Shed Hunting: My Way.

This is a follow-on from my previous post ‘Quest’.

There’s no denying that held aloft, my red deer antler is a prize to be marvelled at; its structure and weight truly awesome. The annual regrowth of a stag’s antlers is a force of nature – growing at an inch a day it is no wonder that they visibly manifest such energy – such power.shed-red-deer-antler-held-aloft-something-about-dartmoor

In finding a shed Red Deer antler – I have discovered a ‘new world’ that beforehand I knew little about – or how popular it is – and I certainly didn’t know that it had a name – ‘Shed Hunting’.  

Globally, the ‘harvesting’ of live deer antler is large scale – for its believed efficacy as an elixir.  A trade that is brutal and cruel – its acquisition a world apart from harmless ‘Shed Hunting’.  How in this modern day – human beings can believe that deer antler has a potency beyond its visible structural wonderment – just leaves me deeply sickened. Those that are so vain – and wealthy enough – who buy into this age-old nonsense (a ‘medicine’ that causes such pain and terror in its procurement – can never do good) – are surely dead already without sensitivity to other living beings. 

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Closer to home, in my ‘back yard’ – ‘Shed Hunting’ is a Springtime activity enjoyed by locals – a time-consuming recreation that’s great fun with the added possibility of taking home – First – and Second prize!

Exmoor in particular is a favourite stomping ground for the seasoned shed hunter who knows where to look.  Even so – finding a shed antler is probably more luck than knowledge – maybe even fatedness?

The exhilaration of my first find is something that I’ll never quite experience again…Red Deer Antler eight points - Something about DartmoorA photograph of my antler in its original place before I touched it – is reproduced and enlarged on canvas – and now hanging on my parlour wall.  It’s there, so that I can remember the adrenalin rush that I felt in that magical moment – over and over again…  

The ‘slow’ recognition and excitable disbelief that I experienced in seconds – digitally – and magically preserved.  It is something that I’d recommend to any prospecting shed hunter; take a photo before you pick up your first find!  If I’d found a smaller antler with fewer points I’d have been equally thrilled – but that it has five points atop with a dew cup for its crown – finding gold bullion couldn’t have stirred such fulfilment within me.  My antler is a priceless gift from Nature beyond my wildest dreams.

Naturally, having shared news of my extraordinary find with people in the shed hunting know – several have asked about the other antler – and had I found that too?  A matching pair of shed ‘Royal Stag’ antlers are very marketable apparently.  Of course, to me – monetary worth is irrelevant – but out of curiosity – I decided to go back to where I found it and look for the other one – to see if what they were saying was true – that the other antler is usually close at hand – or whether it’s fallacy.   

Half of me didn’t want to find the matching antler but I set about searching for it anyway – covering a wide area working outwards from my original find.  Several shed hunting sessions followed over a course of a week or so but nothing found to date; only reinforcing my believe that I had ‘asked’ for one antler and that was what I had been most generously given.  I did find this pair of primroses though nestled in the grassy bank… 

Primroses - Something about Dartmoor

Definitely a case of ‘remember to smell the flowers’ rather than just keeping your eyes downcast looking for antlers; Nature’s bountifulness is all around!

Not finding the other antler has pleased me.  I believe that the ‘lost’ antler has gone to earth.  A newly shed antler can disappear within a day – made of pure bone – they are a natural source of calcium for wildlife – that’s Nature’s way.  The fact that my antler was half covered in forest debris makes me think that it had lain undisturbed for an indeterminable time – coupled with the fact that it is so huge – just one of the pair would have been ample to satisfy any calcium deficiency in the forest fauna!  Just the tip of the brow point on my antler is missing – whether it has been nibbled away – or whether it is an olde battle scar I can’t tell – but I love every bit of it – and the missing tip!Forest doorway - Something about DartmoorShed Hunting has become the way of my walks at present – and not because I wish to find another cast antler – I don’t.  I just love disappearing through the ‘doorway’ – into the secret world of these magnificent wild animals – following their hoof impressions – to their muddy scrapes and scented mounds, deep within the forest.  And every now and then, a lucky sighting.  Sudden noise – twigs snap, hearts pound – as four stags leap and bound into the shadows – and then as quickly – everything returns to silence.  

