Shed Hunting 101

As the snow melts it’s time to go find some sheds-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With deer and elk dropping their antlers and the snow level climbing above 5,000 feet it’s time to go shed hunting. This long and harsh winter is finally coming to an end and before green-up occurs the matted-down vegetation found in the woods right now makes it easier to find the prized bone. Here are a few tips as well as some reminders on shed hunting here in Washington.

My Hungarian Vizsla “Lucy” helps me find sheds-Jason Brooks

Use your dog! One way to increase your antler cache is to train your dog to look for sheds. Play fetch or force break retrieving using an antler and heavily reward your dog when they find it and bring it back. It won’t take long and they’ll be out searching for sheds and bringing them back to you in trade for a small treat. You will note my Hungarian Vizsla Lucy is wearing her hunting vest by Browning. This helps me keep tabs on her as she races across the hillsides. If we stumble across some deer or elk I can easily see her and call her back, leaving the animals alone.

When you find one shed look around for the other side nearby-Jason Brooks

When you find one shed, look for the other. The bases loosen and they fall off, which often happens simultaneously. If you find one shed search around and you might pick up a match set.

Leave winter kill skulls and antlers in the field-Jason Brooks

Leave winter kill animals alone. In Washington you can only collect naturally shed antlers so if you come across a winter kill leave it for the coyotes and other animals.

Leave deer and elk alone so they can recover from the long winter-Jason Brooks

If you find a group of deer or herd of elk then back out and come back another day. You might be out stretching your legs and getting a good workout in while hiking the hills but the animals are still enduring the harsh winter. Their fat reserves are gone and until the grasses and brush start to green up they don’t have much of a food source. It’s best to leave animals alone, even if you see a nice buck and hope to follow him until the antlers drop. Mark the spot on your GPS and come back next week.

Finding sheds is a great way to get afield in the springtime-Jason Brooks

Remember that shed hunting is a business for some and it can be very competitive. If you find an open slope and are lucky enough to find a shed or two then remember the spot for next year and keep it to yourself. Popular places near known wintering grounds can be very competitive. Only shed hunt on public lands or where you have permission and check the WDFW website regarding WDFW lands as most of them are closed until later in the spring to allow wintering animals a place to rest.

I love shed hunting because it’s a chance to work with my dog, get some excersice, and spend some quality time outside with my kids. After the winter we’ve had here in Washington it’s about time all of us get outside anyway. It’s been a long one!

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line-Blogger
Jason Brooks Photography


D.I.Y. European Skull Mount

The first time I decided to do a European skull mount it was a long and very stinky process. It was so disgusting that I vowed to never do another one on my own. Yuk!

You can send your mount to a beetle shop that immerses the head in a box full of meat-eating beetles that devour every ounce of meat, tissue, and cartilage off the skull in a very short amount of time. It’s a great option but you’ve got to either ship the head or have a shop within driving range of your home. Not a good option for me.

The following process is how I went about making my most recent skull mount of a beautiful Montana mule deer. All in all I had about two full hours into this process and the final product will look excellent on the wall of my office.

First I cleaned the skull with a pressure washer much like Mark Kayser does in the video below. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s since his days hosting a hunting show for Truck Vault and I followed his video to a “T” to get my deer skull fully cleaned.

I used a big Honda 9 horsepower pressure washer to clean the skull to my liking. This took about 45 minutes and it helps to have very high pressure for this process. You’ll want to tape the base of the antlers to keep from removing the coloring away from the antlers in that area with the pressure.

skull_mount2_webThe skull mount after pressure washing. Ready for step 2!

skull_mount_webNext I brought a large pot of soapy water to a boil and immersed the head into it. Drop the temperature down on the water and simmer the skull in the soapy water for around an hour. This brings out any grease that is left in the skull and helps eliminate discoloring later.

This is when things get kinda weird in this whole process. Head to the nearest beauty supply store and pick up an 8 ounce bottle of Salon Care Volume 40 Developer Creme and a packet of Salon Care “Quick White” powder lightener. The lady at the beauty supply store asked me what I was using it for and since the whole place was packed with ladies I simply answered, “Uh…I’m working on a little project.” You can probably get away with 4 ounces of this stuff, but I went with 8 to be on the safe side.

