Spring report: sheds and surgery.
Many of you may recall a previous column introducing my shed-hunting dog Goldie, a yellow Labrador retriever I purchased in September 2011 from renowned trainer Roger Sigler, owner of Antler Ridge in Smithville, Mo.
I promised back then to provide occasional updates on our progress in the field, and given a string of recent developments, now seems like the right time.
Even when Goldie came home at 17 weeks of age, she had already been instilled with a love of antlers and was eagerly retrieving them. Although my schedule did not allow much time for shed hunting in the spring of 2012, I used a steady supply of fresh shed antlers to continue Goldie's training throughout last year and was impressed with her progress. There is no doubt a good antler dog can sniff out bone just as well as a good bird dog can find pheasants. Many of my friends have been amazed by the ease with which Goldie can locate a handful of antlers hidden in a field or woodlot.
Buoyed by our progress, I was determined to dedicate more time to shed hunting in 2013.1 even planned a late-winter, shed-hunting road trip to visit some friends who own a well-managed hunting property in Ohio. As winter dragged on, cabin fever set in. Goldie and I were both restless and eagerly anticipated the opportunity to get outdoors and scour some prime habitat for sheds.
Then it happened. Goldie tore the ACL in her right knee. Of course, I didn't know that. One day, she just started limping. Maybe it happened while she was out playing in the yard. Maybe it happened while wrestling with the neighbor's dog. Whatever the cause, my four-legged friend was now moving on three legs.
After a period of rest and anti-inflammatory medication failed to remedy the situation, I found myself visiting Dr. Harvey Hummel at Andover Animal Hospital in New Jersey. In addition to being an Ivy League-trained veterinarian (he studied at the University of Pennsylvania), Harvey is a serious bowhunter who enjoys chasing everything from whitetails to mountain goats. Following a brief consultation, Goldie was given a surgery date less than two weeks away. "If you want to do any shed hunting," Harvey said, "you better do it soon."
On Thursday, Feb. 28, Goldie and I joined my friend Jason Snavely of Drop-Tine Wildlife Consulting and his son Grant for a shed hunt on their Eastern Pennsylvania farm. After a slow morning, our afternoon efforts were rewarded with a total of four sheds. Three of them--including a matched set from a nice 8-pointer and a half rack from a different 8--were found by Goldie and I, providing a successful outcome for our extremely abbreviated season.
On Tuesday, March 5, Goldie went in for surgery. Although the procedure went well, Harvey told me the ligament damage in her knee was. among the worst he's seen.
As I type this column, Goldie is about two weeks removed from surgery and making good progress. Barring any unexpected setbacks, she'll be close to full speed by summer. And Lord willing, we can enjoy a full shed season together in 2014.
For more information about purchasing or training a shed-hunting dog, visit Roger Sigler's website at www.antlerdogs.com.