Sometimes Mother Nature can be a real tease.
She dangles what we want right in front of us, but so often makes us work overtime to get our hands on it.
If you've ever gone hunting, you almost certainly know what I mean. The same thing is true for trout fishermen. We've all seen a monster brown trout that refuses to even wiggle a fin in the direction of our bait.
How many times have we sat in a tree stand and watched as a bruiser buck cruised just beyond our range? Now that the late seasons are officially over, that big buck that teased me is safe until fall.
But that doesn't mean his beefy antlers won't end up on a bookshelf in my trophy room. I just have to get them the non-traditional way. I have to wait until they fall off.
Although it's not quite as thrilling as taking a buck the old-fashioned way, shed hunting is a great way to get in the woods and hone your deer-hunting skills.
It's not something most folks (at least non-hunters) put much thought into, but starting about this time every year, bucks lose their antlers. It's all part of their yearly swing in testosterone levels.
The neat thing about searching for these shed antlers is they don't fall off in the middle of a mall parking lot. They get dropped smack dab in the middle of where the deer live. It gives us another reason to get out of civilization, hone our tracking skills and uncover the wintertime habits of the state's favorite game animal.
You may think there is no rush to bundle up and head into the cold. Those sheds will be around until spring, right? That may not be the case.
Shed hunting has gotten extremely popular over the past few years. There are scores of websites devoted to the sport. And there are even national clubs devoted to the skill of finding dropped antlers. So once this pile of snow melts, lace up your boots and get searching.
One of the best things about shed hunting is there are virtually no barriers to entry. You don't need a license. You can leave the expensive rifle at home. There's no reason to wear the latest camouflage pattern. And you won't get much accomplished if you spend the day perched in an expensive tree stand.
The key to success is to think the same way we do when we take to the woods each fall. There is not much difference in the way we hunt dropped antlers versus when they're still attached to our quarry. Look for food sources, places where the bucks bed and the trails they travel. If you know where the bucks live, you know where their antlers lie.
That's what I'm betting on. I know where the bruiser I'm after this year lives -- right outside of shooting range. Now I just need to get in the woods and get my hands on those out-of-reach trophies he's been sporting for the last sixth months.
Who said hunting season was over?
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.