Mix the two ingredients together in a bowl and then use a brush to completely cover the entire skull in paste. It doesn’t exactly smell great so it’s best to do this outside in a ventilated area. Get as much paste into every corner of the skull as you can.

After your done with this wrap the skull in plastic stretch wrap and place it in front of a space heater. Rotate the skull a couple of times in an hour period. Pull off the wrap and rinse the skull in warm water to get off all the bleaching goop. If the skull doesn’t whiten up to your liking hit it with another coat of goop and go thru this process again.

I performed this final process twice and the skull turned a nice, crisp white.


Two notes of caution when doing this. First you want to make sure you wrap the bottom of the antlers with tape during the pressure washing process or you’ll blast off the staining on the base of the antlers. Also be very careful not to get any bleaching compound on the base of the antlers or it’ll effect the stain on the antlers, as well.

Now that I’m done preparing my European mount I just need to build a custom wooden base to hold the mount. I’m thinking a hardwood with a dark finish would work great to accent the skull.

If you really want to get fancy with the final product, however, you could ship your skull mount off to Jana Waller at Painted Skulls. She does some amazing artwork with skulls!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Special Hunt Worksheet Available

Every year I have a helluva time keeping all my special hunt applications for Washington sorted out. With the deadline coming up here on May 22nd the time to work on your special hunt units was actually a couple of months ago. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be getting things organized and submitted between now and May 22nd.

Luckily, Steve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club just zapped me the worksheet that he made up for their yearly submissions for special hunts here in Washington State.

Click on the images below to get the larger, printable .PDF version of this worksheet.

Washington Special Hunt Work Sheet - Snake River Hunting Club special_hunts2_webSteve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club is available for questions via email at Steve Turner and Don Davis were the guys that set up my .300 Win Mag last summer and they’ll be setting up a 7mm 08 that I just ordered. These guys live, eat, and breath guns, hunting, and special draws. Give them a shout for more info!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

It’s a “Butt Out” Honey!

When I marched into the house with my new “Butt Out” field dressing tool from Hunter’s Specialties a few hunting seasons ago my wife gave me the look like…”now what?”

“It’s the most innovative field dressing tool since the invention of the knife honey”, I announced in the kitchen as I held it up to the light so we could both view my newhunting tool in all it’s glory. All I got was a sigh…my signal to head for the garage and plant the Butt Out firmly in my…hunting pack.

If you’ve ever field dressed a deer or an elk you know how difficult it is to remove the anal canal from the animal. It usually involves splitting the pelvis with a bone saw and then it takes a lot of force to split the pelvis wide enough to remove the canal. With the Butt Out, however, this task takes less than 10 seconds.

To highlight just how simple this process is here’s a short one minute video from Hunter’s Specialties on how to operate this awesome field dressing tool. Don’t watch this manly video, however, if you’re a total sissy and squishing an annoying fly makes you squeemish.

Using the Butt Out Field Dressing Tool from Hunter’s Specialties

With the general rifle opener coming up here in Washington in less than two weeks you owe it yourself and your hunting partners to pick one of these awesome field dressing tools. Trust me, I’ve used mine on two deer now and it work’s awesome. Plus…the Butt Out makes for some good laughs around the campfire!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Northwest Outdoor Report

Clam Dig Next Weekend
WDFW just announced another razor clam dig next week. Twin Harbors beach will be open Tuesday thru Saturday, and on Thursday Long Beach will open up and over the weekend Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks beaches will all be open for razor clamming. Clamming generally starts two hours before the low tide in the evening.

Black Friday Trout Fishing Special
If you’d rather go fishing than shopping the day after Thanksgiving then WDFW has the deal for you. They’ll be planting Battleground Lake and Klineline Pond in Clark County, Kress Lake in Cowlitz County, Fort Borst Park Pond and South Lewis County Park Pond in Lewis County, and Rowland Lake in Klickitat County with 2,000 rainbows apiece. Chris Donley from WDFW called the Black Friday fishery an experiment that could lead to similar events in other parts of the state.

Southwest Washington Elk Opener Toughest in Years
Mike Jenkins from Upfront Outfitters (360-560-7620) said that fog descended on his camps in Southwest Washington just in time for the elk opener. He said the fog spotting elk nearly impossible and that the success rate for the entire area hit an all time low. The upside is that the last part of the season could be very good for elk hunters, since there’s a bunch of bulls still out there and hunter numbers are generally low the latter part of the season. Jenkins thinks the drop in temperature this week could make hunting very good!

Silvers Piling into the Humptulips
Scott Sypher from Canyon Man’s Guide Service (206-518-4982) is reporting wide open coho fishing out on the Humptulips the last few days. He limited out his customers quickly Thursday morning throwing #4 and #5 hoochie spinners into the lumber. Sypher says that gold and copper spinners seemed to be the best color. The Humptulips has a 3 fish daily limit for silvers this fall, only one of which can be a wild coho.

Ranker Digging into Wolf Pack Removal
Senator Kevin Ranker from Friday Harbor, who chairs a committee that oversees WDFW, says he’s going to hold a hearing about the department’s decision to remove the Wedge wolf pack in Northeast Washington last month. The wedge wolf pack had killed two cattle and injured 15 others on the Diamond M ranch north of Colville before the department made the decision to remove the pack. He thinks officials and the rancher could have done more to deter the wolves from attacking cattle. While he won’t be asking for resignations or reprimands, he will be using the hearing to more clearly clarify the states position on wolf removal and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Pikeminnow Angler earns 77,000
Portland angler Nikolay Zaremskiy earned $77, 238 last year catching pikeminnows from the Columbia River. The state has a bounty on the pikeminnow in the Columbia, which has a voracious appetite for salmon and steelhead smolts. It’s the second year in a row that Zaremskiy has earned over $70,000 dollars catching pikeminnows. Last year he earned over $71,000 dollars. Eric Winther, who manages the program, called him the Michael Jordan of pikeminnow fishing. The bounty program starts in early May and runs thru September and last year it dished out over one million in rewards.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Budweiser, RMEF Remind Hunters of Safety Responsibilities

MISSOULA, Mont.-With hunting seasons nearing, Budweiser and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation-two longtime partners in wildlife conservation and responsible outdoor recreation-are reminding hunters of three fundamental rules for safe gun handling:

1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
This is the most basic rule of firearm safety. Never allow a gun to point toward people or anything you do not intend to shoot. Whether you are loading or unloading, carrying or cleaning, inspecting a scope or dry firing, no injuries or damage can occur if the gun is pointed in a safe direction. The safe direction may be up, down or to one side-and may change frequently-depending on the situation. Remain vigilant at all times.

2. Keep your finger off the trigger
Always treat guns as if they're loaded and never touch the trigger until you're ready to fire. Do not rely on a gun's safety to prevent it from firing and do not handle a gun carelessly simply because the safety is on. A safety is a mechanical device that could malfunction, so consider it merely a supplement to safe gun handling. Until you're ready to shoot, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun.

3. Unload your firearm when not in use
Firearms should only be loaded when you are ready to shoot, whether you're in the field or at the shooting range. Once it's loaded, don't lean a gun against anything, as it could fall with enough force to discharge. Also never cross a fence, climb a tree, get into a blind or perform any physically awkward action with a loaded gun. Unload your gun as soon as you are finished shooting. Keep your gun's action open when not in use.

Along with these fundamentals, safe hunters have many other considerations. Make sure of your target and what is beyond. Know basic operation and safe handling characteristics of a firearm before you pick it up, or get help from someone who does. Ensure all guns around you are unloaded and safe. Properly maintain and clean firearms. Use correct ammunition. Wear appropriate eye and ear protection. Store guns securely. And always use common sense.

Hunters should never drink alcohol or use over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or during the hunt.

"Many hunters enjoy relaxing with a beer back at the cabin or around a campfire with friends after the hunt," said Bob Fishbeck, senior manager, Budweiser Brands. "It's a great way to celebrate the day."

Budweiser has been the official beer of RMEF for over 23 years.

Since 1999, the "Help Budweiser Conserve the Outdoors" program, along with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and RMEF members, has raised more than $1.1 million for conservation and education.

David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, said, "Budweiser continues to be a true friend to hunters and conservationists, and is one of RMEF's longest standing and most valuable partners. The company's dedication to our mission began in 1988 with a major gift for our first-ever permanent land protection project, and it continues today with sponsorship and support on many levels throughout our organization."

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.9 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at or 800-CALL ELK.

World Champion Elk Callers Crowned in Vegas

RENO, Nev.-Elk callers from nine states and one Canadian province have earned Top 3 honors in the RMEF/Leupold World Elk Calling Championships for 2011.

Competition was held as part of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's annual Elk Camp & Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Expo, which ended March 6 in Reno, Nev. The event helps raise awareness of elk, habitat and the conservation initiatives of RMEF.


Professional Division
1. Corey Jacobsen, Boise, Ida.
2. Joel Turner, Eatonville, Wash.
3. Audrey McQueen, Eagar, Ariz.

Men's Division
1. Dirk Durham, Moscow, Ida.
2. Gary Nemetchek, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
3. Dustin Howard, Friday Harbor, Wash.

Women's Division
1. Misty Jacobsen, Priest River, Ida.
2. Amy Morris, Payson, Utah
3. Jessie Coy, Cody, Wyo.

Natural Voice Division
1. Michael Hatten, Elko, Nev.
2. Remi Warren, Reno, Nev.
3. Sheila Veerkamp, Victor, Mont.

Youth Division
1. Greg Hubbell Jr., Belmont, Calif.
2. Brayden Langley, McMinnville, Ore.
3. Russell Nemetchek, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Pee Wee Division
1. Colton Crawford, McMinnville, Ore.
2. William Card, Fallon, Nev.
3. Tucker Rash, Fallon, Nev.

In the competition, amateur-level callers have 30 seconds to mimic cow elk sounds, followed by bull sounds. Professionals are required to make specific calls such as barks, whistles and screaming bugles. Most callers blow across a latex reed placed inside the mouth. In the natural voice division, however, no reeds are allowed. A variety of plastic tubes are used like megaphones, giving the sounds realistic resonance. Judges score each competitor anonymously.

Winners received prizes and cash ranging from $500 to $2,500.

Prize sponsors included Leupold, Block Fusion, Cabela's, Horn Hunter Packs, Hoyt, Kershaw Knives, Montana Decoy, Montana Silversmiths, New Archery Products (NAP), Remington, Schnee's and Traditions Performance Firearms.

Leupold, America's Optics Authority™, has been a title sponsor of the competition for three years, as well as a longtime supporter of RMEF's work to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.9 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved or 800-CALL ELK.
Steve Wagner, Blue Heron Communications, 800-654-3766 or

Are you ready for Opening Day?

Kim McCarthy's 2008 Twisp, Washington whitetail came after 6 straight days of hunting hardThe modern firearm general rifle season is less than a month away this year and we have a measly 8 days to score a buck in many of the Eastern Washington game management units, a little longer in Western Washington. That means you'd better have your game face on come October 16th because you're not going to have much time to dilly-dally around.  

Get in Shape
I guess I'm a little old school, preferring to hike or bike as far away from roads and people as I can when I'm deer hunting. Every year there's a story or two about a lucky bugger that scored a good buck within spitting distance of camp, but by and large the odds of getting into good numbers of animals goes up substantially the further you get away from people. It's a helluva lot easier to do this, and not pay for it later, if you're in at least decent shape.

My preseason, take-the-edge-off workout regimen consists of two miles a day on the treadmill, followed by three sets of fourty calf lifts, sixty total situps, three sets of twenty lunges with dumb bells, and an upper body workout with dumb bells. I do this four days a week for six weeks prior to hunting season and will mix in a few hikes and mountain bike rides before the opener. Two weeks before the opener I'll crank out three to four miles on the treadmill each time I visit the evil machine, wearing my hunting boots to get the ol' dogs, my feet, callused up and ready to roll. 

Even though this isn't the Insanity workout it serves me well and allows me to travel further and hunt longer than most other hunters in the field.

Don't have the time? Taking the dog for a long walk, pushing the kids up a hill in the stroller, and walking on lunch break are things you can do to get the feet and legs in shape. Something is better than nothing at all.

Scent Control
Has it sunk in yet…eight days! You finally see a legal buck within range and a swirling wind wofts the scent of your campfire and cigar laquered bad self up his schnozzola and before you can get the rifle up…he's Ghandi. All you needed was a few more seconds…right? 

Scent control is about increasing the odds of success and with only eight days we need all the help we can get. There are so many products out there nowadays that it just doesn't make any sense to not take advantage of them.

A product that I started using a couple years ago is Scent Away by Hunter Specialties. I found a kit at Sportco that contained laundry detergent, boot powder, shampoo, bar soap, and deoderant. I've gotten in the habit of using this stuff religiously before each and every deer hunt and it helps.

All of my hunting clothes are washed twice in Scent Away detergent and then I tuck them away in a Scent Safe garment bag until it's time to hunt. Remove all the Christmas tree scent thingy-me-jiggers from your vehicle and if possible keep the de-scented clothes in the Scent Safe bag and don them in the field just prior to hunting. Don't spend a bunch time de-scenting your clothes only to re-scent them in the vehicle on the drive to the woods. 

By doing this you can also avoid fuel contamination when you're juicing up the truck at zero-dark-thirty on the way to the woods. Wear rubber gloves or use a bunch of rags to keep fuel off your hands and avoid standing directly in front of the filler tube, as the fumes are just as obnoxious. There's no sense in going thru all this trouble only to head out smelling like a molotov cocktail.

If you're apt to lounge around the campfire spinning yarns at night toss the hunting clothes back in the garbage bag and jump in a pair of sweats. 

Once the hunt starts I use Solid Scent Wafers in fresh earth to further mask my scent and I constantly watch the winds direction. If I'm approaching an area that looks promising I'll approach it from down wind of deer that could be using the area. If the wind swirls around or I screw up, however, the scent control precautions I've taken will hopefully buy me a few seconds to get off a shot.

Sighting in at the Range
I wasn't very serious about deer hunting at first. The year was 1989 and a college team mate had asked me to go deer hunting with him. I'd hunted plenty with a shotgun, but the premise of sighting in a rifle was lost on me.

On opening morning I worked my way onto a hillside full of buck brush and I'll-be-damned if there wasn't a fork and horn mule deer standing broadside looking at me at a hundred and fifty yards. Seven shots later the deer was still standing there, likely wondering what all the darned ruckus was about. I quit shooting, sat down on a rock, and laughed until I cried. The deer walked off.

I enjoyed the heck out of that trip and vowed to roll up my shirt sleeves and do better. When I hit the range later to test out the guns accuracy the bullets weren't even hitting the paper at a hundred yards.

I still shoot the same old gun, a Belgium Browning 30.06 that's been glass-bedded and fitted with a Burris 3 X 9 scope. It's not a sniper rifle, by any means, but I've managed to harvest fourteen deer with the old girl since that day in '89 because I've honed it's accuracy at the range. I could've bought a better and more modern rifle a long time ago…but again…I'm old school.

For starters, I'd find a good ballistics chart on the internet and study up on your caliber and ammunition. I use the Winchester Ballistics Calculator to chart the Winchester XP3 150 grain loads that work great in my Browning.

I sight in at two inches high at 100 yards, which puts the bullet dead on at 200 yards with seven inches of drop at 300 yards. Last year I held six inches above the kill zone at 250 yards to take my beautiful Washington blacktail. The shot was a perfect double-lunger and the deer was down quickly. Had I not studied the ballistics chart and done my homework at the range I would have probably guessed on this shot and possibly missed.

Getting the Gear in Order
Within the next week I'll spend some time laying out all the gear on the garage floor that'll be utilized on the hunt. It's already packed away in a sealed Tupperware container in the garage and doesn't take long at all to organize.

I'll hit my binoculars with an anti-fogging agent, check both the day pack and the frame pack for rips or tears, sharpen knives, and check the batteries in my head lamp and two way radios. I yard on my Danner Pronghorn boot laces to make sure they're not going to break and organize first aid kits, emergency supplies, and any other necessary items like game bags and a buck hoist.

Hopefully it's donned on you by now that there isn't much time this year to score a buck here in Washington. We've got a little more time in Western Washington to tag a blacktail, but the Eastern Washington hunts, specifically in Chelan and Okanogan counties, are going to be short and sweet. Get the work done before hand and buy yourself a few more seconds out there this year. Those few seconds can mean the difference between success and a big buck story.

Start doing your homework right now by logging onto the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website and checking out the upcoming hunting seasons. Oh, and send me a photo of the buck or elk you get this fall. I'm into that sort of thing!