesy of Corey Wiktor In springtime, searching the forests and fields for deer antler sheds has become a popular new treasure hunt adventure for many outdoors folks.

Our snow-covered, ski-country hills are fading into freshly flowing brooks and creeks, with patches of ground cover opening in the woods. At the same time, the tributary creeks flowing into Lake Erie increase their flow and beckon to steelhead and brown trout to enter the streams. Spring is not far away. At the same time, the New York state hunting season for rabbits, pheasants, squirrels and ruffed grouse ends today. So now the biggest question for outdoors folks becomes simple: fish the tributaries for feisty, powerful steelies and browns, or scamper into the woods in search of trophy deer sheds. Right now is the time of year that the bucks drop their antlers, a natural yearly process, and immediately begin to grow new antlers for the year ahead. Searching for antler sheds has become an annual treasure-hunting process for an increasing number of hunters and non-hunters.

Among the champions of this new adventure art form are those that hit the woods precisely when the snow melt is just about ready to completely expose the bare forest floor and fields beneath. Timing is essential in that the sheds must be found before the other wildlife critters can chew up and eat the shed antlers. Raccoons and several other wildlife eat the antlers. Many people do not even realize that male deer — the bucks — lose their antlers each year and grow anew. Their antler size increases a bit each year in length and diameter. Surprising numbers of huge buck antlers are discovered each year (postseason) as hunters head back to check their tree stands when the spring snowmelt progresses.

Many of these deer were never spotted on trail cameras, adding to the mystery and question each hunting season of “where are all big deer?” Yet, when spring arrives, we find the sheds of so many bucks that hunters never spotted.

Perhaps, as one hunter keeps reminding me, the deer attend Hunters 101, a course created by the Whitebeard Bucks for freshman and sophomore deer each year. Of course, I joke here, but it makes us all wonder how those big deer seem to disappear during hunting season. A longtime Western New York hunter and outdoorsman, Corey Wiktor, travels all over the country and to northwest Canada in search of giant deer sheds. Experts say that cloudy days are better than sun-filled days when looking for sheds, but in my experience, you can find them on any day. Take your sunglasses off to help with contrast.

If hiking the woods in the springtime air is not in your interest, the local waterways flowing to Lake Erie can be filled with fish. The steelhead and brown trout are among the most favorite targets for anglers, but the redhorse suckers, bullheads and catfish are also part of the early fishing season fun and excitement. The cool part of stream fishing is that anglers can tie into some big fish, and no boat, fancy trolling gear, or other costly tackle is required. Simple size 8 or 10 hooks — I like chemically honed circle hooks for this, a salmon egg, a plastic bead, or a piece of nightcrawler, and that’s it. Add a split shot if necessary to drop into the pools where the current flow is carrying the bait too fast. In some areas, and depending on your fishing rod and reel system (spinning, fly, center-pin), some anglers add a strike indicator (a bobber by any other name) to help with strike detection.

Submitted Photo With springtime snow melts in process, Jackson Jerebko of Lancaster displays a nice steelhead he caught with a waxworm and center-pin rod-reel rig on a Lake Erie trib last weekend.

If tossing a single hook-style bait offering differs from your style of likable fishing, the hardware lures are also very effective at this time of year. The Mepps, Blue Fox Vibrax, and old-style C.P. Swing spinners in the 1/16 to 1/8 ounce sizes are among the favorite brands of many local anglers. Springtime water flow is generally clear. Wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses will provide glare protection to allow visual sighting of whatever fish are in the stream; the shades add a direct angler advantage.

Elsewhere in the outdoor world of New York state, there is the sad news of firearms giant Remington Arms moving from New York on March 4 for the more-firearm-friendly manufacturing state of Georgia. Remington has been in Ilion, New York, since 1828. Remington has been a longtime resident and friend of New York state for all those years, it appears that recent changes in the New York firearm laws and ammo regulations have led the company to explore options and make the move. The company was the primary workplace for many residents of Ilion, with more than 1 million square feet of factory space — a sad time for local workers there.

The New York firearm law constrictions seem to have no end in sight. Many of the new laws (dozens) have been proposed for the next session by New York City legislators. Among them is a change to NRA-certified hunter-safety instructors, with the future requiring certification from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. This new group would have sole authority to develop the curricula for the new safety program (Bill A0663A/S138A).

Another new bill (A08443) will attempt to halt New York state firearm owners from purchasing firearms and ammunition outside of New York’s borders. The bill would allow the attorney general to prosecute out-of-state dealers that sell to New York state residents, requiring the dealers to contact the New York State Police before selling to a New York state resident.

Next week, we will address the many new changes in technology for fishing and hunting. This will include electric outboard motors, forward-facing sonar, drones with thermal sensing technology to find deer and much more.

CALENDAR

Today: NYS Hunting seasons close for squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, ruffed grouse.

March 5: Children-In-The-Stream-Youth 4H Fly Fishing Program, free, SUNY Fredonia Rockefeller Art Center — Costello Room, 7-8:30 p.m., Info: Alberto Rey: 716-410-7003.

March 8-10: WNY Sport, Travel & Outdoor Expo; Hamburg; www.eriepromotions.com/wny-sport-show.

March 15: NYS Fishing seasons close for walleye, northern pike, pickerel and tiger musky.

NOTE: Submit calendar items to forrestfisher35@yahoo.com.

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