Antler Hunt

By Mike Johnson

Heís sleeping. Iím watching from my office window at the top of our house. Heís in the National Forest, I am not. The unfenced border is between us.

He's sleeping in front of the angel Margie placed on a rock. Itís antler dropping time & heís got just one left. Heís been this way for two days now. I saw him shaking his head after this morningís breakfast, which tells me itís getting itchy & time to drop.

I havenít found his first antler yet, despite a couple short hikes mirroring his travel paths. But Iíve found three in the past six weeks.

One was bleached out which tells me it dropped last year & I somehow missed it. The other two were fresh. Both on my property, both from mule deer Iíd identified as regulars here. When they show up for breakfast with one, I know thereís a prize out there somewhere.

So I drop everything to search the property, game trails & their over-night sleeping locations. I also know the second antler could drop any moment, so that deer keeps my attention.

The antlers can fall off anywhere, anytime between January & March.

We had a fresh 5 inches of snow yesterday so a search is a bit trickier.

Deer, elk & moose have antlers. These drop off annually & they grow new ones. Buffalo, antelope & bighorn sheep have horns. They keep these forever.

This thrill of the chase reminds me that to the rest of the world, this is a midweek workday.

Not here.

Deer & retired guys don't use a watch or calendar. I am eternally grateful to have arranged a life with ideal geography, comfort & freedom. My only ďjobĒ is to observe these deer & find those antlers. Mostly from the comfort of my own home & property.

This may not be your ideal life, but it's mine. I'm writing to remind you that the needed effort to achieve your ideal is worth it. I also remind you there are ways to reduce the time it takes to get there.

Conventional wisdom is hiding these ways. It's worth digging deeper. Better, faster, easier ways always exist.

It's a universal irony that to gain the freedom to watch the herd, we must gain the courage to leave the herd.

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