For two days next month, the Historic Grand Event Centre in Northfield, Minnesota will be filled with dogs, their owners, and an abundance of shed antlers. April 12 to April 13 are the dates set by the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association (NASHDA) for its World Shed Dog Championship. This year marks the fourth championship hosted by NASHDA, which will pit several dozen competing dogs against the clock in the search for antlers. Although Labradors dominated last year’s competition, this year’s championship is expected to see a wide variety of breeds.
“She loves to go,” trainer Parker Uhlman told WMUR about his dog DeeDee. “When she sees the whistle and knows she is going, she shakes and pants uncontrollably.”
Nine-year-old DeeDee is one of the many Labs that crushed the competition last year, personally winning the Amateur class. This time, DeeDee will be defending her title from a larger range of challengers. At last count, 71 competitors have qualified for the event.
Shed hunting is growing quickly in popularity, and so are shed dogs. The canines cut down dramatically on the amount of time spent searching for sheds, and many enthusiasts say it is a good way to cross-train hunting dogs as well. Just about any breed of dog can be trained as a shed finder, although experts recommend retrievers and other hunting dogs for an extra edge. Some hunters are worried that teaching their bird dogs to find antlers will disrupt their other hunting skills, but veteran shed dog trainers say this is a common misconception. According to shed dog expert Tom Dokken, antler hunting actually reinforces those retrieval instincts.
You can learn a few tips on shed hunting in this video by SportingDog Adventures below:
A harsh winter this year has made it hard for Uhlman to train in his native state of New Hampshire, so he is gathering piles of sheds for practice. Uhlman even took DeeDee to a few qualifying events, even though as champion, DeeDee earned a spot in the championship by default. Uhlman said that it now only takes an average of two hours for the competitive canine to track down an antler.