I didn’t find the matching antler – or any shed antlers for that matter and I’m not looking anymore – but what I have found is a different ‘matching’ pair to celebrate my shed hunting success – not on the forest floor either but on the vastness of the Internet – through Ebay!  

One is a magical little painting ‘Woodland Interior’ by brilliant Essex artist, David Jones.  

Woodland Interior - David Jones - Something about Dartmoor - Shed Hunting My WaY

It perfectly captures my experience of shed hunting; the light through the trees, the smell of the earth, the exquisite silence – and me.  

Its ‘match’ is an original piece of stained glass art – designed and made by talented Rachel Ravelle – also on Ebay.  

Stained glass design by Rachael Ravelle - Something about Dartmoor

I love the sentiment – and the clever integration of the stag’s antlers hidden in the veins of the leaf – a beautifully rustic piece that perfectly symbolises the way my antler was disguised as part of the forest floor.  The secret of shed hunting is to look through and beyond for the beautiful white tips! 

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Because of a feeling of fatedness rather than luck that I have when I hold my antler – I have given it a name, ‘Yod’ – after an astrological configuration in my birth chart – also known as the ‘Finger of Fate’ – or the ‘Finger of God’.  That the crown has an uncanny likeness to an outstretched hand – and that it spells ‘Y’ – for ‘Yod’ and for ‘Yggdrasil’ only strengthen the point.

Four stags - Something about Dartmoor

Oh! Not forgetting four mythic stags…

Murmuration of starlings - Something about Dartmoor

a thousand aerobatic starlings…

Raven messenger - Something about Dartmoor

and one very clever messenger raven who told me exactly where to look!

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There’s an unexpected epilogue!  Something magical has happened again – 23rd of April 2016.

Yesterday, I went out for a short walk against the clock – because I had a family birthday celebration to attend.  No time for dilly dallying – just a brisk, straighforward walk to qualify the fattening eatables that where on the evening menu later on! Not following my own advice either – I left my camera on the table – but no matter there are no photos.

I should have gone a different route too – rather than passing near the border of shed hunting territory. As I reached the ‘doorway’ – I lost my sense of direction and was taken by an undeniable feeling to go off-road! Almost immediately, I experienced an undreamt surprise…

There right in front of me – I was presented with a pristine, white-tipped antler, softly cushioned upon a patch of newly sprung bluebell leaves – it was a timely gift indeed.  In the warm, dappled sunlight it was such an uplifting sight to behold – heralding Winter has finally passed. Unlike my first antler that has an ancient otherworldliness – this one was newly shed – and because of its distinct shape – it had a familiarity about it; I knew I’d seen it before. Hurriedly, I picked it up and loosely disguised it in a bundle of gathered twigs for my home-fire; should anyone about, ask where I’d found it!  After a quick scout round for the reputed other antler (that I didn’t find) – it was suddenly way passed my time to head back home…ST838197After a hot, excited walk along the open-road – swiftly followed by an enjoyable evening out – I was finally ready to sit down quietly and reference the shed antler against the shot I’d taken of the ‘Four Stags of Yggdrasil’…

Four stags - Something about Dartmoor

As I’d thought, the shed antler is that of the stag on the far left of the photogaph – it’s his right antler for sure.Shed Hunting My Way - Something about Dartmoor

And viewed from above – it’s a beautiful cursive ‘Y’.

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So finally, I have reached the end of my rambling post – and quest – and I couldn’t have wished for a more fitting conclusion; a perfect pair of two right antlers! 

Shed Red Deer Antlers - Something about Dartmoor

‘Yod’ and ‘Son of Yod’ – side by side upon the fresh Spring grass.

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