Teen job shadow leads to antler shed finds and a generational appreciation of conservation

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WINONA, Mo. -- Those who grow up in the Missouri Ozarks know there’s more than one way to get a prized set of antlers. There’s also more to activities like shed hunting than the find. Success in hunting (whether traditional hunting or shed hunting) can lead to a love of nature that spans generations.

Deer and elk lose their antlers every year when their testosterone levels drop during the rut. The old set of antlers fall to the ground and then a completely new set takes its place. This means those who spend time in the woods and fields where deer and elk graze have a chance to run across a set of antlers. Antlers that fall off of a deer or elk in this way are called sheds.

Kegan Roberts, 13, of Mountain View, and Mikey Hoffman, 14, of Birch Tree, had a chance to go shed hunting with Skyler Bockman, manager of Twin Pines Conservation Education Center, during a job shadowing experience.

Kegan is a veteran shed hunter, due to time spent in the woods with his grandfather since he was six years old.

“We would go to Rocky Falls, follow turkey trails and look for sheds,” he said of the trips with his grandfather. Those trips made an impact on Kegan, who now likes to hunt for sheds on his own. He’s found three deer sheds this year, and one elk antler. Before this year, he’d found six sheds, one with as many as nine points on one side.

The trip to Peck Ranch Conservation Area to hunt for sheds was a first for Mikey, although he confesses a love of all outdoor activities.

“I like to fish and to hunt for deer, turkey and squirrel,” Mikey said. Shed hunting is now added onto that list, after experiencing a great find.

“We drove out to Peck Ranch and got to go behind the fences, walked through some fields,” Mikey said.

He recalled the excitement of visiting the pens where Missouri’s elk were brought during the reintroduction. The real excitement came when they found an elk shed. Kegan spotted it first, and then Mikey.

“We saw the antlers sticking up in the field and I was real excited,” Mikey said. “I’m going to take my dad next time because he’s always wanted to go.”

Both boys found sheds at Peck Ranch that day. Keegan found the elk shed and Mikey found a deer shed. Bockman said his purpose in taking the boys out to Peck Ranch during the job shadow experience was to fuel their appreciation of nature and show them what inspires people to work in conservation.

“Just as those two boys relate their excitement to experiences with their fathers and grandfathers, we work in conservation because it is a shared value across generations,” Bockman said. “We work to protect and manage the fish, forest and wildlife resources so that future generations, just like Mikey and Kegan, can enjoy them.”

Any person who finds antlers still attached to the skull plate may take the antlers, but must report the find to a conservation agent within 24 hours to receive authorization to possess the antlers. No authorization is needed to possess shed antlers not attached to the skull plate. To learn more about Missouri’s deer and elk herds, go online to mdc.mo.gov.