On this episode of The Western Rookie Podcast, Brian talks with Sean Curtis about Wyoming shed hunting, the brutal winter, and DIY freeze dried meals.
Sean Curtis is a Wyoming resident and avid outdoorsman – from finding hundreds of sheds to making his own freeze-dried meals! Brian and Sean talk about the effects this harsh winter is having on the game in the West, the future of Antelope and Mule deer numbers, how you can save a lot of money and nutrition with DIY freeze dried meals, and the importance of getting family time in the outdoors. Sean also owns an antler revival business that brings old white and chalked antlers back to life. To follow along with Sean’s adventures, check out the links below.
Connect with Dan Mathews and The Western Rookie
Connect with Brian Krebs
[00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the Western Rookie Podcast. This is your host, Brian Kreb speaking, and we are clearly on a theme of shed hunting. It's April Western shed Hunting is just starting to really ramp up a lot of the shed closures across the west, either open up May 1st, May 15th, but in the next couple of weeks we're gonna see a lot of shed closures lifted.
People are finally gonna get out. I know Utah's got a closure. Parts of Wyoming have a closure. Parts of Montana have a closure and so we've just been super excited about shed hunting. We just got back, if you're listening to this, we just got back. Our shed trip to Arizona, New Mexico. But as I'm recording this, I'm recording ahead so you guys have episodes to [00:01:00] listen to the weeks that we're gone.
And so I am right about to leave to go on that trip and I'm at my peak shed hunting excitement for everyone. So look for some episodes to come out. When we get back, we'll be doing some updates on how the trip went, and we will have posts that we're gonna make on social media as well. Aside from that, we have a great guest in the shed hunting theme.
Sean Curtis, if you've seen him, he has a lot of contact or con content on social media. And I've been following him for a while, seeing his tos and his reels. He's a huge shed hunter. He is from Wyoming. If you've ever seen shed hunting content on YouTube and stuff, Wyoming's a great state for it.
And so I'm super excited to pick Sean's brain about shed hunting, just hunting the west. He seems like he's a pretty cool pretty cool person doing a lot of really [00:02:00] neat things in the outdoors. And hopefully we dive into some of those things like making your own freeze-dried meals. I didn't even know that was possible, but I see Sean's been doing it for a little bit now.
So gonna be a great episode. I see Sean just popped into the lobby, so let's pull 'em in and kick this episode off. You're listening to the Western Rookie, a hunting podcast full of tips, tricks and strategies from season Western. There are plenty of opportunities out there. We just need to learn how to take on the challenges.
Hunting is completely different up there. That part. See 26 big game animals. You can fool their eyes. We can fool their nose, 300 yards, speck to the road, turned into three miles back the other way. It's always cool seeing new hunters going harvest animal. I don't know what to expect. If there's anybody I want in the woods with me, it'll be you.
All right. Like I just said, Sean, [00:03:00] Curtis joined us for this episode of the Western Rookie Podcast. We are just briefly chatting here in the green room before kicking this off, and it sounds like Wyoming got dumped on again with snow. Like many of us in the Midwest have been struggling through snow, after snow.
It seems shed season is never gonna be here. Is that what you're starting to feel like? It feels like it, man. Thanks for having me by the way. This is cool. I love doing these. But yeah, Wyoming, we've been hit hard and they're consider, I mean there's so many things on the table right now that are involving immediately shed season.
I feel bad for the non-residents that have made plans to come here for the Jackson May one, the shed run the shed circus, I call it. But cuz they're considering pushing that back or possibly canceling that may one opener. No decisions have been made yet, but the valleys where these animals winter all the migratory ungulates, they the valleys have gotten almost as much or more snow than some of the high country.
It's absolutely ridiculous. And it's from the south [00:04:00] central part of the state all the way west. And there's a bunch of stuff up north that got slammed. I think Casper got 26.7 inches in one day, snowfall. So it's been wild, man. Wow. That's a lot of snow and. You know what? It sucks.
No one likes it. Although two good things that I see of coming out of this, I see a lot of people that we've had on the podcast, but that I've just seen in general on social media are really banding together around the topic of herd health. Like people are coming together and like understanding like this is a bad year across the entire west, like Utah.
In a tough way. Montana's in a tough way. Animals are struggling. And I've really seen people like coming together and focusing on the health of the animals. And I saw even a real you posted where you're like, I'm just out getting some walking in, found a group of balls. They're still packing. I'm just backing out.
Like I'm gonna let 'em be. It's been a rough year. Yeah. So that's one good thing I've seen out of it. The other good thing that I've seen [00:05:00] out of it is crap, where was I going with that? I thought I had two. Oh yeah. Hard winners. It is. I have found. You find more antlers on tough winters, as hard as it is for the animals, like it is a little bit easier to find sheds once spring finally gets here.
And so I don't know if that's much of a saving grace, but the, I have found a lot of my best years were on hard winter years, a hundred percent. These hard winters, they've forced animals to congregate. The feed areas are a lot less abundant and available. So a lot of these animals hang out in those feed areas for a lot longer.
And when you have winters like this where the snow line just is so slow to recede they're not packed. They're hanging out in those low areas longer cuz the snow's there longer. So they're not really toting any of the extra antler up the hill and scattering 'em all over the mid-range to the summer range.
You kick one every now and then when you're archery hunting, but I don't think that's gonna be a case this year. I think they're mostly gonna be hanging out around the low elevation winter. Yeah, and I, man, I wish I lived closer to the west. I'm in Minnesota and I [00:06:00] archery hunt the west every year or right.
I elk hunt every year for sure. Most of the time it's archery. But man, I wish I could get out there more in shed season cuz it like walk in those mountains in the spring And I've done some like North Dakota, Badlands, cuz I had a Badlands tag for elk once. And so I've done some shed hunting out there and it's just it's, I love it like springtime in the mountains, like fall in the mountains, obviously that's magical, but I don't think people on go out in the spring quite as much unless you're like doing spring bearers, spring Turkey out west.
Nobody like us flatlands, don't have any reason to be out in those mountains in the spring. But there's something about it, like the walking's easier, there's nothing in the way. It's finally warm. You're getting out and exploring nature like it I wish I could get out there as much as some of you guys that I've talked to lately from the west doing the shed hunting thing.
You guys get out so much and you were talking in the green room about the goal for this year for you was like 250 sheds. And I'm just thinking man, 250 whitetail sheds would be a great year to think 250 elk and [00:07:00] mule deer sheds. That would be phenomenal. It should be good. It's a high goal.
It'll be one of my best years if that's the way it happens. But what the way the, again, like the elk and the mule deer congregating. Sorry, I got a crazy little puppy here. The way that elk and the mild deer are congregating and we've had some eyes on 'em, and right now we're, we've completely stuck, like you talked about, banding together to keep the pressure off the wildlife.
We've completely stuck to glassing from the roads like a lot of people have. And when they're that easy to find in large groups from the roads, it really leaves your opt your optimism open because we're not seeing a whole lot of people out blasting the spots that we go, which is great. So we have the animals located and, that's a, it is a high goal, but it's, I think it's an attainable goal.
We'll see what happens. But yeah I hope you get the chance to come out more often, man. Things are changing in Wyoming, like in a lot of the Western states. The shed hunting becomes a lot more popular. There's a lot more regulations surrounding it, and it's rightfully like anything that becomes that popular in the outdoors.
But HB 0 1 23 is our new shed [00:08:00] regulatory measures that we're putting in place. And it, it favors non, it favor favors residents. With a seven day head start to the May one stuff. So the guys that aren't gonna be able to do the May one this year, because of all the stuff going on, I feel bad for 'em because next year they're gonna be subject to that, starting seven days behind all of us.
But with that being said, there's still so much opportunity to come out here and it's just a week, there's not that many people in Wyoming. So luckily you don't have to fight with that many residents and you should still be able to come out here and do pretty well. So two, I have a few questions on this whole thing.
Sure. Only parts of Wyoming have the May one opener. And then other parts of it, there really is no closure except for like extreme weather years. Correct. The great divide is usually the dividing line. So it runs up just right through Laramie, cuts up 2 87 and does a loop around 80 and runs west, and then it curves up at the Great Divide.
So the whole lower Southwest. Maybe slightly more than a third of the state is subject to that may one rule as of right now. Okay. But with [00:09:00] that new regulation that they're putting in it goes into effect July 1st. So next year, everything west of I 25, between Colorado and Buffalo, Wyoming will be May one.
And then everything from Buffalo to Montana west of I 90 will be May one. So there'll be a, it'll be more than three quarters of the state that'll have, we have that May one subjection. Okay. So just for people to know, because I had some buddies that were heading out to Wyoming and I was like, dude, you might want to check, cuz I'm pretty sure parts of Wyoming have a closure.
And they're like, I don't know. The guy we were gonna go with said, it's all good. And then you got dumped on. So it fell apart. Anyway so I wanted to check that. But also, Wyoming I feel is a beautiful sleeper state for a couple reasons. One, it for whatever it seems like there's something in the water in Utah where shed hunting elk.
The culture, the creators business, like it's just going bonkers in Utah. So there's a lot of people, yeah, doing full-time like elk shed hunting and elk pages in [00:10:00] Utah, I feel like Wyoming, maybe you could tell me I'm wrong, just doesn't quite have that full as that population of full-time hunters.
Now, these guys from obviously Utah bounce around, they hit these other states. But when we start talking about like a rule, like I can't rattle off the number, but the seven day delay for non-residents, right? For most people, that's like a two day delay, right? Your average resident's gonna shed hunt maybe Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and then they have to go back to their life, right?
So are you really giving up that much? No. Am I as a non-resident coming from Minnesota, throwing a dart at the map if I don't have connections or contacts or buddies and just going out, am I gonna compete with a resident anyway? No. Like you're gonna have your spots already. You're gonna glass, you're gonna have a plan.
I'm just gonna be throwing a dart at the map. Having fun being out in nature. First couple years I'll probably build on it, but that's a big state. There's a big state [00:11:00] for a handful of people that are gonna hit it hard for seven straight days. Opening week. Probably not gonna impact my hunt whatsoever.
No, and that's what I've been trying to tell people. I've been trying to like offer, some words of encouragement, yeah, I don't completely uproot your, plans and like flood one other state. Just, I mean if you're gonna come here, do it, do your thing. We love ha I love having non-residents.
I, I'm, I've never been big on gatekeeping or anything like that cuz we have a lot of public land. I've been doing this for a lot of years and I still don't run into that many people, even though that many more people are doing it because of the creators and stuff like that you've mentioned and.
I don't consider myself a creator, but yeah, like you were talking about Wyoming, we have a lot of pe almost everyone here is an outdoorsman or outdoors woman, but as far as like full-time, there's a lot of people that do it full-time, but they don't, it's not as much of a career on the social media side of it as it is on the other side of it as far as it's just more of a sustainability thing for us.
Yeah. My platform is just built on sharing it and, hoping to just be a part of a [00:12:00] voice of conservation stewards, I guess across the gamut because there's a lot of people that, are that look down on hunting in our way alive. So it's just, that's most of what I put out as far as content and the funny stuff too.
Yeah. The funny stuff is hilarious. I was just watching some of your stuff and I find shed hunting is just a great opportunity to be funny. I don't know what it is. I am the worst at actually filming hunts in the fall. I get out there, I drop my phone for a week and I don't even pick it up, but shed hunting.
Like I got into this kind of groove of making all kinds of funny posts, pretending to complain I can't find a thing and then walk right by a hammer whitetail shed. And then people are like commenting and it's going viral. It's just it's easy to play with it, be fun cuz it's like low stress, like you find a shed, it's not going anywhere.
Like you can spend enough hour ding around, it's still gonna be there. Versus like when a whitetail comes into my food plot or an elk is at 40 yards bugle and there's no time to be ding around with social media. No that's [00:13:00] correct man. And there's a lot of fun in the, in what we do too, as far as hunting shed hunting, there's, it's there's a big side of it, which is the lighter side of it that I don't think really gets focused on, cause everybody, and this is not a shot at anybody, but everybody's trying to, have that or that posture on social media that like, I'm a badass at what I do, but, and that's cool. Because there's a lot of bad asses out there. But I like to, share that side of it where, I'm out getting it done.
And I've got meat on my pack and I'm, the pack out's four miles what have you, and the work that goes into it. But I also like to focus on the fact that we're out there having fun. It's, we don't go out there just to, have a suck fest and then go back to your suck fest at work.
Yeah. It's fun and there's a lot of funny stuff that happens on the mountain and when you're hunting that you don't think about right then, but then you think about it when you're playing the hunt back over at home and it turns into some pretty funny content for people. And it seems like that, that people enjoy it cause we can all relate.
Yeah. Yeah. And it's I would say shed hunting is like type one fun of western hunting, like maybe animal, like it's [00:14:00] more type one. You wake up whenever, go out, have fun, not that hard, you're just enjoying life versus elk hunting. Is typically it's type two fun. Like it typically sucks while you're doing it and you got glimpses of highs and lows.
But it's a roller coaster for sure. And brutal, like uncomfortable. Like we tell people like, if you're gonna, if you think you wanna GoCon, I just prepared to be uncomfortable for nine days. Yep. 90, 90% awful. 10% awesome. But the 10% supersedes the 90% every time. All the time. Yeah. You'll be uncomfortable for nine days.
You'll probably question why you're doing this a few times and as soon as you like, get in the truck to head home, you're thinking about next year. Yep. So always. Yeah. So yeah, that's why I just love shed hunting. It's just chance to get out. And all I've done so far is whitetail. I've tried a little bit of mule deer in South Dakota.
I've got a couple of, I think that's a three by three set. A couple other fork, big fork stuff. I've never found a four by four. [00:15:00] Unfortunately I had my chance in Wyoming guiding my nephew on his first meal. Deer Hunt. And shot a meal. Deer. It was the last day. Weather's brutal. And we had three antelope tags.
My dad and my both nephews had an antelope tag. And then we had three meal deer tag. I had a meal, deer. And then both nephews had a meal, deer as well. And my brother was full-time guide. And so everyone has shot everything except my nephew has down to the last take. It's a mul deer take. And so I take him out.
We're driving around, he has no bar whatsoever. His brother shot a fork, so he's as long as it's as big as my brothers, I'm cool. And so we see this for key weather's turning south real fast. I'm like, you want to go after that one? He is yep, let's go. So I park the truck, go around, do the whole thing.
He shoots wasn't the greatest shot. He's also 13 on his first meal, deer of his life. And so I'm like, all right, mule deer's going down this drainage. Drainage go curves to the right or the left. And so I think if we can get up, cut him off, [00:16:00] maybe we can catch him in his bed or something and finish him off.
And so I'm looking how to get out of this cut and I'm looking up and it's steep, and I'm like, I think we can make it here. I take one step up onto like the bank and my nephew reaches down and goes, Hey, look, you stepped on a shed and pulls up a four point brown meal to your shed.
That's how it works. Yeah. I'm like, that's how it work. I'm just like, you gotta be shitting me. I hate to think how many we actually walk by. Every time I'm out there, I'm always like, even the days you get skunked, you're like you can take some solace in the fact that I know I walked by sheds.
I know I did. So you can take solace in that on a day you get skunked and, but I hate to think about, it almost brings, it makes me sick almost to think about how many I've actually walked by, just by some of the ones that I've found by taking that last extra look through the sage. I'm like, oh, there is, there's a, that's not snow that's a bird or that's a base right there.
And you're like, if I didn't just look over at the right time, I would've walked right by it. And you don't, you think of how many times you didn't look over at the right time and have walked right by antlers. Man, it's [00:17:00] probably a lot. Yeah. I remember I tried to remind myself that while we're missing antlers, at least, it's like at least we're probably finding the big ones, cuz those are easier to spot.
And so I just remind myself like at least we're finding the big ones or like at least the big ones are easier. You're probably not walking by those as bad or as many times. But yeah, I do wanna get out west more and more. It's vacation time as well. Like I have a day job. I only have so much time.
I love spending a week in the boat in Canada every year. I love spending nine days archery elk cunning. So you just gotta sneak in those trips. And I think I'm just gonna try more and more to make those long drive three day weekend type trips to like Eastern Wyoming, Western South Dakota, just Eastern Montana.
Just make the most of it. It doesn't have to be like a week long shed trip. Sure. Yeah, and like you can very, I don't know, you can do like a kind of a state hopping thing too, which is fun. Helps you learn some of the terrain. But if you're, if you mainly hunt a certain state, it's good to shed hunt that state, [00:18:00] especially as an non resident, just to get your boots into the areas that you're gonna be that fall or maybe one year or a year that you're hoping to hunt and just get an eye on the terrain because OnX maps and go hunt terrain analysis and go Google Earth.
All the tools that are available now are phenomenal, but they still don't give a grand tour or as good of a tour of the land as putting boots on it and looking at exactly how those topo lines translate into what that ridge or that drainage system actually looks like and what kind of feed or bedding potential it actually holds.
So shed hunting is another thing that, helps people get a little scouting in. You're not necessarily shed hunting the area, you're gonna be hunting a hundred percent, but Lisa gets you in the area that. You can take a look at and hopefully, get an edge on a hunt because non-residents spend a lot of money to come out in Elcon.
So any edge or advantage you can get is I think, worth the trip alone in itself. And if you can, if you're lucky enough to pick up a few sheds, then that's all the better. Yeah. Yeah. One a hundred [00:19:00] percent. Typically I'm looking at these topo maps being like, that doesn't look that bad, looks doable.
And then you get out there and you're like, shit that looks steep. Yeah. Yeah. And no picture will ever do a adjusted either, so take a picture. No, it's so hard to take a picture to justify like how steep it really is. It is but it looks like you have gotten out a little bit. You said you found a few already this season.
Is that private land? Is it public land? What, how is, what's the breakdown for you? I, shed hunt all public. I found 16 this year in, or 16 elk sheds and four deer sheds. One decent deer shed. And a couple of really nice browns. And I've found a few with my buddies that we've spotted. So if you count like us as a group, we've found we've probably found 40 or 50 already.
But those are in areas outside of the areas that are are may one of course, and they're outside of the areas that have seen the worst part of the winter quit outside of the areas that I've seen the worst part of the winter. Get down, take a break here. I'm gonna get this [00:20:00] dog in the kennel real quick.
Yeah, no worries. Is that right? Could we do that real quick? Yep. What were we saying? Oh yeah. So yeah, we've been out, we've been lucky to, I've put on about a hundred miles already. And some of the easier terrain, the snow on the eastern side of where it would ne it wouldn't be May one even after the new rule comes through.
So that's where we've been spending most of our time. We're watching in the other areas, but we're only hiking the area. We can get too easily and then we know we're not putting pressure on these herds. So we're, we've been really careful about it, just knowing the kind of winter that it's been. And we've, as of recent, I've, I'm not going out anywhere for another two or three weeks.
I'm just gonna let it marinate. LER will still be there. I can wait just fine and I think we'll still do just fine as long as I still have an idea of where the bulls are and the deer are, which we do. So we're just gonna marinate and let these give these herds a break and then go back in there at the end of April near, closer to the May one timeframe.
And that's just based on the weather that we're seeing next couple weeks of like fifties, sixties, and [00:21:00] seventies. So should be good. We start, we should start seeing a turnaround and we're probably gonna see some flooding. I'm sure Utah's gonna get hammered with floods. But Wyoming, we might be okay out west.
It's gonna be rough though. Yeah. Yeah. I think for sure. Utah. I don't see how Utah's not gonna flood. We had Ryan Carter on the podcast a couple weeks ago and he said, yeah, some of our ski resorts are reporting over 600 feet of snow or no, 600 inches. Sorry, not 600 feet. 600 inches. Yeah. I picked up where you were going, but it's still 600 inches is like 50 feet of snow.
So Yeah. It's 20. Ridiculous. They're like 220% snow pack. Yeah. They need the water. I don't think they need it all at once, but they need the water and so it is a wild year. It is, it's a wild year for shed hunting in a lot of different ways between closures and all that. And the closures got me thinking like everyone's worried about someone else finding an right.
Which is, yeah, I get it. I understand. To a degree, [00:22:00] but for a guy like myself I don't know, there's other antlers, like you can just work harder, walk farther, go to new spots. And so what's like your stance on like, how often do you feel like one of your spots you go to and it's man, I don't know what's up.
I think someone beat me here. I'm, I can say this with a hundred percent honesty. I am never worried about it. I don't tell people my spots, cuz nobody does that. But I'm not worried about somebody doing their research and figuring out that it's a good area. And they go I've found antlers right off of boot tracks.
It's not, you can't find 'em all. Like we talked about, people walk, I mean we walk by 'em. Other people are gonna walk by 'em too. You just might pick the right line. Shed hunting's all about doing the research. Pre antler fall off. If you can get in there without pressuring the herds and it's. Picking the right lines.
It's I think it's 80 perc or like probably 40% research and 60% luck, if not more heavily weighted toward luck. Yeah pick as soon as you get off where you've been [00:23:00] glassing the animals, it's just picking the right line. Cuz it's a guessing game and you're just using all your knowledge and trying to figure out where an elk would be when an elk should be feeding in the winter.
That's really all you can go on. I always, I think, I guess my outlook on it is I'm never gonna, and it goes with hunting too, which is why I don't mind nonresidents doing anything in our mountains. I'm never not going to fill my tag because someone else did. And the same thing goes with the analysts.
I'm never gonna not pick up handlers because someone else picked up a few. So yeah. More people in the mountains advocating for it and advocating for a wildlife, I think is the bigger benefit than me not finding a couple sheds cause somebody else did. Yeah, that's the, that's kinda what I'm getting at.
It's For one, like the shed closure rules. It's I don't know, I don't really care. As long as everyone plays by the rules, it's fine with me. I know some people are gonna cheat going at night, do whatever the, but it's just, I hate when people are like worried so much that someone else is gonna find your antler.
That they are out there pushing animals and going way too [00:24:00] early. And that part just bothers me because it's I don't see the need to be that gung-ho, like I don't see the need to be that desperate to find that like spot. And obviously everything goes out the window for 400 inch bulls.
People are just gonna go nuts for those no matter what you try to tell them. Sure. But in general, it's I don't know, there's plenty of antlers out there. Like how many antlers? I'd love to know, like in Wyoming, how many antlers drop a year and how many of 'em are picked up? Cuz I bet it's 15%.
I know, I pick up a lot of whites every year, so I know that, and I'll pick up a lot of chalk too, so I know that a lot of 'em are left laying there. So if you're picking up whites and chalks, that should be a pretty good determination to the fact that there's gonna be whites and chalks the following year too, because it's, there's too much public ground.
We think. I, we I think we have, and I have to check me on this, like eight plus million acres. I think it's way more than that actually. I think maybe 13 or 14 million acres of public ground out here. And a lot of it, there's a lot of it that's landlocked and stuff like that, but even the [00:25:00] accessible stuff you can get in there so far and never see a because there's a lot of people, it's who's gonna put in the work and who won't.
There's so many antlers that don't get picked up, and that's another one of those. You look at the herds and you're like, start doing the math in your head and you're just, it's really easy to get discouraged if you're not picking stuff up or you're just, cuz you're just like, there's so many animals in Wyoming.
I should be picking up antlers every step I take. But you miss 'em. Yeah. Yeah. So that part doesn't really bother me nearly as much. Like I, I've even started dabbling with the idea of a, not a tag, but a stamp, like a $30 shed stamp per state. Just to go out and just as like a venue or an avenue to get money back into, hopefully, like ideally 100% back to winter range.
I don't know what that means, but it's like this stamp, like the federal dunk stamp, 98% of it has to go back to access improvement and protection of wetlands. Like the same [00:26:00] thing for this, it'd be like a hundred percent of it has to go back to winter range improvement, protect, protecting these migration corridors protecting the winter range, all kinds of stuff.
Like I'd probably support something like that. I don't want a limit, like I don't want a bag limit on my sheds. I don't want a $800 tag to come as a non-resident, but I'm not opposed to kicking back a little bit either. Cuz we love it so much. The only way to protect it is to, pay for it.
So one of the things that this, that HB 0 1 23 does is that it, it does that in the regard or in, in the way of having non-residents buy a conservation stamp, which is $21 and 50 cents. So if you come here to Chef Hunt next year, You have to buy a conservation stamp, just 21 bucks, 21 and a half bucks.
So it's along the lines of what you're talking about. Our conservation stamps do go directly to our state funded conservation. So that is, one of the things that they've included in this bill. So they are moving that direction and I'm pretty sure other states will follow suit because it's a pretty cheap [00:27:00] means of having to come here and do something you love to do.
It's kicking back to the state that you love to do it in, that's inviting you in and sure you have to wait seven days at, post residents. But the really, the only thing that affects, I think is Jackson and May one I don't like we talked about, I don't think it's gonna affect anything else. Wait, so yeah, we are making movies like that, but I think some of it will also go to the migration initiative, which is something that Wyoming has kickstarted and other states have followed suit in as well.
US and Utah and Arizona have worked together really well to put in the a lot of the overpasses and the kick outs that are in the taller fence lines in the one in the winter regions to, and it's, I think it's significantly decreased to the tune of 90 plus percent of vehicle star or vehicle strikes on mule deer, elk, and other animals.
This year is definitely different because these animals aren't in their typical winter ranges. They've had to venture much further to get sustenance. But in a typical year those initiatives have absolutely killed it on their on their goals and on their ambitions, and I think this will help that.
Yeah, imagine how bad it would've been if for the last two decades [00:28:00] Wyoming hasn't been doing anything for the migration initiative, and then we get a winner like this. Yeah, it would goodbye. It would've been statewide. Absolutely devastating. Yeah. It's already gonna be statewide devastating.
It's just a bad year, right? I antelope, how does an antelope survive a 21 inch snowfall? I don't know. It's tough. I actually got off the phone with Phil, he's a, one of the wildlife biologists that I know down in the bags region, which is the region we were talking about before the show down in the high Sierras.
And the high Sierras are usually you put chains on, you can bust a couple drifts and get back in there, but there's no chance you won't, people won't be getting there till June this year. And a lot of those antelope that were lucky have gotten out of that area, moved south, into Colorado over the drift that had the fences maybe about that big or not visible at all.
And the concern there is that it's good for the animal. The antelope got to a place where they could feed and thrive, but when they try to come back they won't be able to navigate the fence work. So it's gonna be a. [00:29:00] Not only are we having winter kill down there, now we're losing animals to other other more obtain feed outta state, which is fine for the animal cuz that's what we're concerned about.
But, it's gonna affect our numbers too. And tag allocations will follow that effect. It's, man, it's, there's so many facets to what's going on with this winter and I can't even get a grasp on it. I'm trying like hell, but it's gonna be tough. Yeah. Yeah. I really wanna follow along and see what happens.
Like our tag allocations, are they gonna be active and proactive enough to adjust them now, even though a lot, like Wyoming's non-resident draw was January 31st, and a lot of these states are draws are closing up or the application is closing, the draws are happening as we speak. Are they gonna be like, Hey, like we can't.
A normal hunt on top of this winter. Like we don't have time to do it the right way with science and fall surveys and like how we usually do it, but we need to make some changes. I wonder if we're gonna see that already this year. [00:30:00] I think. I think we will. So we had an emergency meeting in Rolands.
It was actually initiated by the Wyoming Game of Fish and Governor Gordon and I was gonna try to attend that virtually cuz the roads were closed, of course in Wyoming on 80. But it was full already. That was, it had a 500 person max. So I called the Green River office to see what the results of that were and they put literally everything on the table.
There were no decisions made, but everything's on the table as far as full cancellation and pulling an emergency rule down the road. But what I, one of the good things I think that Wyoming's doing is that our commission meeting that's supposed to happen this month, they may even delay the commission meeting so that they can have more viable.
Documentation of what's actually going on with real numbers so that they can bring that to the commission meeting and make the decisions there. So our tag allocation numbers might be a little bit delayed in coming out. Or they might not just depends, but you know what they say winter weekends and spring kills.
So we've got another two months of mortality left. So we have to we have to feel, put our feet in it slowly to see what we're gonna do because [00:31:00] if you make an allocation now and it's way worse or ends up becoming worse, your emergency rule is gonna make a lot of people mad.
The state's gonna have to refund a lot of money if they're, if they, if, it just creates a whole mess. Yeah. Whole assess pool of things that we don't have to be, won't, don't want to deal with. Yeah, that is, that's just rough. No one wants to, no one wants to think about it and no one wants to see that, but it's something that probably just has to happen to protect the animals Yeah.
In the long term. Which, oh there's other opportunity around there'll be, you, there'll be planning a chances to get out and hunt this fall, but oh yeah. It's just kinda weird. It's wild to see it all happening all at once in a way with the western legislation the last couple years has been wild, especially from a flatlanders point of view.
And then we have a winner like this where it's like wild. And so now it's really wondering okay, where are we gonna, like what's the future of elk cunning look like for a non-resident? Or what's the future of antelope? Antelope and meal deer already weren't in that great of place in the [00:32:00] west and I don't think this year it's gonna improve any substantial amount.
Especially the antelope in Wyoming. Like it's already been pulling back with all the opportunity and now you get a winner like this, like those antelope are not built like an elk. No. We've had 2017, the winter of 2017 really hurt the mule deer population and the frog horn population.
And then you have a historical winter like this with mortality rates in the south central part of Wyoming. We're looking at 70 to 80% mule deer mortality rate. They've had 33 mature dough pronghorn collared. And of those 33, as of a couple weeks ago, I think it was 14 or 15, had been declared dead already.
That was before this last storm hit. And they're looking at about a hundred percent fall mortality rate. So we are not gonna have a herd turnover in those units and down, over in the Star Valley where they're getting all the snow in the winter ranges are probably gonna be looking at numbers similar to that.
It's hard to tell obviously, because like I said, there are two more months or so of mortality left, but[00:33:00] the good thing and the out good outlook on elk especially for our state, is that almost every unit is over objective to the tune of thousands. So elk are flourishing and thriving, so whatever we lose in this winter, I'm not saying it's oh, it's fine, but we can sustain that a little bit more and the herds will still remain hardy.
So I don't think elk, the elk hunting for us or for non-residents as far as tag allocation's gonna change at all outside of the the 90 10 rule that they're imposing, of course. But I think elk hunting in Wyoming is gonna be pretty, pretty good for a lot of years to come. Mule, deer and antelope.
I don't see it being great for years to come. And if we get another winner, it's just probably gonna go. Yeah, hopefully. Hopefully they bounce back eventually. Hopefully we get some good rain summers and green grass for a couple years and really bounce these numbers back up. Elk are just, yeah, they're tanks.
They're just little tanks that, they're built for this, like the 20 inches of snow. That alone doesn't bother 'em one bit. They walk around in that all day long. They might not enjoy finding food in [00:34:00] it, but they're built for it. Yep. Yeah. Yep. They, and they can, they have a, such a wide range of things that they can live on in the wintertime from browse to sage.
Mule deer rely on sage, and when the sage is covered, that's what gets detrimental. Mul or pronghorn they're just not big enough animals to where they can paw through some of this crusted snow and use their heads and their body weight to move snow around to get down to available feed.
They just can't do it. They're not built for it, so yeah, they're just not hardy enough to survive the. The stuff that elk are able to and the stuff that they can get to that elk have already gotten to it are in it right now because they got there first. Cuz they're able. So yeah, it's, yeah, it's, it sucks to see one species flourish and one just really struggle.
But it, that is nature. But all we can do is all we can do is what we can do. And that's, there's not a lot, I know in the past I just, not to dwell on doom and gloom of winter, but I know in the past Wyoming has done supplemental feeding on the winter ranges and then recently it, that was [00:35:00] pulled back and has there been any update like this year?
Like people are saying, nah, I think we gotta put it back in place now. So all the feed grounds as far as I know, are open, especially on the Western si the side of the state with the more critical winter ranges. All those feed grounds are open. They're all operable, like the eastern Idaho ones and the western Wyoming ones.
The big ones the refuges are all still they're all still feeding. The thing is with mule deer, they're. You, they're not a great herd to feed because their diets are so specific you can feed 'em. They're not, they don't do well on hay. And from what I understand, if they're not getting the brows and the stuff that they usually need, they can, their stomachs can do something weird and they can, it's more detrimental than having them try to forage and find what they need.
So the mule deer feed isn't isn't huge or really existent here. People are doing it out, out of their own hearts and stuff like that, and I hope it's helping. But the elk, yeah they'll be on the feed grounds. And the bad thing about that though is the feed grounds. Some of the feed grounds are covered completely in the elk, are moving into ranchers [00:36:00] establishments, and they're starting to co-mingle with cattle.
A whole nother facet of disease. You're looking at possibilities for that too. But on the front of disease, when you're looking at C W D and how that's affected mul deer herds, One of the maybe bright lights of this whole winter is that hopefully the weaker c w d ridden mule deer and or elk are eliminated.
And I ha I know that sounds coldhearted Yeah. But eliminated from the gene pool, and hopefully we'll get a bounce back, even though this hurt us, we'll get a bounce back in the CWD department from the weaker animals getting unselected, I guess by natural selection. Yeah. Yeah. And then just not spreading it because while it's endemic and it's gonna stay in the environment, the, I it's widely believed, and no one really knows yet, but it's widely believed that the most common pathway is like animal to animal contact. Like live animal to live animal, the lick, licking each other, everything like that. And so if that animal dies, it can't do that anymore.
So we lost one. It's would you rather lose one or five? I'd rather lose one. [00:37:00] So yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. So transferring back into something more positive and exciting to talk about. Yeah. The Elker on the Winter ranges, everyone knows the famous Jackson Hole winter range wild Shed Hunt.
Do you think that they will make special rules for Jackson with the whole non-resident delay? I don't, there's nothing in the literature. I've read the whole bill. There's nothing in the literature about making an exception. Honestly, the bill was brought forth by a big group of residents too with the Wildlife Task Force and Wildlife Game, or the Wyoming Game and Fish.
It's, I used to go back in the day and it was before, it was all cool and popular and stuff like that, and it was fun. It was busy then, but man, I, now I've stopped going in like 2014 or something, I can't remember, but I haven't gone in, a decade or more. And even then it was our. It was non-resident outnumbered vehicle or resident vehicles, 10 plus to one easily.
[00:38:00] It's great for the city of Jackson as far as revenue and stuff like that, but it just became a thing I didn't wanna be a part of. And a lot of residents follow the same sentiment. It just, it eliminated the reason I do it in the first place. Cause I don't wanna race somebody for a shed. It loses all its allure when people get that crazy over in Elk Shed.
And there's a guy that threatened a lady with a hatchet a few years back I heard. And it's just, I wasn't a part of that. So I don't know what it's gonna be like when they start going again. That is a bold move in a state like Wyoming to bring a hatchet to what's probably gonna be a gunfight that's Yes.
Put. Yeah. So I don't, yeah, it's not, that's something I wanna be a part of, but I don't think, yeah, there's nothing in the literature that's gonna give any kind of special exception to that. That shed run. So it'll be mostly residents there. It'll be all residents there. So that's what I was leaning into is how crazy it is.
And so when you were doing it, cuz it's only recently been changed that it's a daytime thing. When you were doing it, it was like midnight. You [00:39:00] start at midnight. No. And you're going out in the dark, which to me sounds wild. Like running out in the dark, trying to not trip on anything, trying to find an antler.
With your spotlight, horses are going by ya. Now it's in the daylight, which probably makes it a little safer, but a little bit like more crazy cuz everyone's moving that much faster. Yeah. But I was gonna ask you, you like, what's your take on the whole Jackson? Is it worth it? I've always, I've known of it for probably a decade as well and never had a desire to partake cuz I've always thought I don't know anything.
I've never been there, don't know where to go. And there's. What thousands of people that have been doing it their entire life that know exactly where to go. Yeah. They probably all have horses. What am I gonna find that, that's probably one where I will let other people affect my hunt. Yeah, that's and I, likewise, I don't go anymore because of that.
There's only really two ways in to that whole area where people go crazy. And last year, I think was the first year they [00:40:00] introduced you had to go online like at a certain time and get a vehicle or a number for your vehicle. You can only have five or six people in your vehicle. And you can go out there and do it and it's an experience I'm sure for someone that's looking for that kind of an experience.
But you're probably, if you're going on foot without horses and without knowledge, you're probably only gonna find three or four, five sheds a piece, which is a great day on for any day. But you gotta look at the cost that you're putting into going out and doing that. And if you're just going out to do it for the experience, that's awesome.
More power to you and you might have fun doing it, but. The reasons I do it aren't to be near more people, they're to be further away from people. So yeah, that's the turnoff for me. I would love to go to Jackson for that event and not shed hunt at all. Like I've not even shed hunting.
I'm just in Jackson being a part of the culture, talking to people, hanging out, looking at people's sheds as they bring 'em back and just ex observing. I don't want any part in the race. Maybe eventually I'd get into it, but like you said [00:41:00] it's wild, but it's always, I've always thought about, so the Boy Scouts going first and they scoop up all the easy ones, right?
Like on the refuge? Yep. Yeah. So on the winter range they're like the winter refuge. And then the elk, the Jackson Hole shed hunt is like up in the hills or whatever, drops back there. Yep. Up off the refuge. Yep. Up in the national forest. Up off the refuge. Yep. So they're never gonna change the whole Boy Scout thing, I'm sure.
But it, I've always No, that'll be forever. I've always thought about what would happen if you auctioned off like a hundred Jackson Hole Shed passes.
Yeah. I'm sure that they would go in a matter, like they'd go faster than a Garth Brook. A Garth Brooks ticket. Yeah, but not like a ticket sale, an auction oh yeah, you got, there's, we're gonna, like at the Western Hunt Expo, we're gonna do 10. And at Bozeman, R M E F, we're gonna do five. And Jackson Hole, R M E F, we're gonna do 20.
And you're just auctioning 'em off. Straight auction, it all goes just like [00:42:00] Utah's tag auctions because you're gonna probably, I don't how many people go just throw out a number that you would expect. Are we talking a thousand or 10,000? How many people go like right now, as of last year?
Probably closer to 10,000. Okay. So maybe a hundred, maybe 50. The point is make it exclusive enough that you're making a lot of money on each one. Cuz if you did 2000 tags, people are probably only gonna spend like a hundred bucks or less. But if you did, a hundred people are like, like to be one out of a hundred or one out of 20 to get to, shed hunt Jackson.
You get the whole week, you get seven days, the 20 of you got it to yourselves. Try not to kill each other after that. We're opening it up to the public, after the Boy Scouts, but before the public. You'd probably have people spend 50 grand on that pass. You would, and then you'd have people, I don't know.
I feel like you'd have a price on your own head if you got that kind of privilege. That'd be, that would be something, yeah. I don't know how they would orchestrate something like that, but I think it would be huge money. Huge money. [00:43:00] Yeah. To, I don't know, people would be but I'm always, oh yeah, I'm looking at it maybe more of a business side.
And I have my, a different podcast I run as an outdoor entrepreneurship side. So I'm always looking at like, how do we get better hunting, make money, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, man, if you could auction off 20 passes for 50 grand a piece, that's a million dollars that you're putting into winter range in Wyoming.
The, those conservation stamps aren't gonna do it. Like they ain't gonna raise a million dollars in shed hunting, conservation stamps. So is it worth pissing off the other 9,800 people?
Man, I don't know. I don't wanna see antlers turn to like crime. I feel like there would be some pretty shady stuff that goes on, even more so shady than, some of the people that go in and, the guys that don't adhere to any of the regulation already. So I don't know. Yeah, I know it would I a hundred percent it would garner millions of dollars for the right.
Funnels, but the, I don't know how the [00:44:00] orchestration of that would happen without significantly pissing off a lot of people. It would, you'd have to get everyone on board with we need the money that bad and you're not gonna, yeah. You're not asking p that's the tough part. Like you're sacrificing the four antlers, like you talked about, that you're probably gonna find for a million dollars to the wildlife.
Like I would give up those four antler. Likewise. Yeah. I think a lot of people would, but I think the majority of, and again, it goes back to the popularity of the activity these days. Yeah. People are, shed crazy. They're, it's, I've never, I never thought that going out and doing something I used to get made fun of for doing would be like, I wish more people still made fun of us for it.
It's oh it's just nature's participation trophy. And I'm like, you need to convince everyone. Yeah, but then you have your participation trophies in the freezer full of elk too. It's now what do you say? Yeah, no, I hear you man. I hear you for sure. And aside from Jackson, I've always thought as Jackson was a great opportunity to shut hunt everywhere else in Wyoming that weekend [00:45:00] because all the serious people are in Jackson.
Except for Sean. Yeah, me and Sean will be off by ourselves finding antlers. Yeah, we'll go find some somewhere else. So for a flatlander, and it doesn't even have to be Wyoming specific, but Flatlander just wants to go out west, dabble with shed hunting mostly like someone that's going for a good authentic reason.
We just want to get out west, be outside, have some fun. If we find some antler along the way, that'd be amazing. I, I hope we find some, cuz we're going all the way, but not, we're not looking to do 160 elk sheds in the three day weekend type of thing. We just wanna have fun.
We've never been there Before. You take a map, how do you pick where to go? Would you look at like the winter range overlays on all these services and pair that up with a snow depth map and kind of be like, eh, find some public land where the whatever, what is it? Gantt chart overlaps or the whatever that, I don't know why I can't think of it.
I'm an engineer, I should know these things. But the chart, the two circles [00:46:00] overlap. That's where you go. Yeah. You there's, those are tried and true methods. The runner, there's there's so few of those critical grounds that are designated by a wildlife for earth forest service and wildlife fisheries that they're pretty easy to determine what range those animals are coming from that utilize those grounds.
So yeah, I'm gonna identify those winter grounds and then I'm gonna look at like the foothills with the snow line on normal years. This year I'm looking in the winter grounds all but on normal years I'm looking at The winter grounds and then the range they come from. And I'm gonna try to find some of the hills and travel corridors that they're gonna use to follow the snow line back up that have all the available south facing slopes and shelter belts that they can use to get back up there.
And what's gonna have that feed available at the earliest convenience for them to follow that snow line back up to their spring or their late spring summer ranges. Okay. So you're saying this, and true the shed range isn't necessarily the winter range, you're talking on a normal year, it's probably more like your [00:47:00] transition range.
Yeah, and I think it's just short of the transition range. Because the winter range is the, when they start, the snow normally starts receding, the animals follow it, right? So the feed on the winter range is gone. There's no reason for 'em to be there when they're really starting to drop and they'll follow that snow.
So yeah, you, the snow and the mountain range that they, that you think that herd will be coming from, going back to. Is what I would use as my measures to see where I'm gonna hit. And typically those antlers and those animals are toting those an those antler a little bit back up with the feed. So you're probably gonna be, look, I'm probably gonna be looking as an out-of-state or coming here to do that, throw a spot at the map type deal at the winter range.
I'm gonna look at 500 to a thousand feet above the winter range into the foothills or slow, just below the transition range. Okay. And then if you're gonna get like super tactical, nitpicky, are you walking, I assume you're not walking the bottoms of the draws if you can help it. Do you like to [00:48:00] be halfway up the slope on the top?
I like, personally, I like to be a little higher than lower so I can see more ground, I can, it's easier to look down on a shed than up at a shed to me. Is that kind of justified out west as well, not just the Roland Hills of South Dakota. No, a hundred percent. And usually when you're walking drainages or hopping ridges, I won't go over a ridge and go down on the bottom, then go up the ridge.
I like to hike in an M shape. Okay. So I'll hike just off the spine of the ridge down into the drainage that I'm looking at or the basin, and I'll hike up toward the feeder finger of that ridge. I'll glass the other side, I'll glass the bottom, and then I'll hike back down the ridge. I just hiked on, but down toward the bottom where I can see into the bottom a lot better.
And then I'll hike, I'll cross the bottom and then I'll hike up, in an M shape. And I'll hike up the other side of the ridge closer to the bottom, back up to the top. And then I'll come on the top of that other ridge and glass, everything I just hiked over on that side. So it's a grid, but it's a wider set grid.
And I'll usually do M'S through all the fingers that I'm planning on hitting [00:49:00] instead of just going up and over. So if I and let your eyes be walking, if I get it, if I'm picturing what you're saying. It sounds like you're basically staying, I'm staying at a constant elevation and I'm going like in and out.
In and out. Or are you saying I'm actually going down and up in an M? No, so if you're, let's see here. If you've got to find a range, I actually got OnX pulled up here.
I think that may like, you're more so staying at a certain elevation and trying to keep your elevation and move fast. Is that what it so like you're going around a finger, not up and over. So I don't know if you can see this real well. If you can't, we'll just nix the whole thing.
I've got Can you like go down on the left a little bit where the GPS coordinates are for everyone? Just kidding. Get right on that for you. Yeah. No. You can see how this bowl is shaped, how it's shaped. You've got the basins coming in here, you've got all your south facing slopes on these here. Yeah. [00:50:00] So I'm gonna hike up the spine and I'm gonna come down.
Toward to the bottom. And then I'm gonna cross the bottom, go up closer to the bottom, and then I'm gonna hike this fine and glass everything back this way. So I'm gonna cover that basin in a pretty good in. And I'm just gonna do that basically the whole way around this whole basin until I either determine that, I'm in an area where I'm not seeing sign, or I'm in an area where it's been picked over completely, or I'm fine in sheds.
It'll all depend on that, but I'll hit a basin in that way so that I don't leave any question or stone unturned. Yeah. But, and it's worked out well for me. I'm not, I'm no Eric Chester, I'm No, big name shed hunter. But I find a lot of sheds and I'm proud of it. But it's that's my method, man.
That's my go-to method. And I glass a lot. I hike slow. Yeah. Are you doing just bipod or sorry binoculars or are you doing tripod spotter? Depends on the area. I'm going. If I have, if I know I'm going somewhere where there's not a lot of tree pockets and stuff like that or blockages, I will take my spotter up with me [00:51:00] and I'll glass from points, but I have my most success just by binos and sitting down on the hillside and putting my, putting a hiking stick down on the binos and just sitting there and glassing the other side and just picking it apart.
Yeah, that's what we do too. And then just, and it's easier to go like that. Move fast until you find something we're slowing down for. Yeah. Yeah. Yep. I think that'll help a lot of people like piece it together. Cause I think everyone should go. I think everyone should go out west and just, you do enjoy the west and there's a great time to do, it's in the spring.
Nothing else is going on. You're not gonna miss your white tail rut. You're not gonna miss duck opener. You might miss some Turkey hunting, but I still think people are wild. Even being interested in turkeys anyway. So I'm the same way, man. I've never ever had any interest. It's wild. I need to do it.
I'm terrible at it. I need to do it, probably do it with someone that loves it and is good at it and see what they see and then make up my mind. But I've never shot one, so I think it's stupid. I look at us as elk hunters too. I look how we act, [00:52:00] when we're trying to call in bulls, we're raking a tree.
We're, yeah. We're butrin, we're cow calling. We're, and I look at how Turkey callers call turkeys and I, it looks like they're having a seizure, man. They're taking their hat off. They're shaking it for like feather it's nuts. I don't know, I don't think I'd ever be able to get on board with that.
There's a lot of people that save Turkey hunting is the poor man's elk hunting. That's what I hear. Yeah. Cuz you're calling your doing same thing. Tough. It's a tough gig, interacting with them. But yeah. Yeah, I don't get it. But But there is one other topic I wanted to talk to you about.
I was cruising your social media and I see that you've been doing your own freeze-dried meals. Yes. Yep. As of recent, I've always had an interest. Yeah. I think everyone goes through this in the same pattern. We're gonna go out west what do we eat out west? So they Google it and Mountain House comes up and they're like, oh, okay.
We get a jet boil. All you gotta do is boil water. You pour it in the mountain house bag, boom, you're done. So you buy some mountain house, you try it out at home and you're like, oh man, these are pretty good. All right, cool. [00:53:00] They taste way better than I thought they would for freeze-dried meals. So you go out west, you eat 'em for four days in a row, and on day five you feel like your stomach is missing.
Like it's someone ripped it out. Yeah, but, and you're like, what the heck? Basically, yeah. What's going on? And you wonder, and you do it again next year, your same thing happens and all of a sudden you start looking it up and it's oh yeah, mountain House has a whole bunch of stuff in it that is not really good for you.
And if you're living on Mountain House for any extent of period of time, you're gonna start feeling it, right? And so then people are like what do you do? And then I've heard like Aaron Snyder talk about it. I've heard about like Gastro and of these other brands that are doing like healthy, clean, freeze dried meals, but a lot of people just do it yourself.
It's not that hard. And I'm like, how do you do it yourself? And then I saw you, your video and tell us a little bit like why did you get into it? And then what do you need to get into it? So all the years of Eaton Mountain House and there's a lot of great companies out there and I won't say anything bad about the companies, but [00:54:00] yeah to your experience, everybody has that same experience and we all relate, the stomach issues, the.
Feel like just dragging. You don't have the energy that you feel like you should. Even though you're burning a crap ton of calories, you should be refueled by those meals, but for whatever reason, you just feel heavy. So I got tired of feeling that way. I like to do 10 to 15 mile days, and when I don't feel like I can do that, I started looking at my fuel source.
And my fuel source obviously is my food. So I got to thinking, man, it'd be really nice to figure out this freeze-dried way of life or whatever, and to take the things that I harvest from the mountain, the healthiest meats on the planet with, my own way of cooking and preparing those meals because my family loves it.
I love it. It's all we eat. We don't buy beef. So why am I eating it up here? I should have the best fuel with me up here. So I was like I tried to figure out and did some research and it was pretty easy to find, ways to do it. And I went with the easiest way that I could start as quick as I could, and I just, I grabbed, and I think it's called Harvest right?
It's an actual freeze drying machine.[00:55:00] They've been around for a few years. I've been watching them and seeing if they can come down on price. So they are costly out of the get-go. So you're looking at like probably 2,800 bucks to start with the machine itself, which I know is steep and I know it seems like that's so stupid, but I did a cost analysis on it with me and my family.
My family was eating, freeze-dried meals. We camp, we backpack a lot in the summer. Not to mention what I use myself and my huntings during my hunting seasons or camping myself. We went through 130 bags of like mountain house or peak or gastro home or Heather's choice, what have you.
Any brandy, all of them. And the cost of that, you look at that from between 11 and 15 bucks a bag. One year of going through those bags will pay for itself. Not to mention the price of everything right now. Food-wise having a little, storage pantry full of food that's gonna last you a long time doesn't make the worst, approach at.
Being self-sustainable either. So I pulled the trigger on it and I've, yeah I've started I think it was three or four months ago, two months, three months ago, recently after I [00:56:00] got the machine, and I have, I, the thing has not turned off. It's off now, but it'll be on this afternoon again. So it's awesome.
I've made all my favorite meals and I've got, I'm able to take my meal up with me now. I elk scrambles, so I've got my breakfast, green chili, elk scrambles, and elk pasta with pane and all that stuff is just the food that I've put in it. I know exactly where it came from, and it's a really nice peace of mind to have on the mountain.
So when you're doing it, from what I saw, you cook the food almost like you would normally, but you just don't mix the ingredients. Put 'em in trays. The it looked to me like a vertical smoker, like a little, or not a vertical smoker, a dehydrator, like a little countertop. You put the trays in, shut the door, it freeze dries.
Now do you have to put anything in it besides what you would normally cook with to make it work? No preservatives, no chemicals, nothing. Nothing. That's what's best, that's the best part about it. And dehydrator, you're gonna lose like 40 to 60% of the [00:57:00] nutrients in the food. And I was doing research on that too.
And freeze dryer, you lose about 3%. So you've got 97% of the flavor of the nutrients that go into the food when you're cooking it and combining it. And you've got that with you in the package. If you're saying, if you're making an elk scramble, a green chili I'll freeze dry the green chili, separate every single ingredient separate except for like seasonings and what have you to cook.
But, and then I'll add it in portions so that it's all separated, but together. It rehydrates and reconstitutes a lot better that way in my experience. And if you freeze dry elk or any meat for that matter, if you freeze dry at medium rare, it will reconstitute medium rare. And it's the coolest thing.
It's just, it tastes so much better than anything I've ever bought from the store. And I don't mean that in a bad way from those companies cuz they help a lot of people get on the mountain and eat, but it's I'm so glad we made the decision to, to grab one of those machines. Yeah. Sounds amazing. Is there anything you can't put in it or doesn't work well?
Like peanut butter, [00:58:00] anything that has like a heavy fat content does not do well. You can do, you can even do cheese. Cheese does great and even though it does have a high fat content, but like you've, if you were to put like a liquid fat in there, it just doesn't, it doesn't do well.
Something really oily like a pesto. Doesn't do very well. It will freeze dry, but it won't keep that long. So if you look at some of your, like your peak refuels, there's a chicken pesto pasta, they have I think it only lasts two or three years. So it's not shelf, it's shelf stable as a mountain house that'll last you till the year 2055.
But it's definitely more flavorful. So if you're planning on using it in a couple years and not buying it for a survival preparation type thing, they work just fine. But they still have all the things that you don't really know about in 'em, and I like to avoid that. Okay. Yeah. How long did the meals last that you make at home?
And because you were putting like a desicant pack in it right? