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Driftwood outdoors: Shed dogs shed light on shed hunting

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Shed hunting isn’t rocket science. The basic premise is, bucks drop their antlers in late winter and you hike around trying to find them.

However, as in all other types of hunting, he who is prepared is most likely to be successful. Serious shed hunters develop and work a strategy. A likely part of that strategy is a well-trained canine companion. A good shed dog greatly improves your odds at this needle-in-a-haystack game.

Lee and Tiffany Lakosky eat, breathe and sleep whitetail deer hunting. When the couple aren’t on the road filming for their show “The Crush” or making public appearances, they’re at home in Iowa hunting or preparing their farms for hunting. Shed hunting is an important facet of the Lakoskys’ annual plan.

“I’ve been shed hunting for 20 years. Before I had property of my own, I’d look for sheds anywhere I could, like city parks or public land,” Lee said. “Now, I find more sheds in a day than I used to find in a year. Sure, a lot of it has to do with having a well-managed land, but my shed dog also has a lot to do with it.”

For years, Lee wanted a shed dog but felt he couldn’t have one because of the couple’s crazy travel schedule. That all changed when Tiffany’s mother, Linda, moved to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law.

“Once Linda agreed to help with a dog while we were gone, there was no question about it, I was getting one,” Lee said.

Tank is now 3 years old and this season has really come into his own as an antler dog.

“Last year, as a 2-year-old, I would probably find 10 sheds for every one Tank found. But this year, as a 3-year-old, those numbers have reversed, and Tank is finding the majority of the sheds. There is no telling how good he is going to get,” Lee said.

Although Lee works with Tank year-round, whether that is for shed hunting, waterfowl hunting or pheasant hunting, he doesn’t take much credit for the dog’s expertise.

“Look, I could probably train a dog to be a decent shed hunter, and so could just about anybody. But if you want a really great dog, then it should be professionally trained,” Lee said.

After witnessing Lee’s bond form with Tank, and the success the two were having in the field, both Tiffany and Linda decided they wanted shed dogs of their own.

So now Tiffany has Mattie, and Linda has Kyah. All three of the Laskosky family shed dogs have come from and been trained by professional shed dog expert, Tom Dokken.

“Picking the right breed of dog for shed hunting is extremely important. That’s where the knowledge of someone like Tom really comes into play. See, if you want a dog like Tank, who shed hunts but also pheasant hunts, duck hunts and goose hunts, then you want a different breed than a dog that will only shed hunt. Someone like Tom will be able to properly match what you want with the right dog,” Lee said.

Dokken not only trains dogs, he owns Shed Dog Products, a company dedicated to selling shed dog training tools. A quick visit to his web site (www.sheddogtrainer.com) answers a lot of questions about what you need to successfully train your own shed dog, such as practice sheds, electric collars, a whistle, treats and more. He offers instructional books and DVDs, but his forte is placing the right dog with the right person and completing the duo’s training.

“If you want an exclusive shed dog, you really have to have a dog that has a high retrieve desire, because retrieving an antler isn’t like a bird. There’s not a lot of excitement to it. It’s the strong retrieve desire that separates the good dogs from the great dogs,” Tom said.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal.

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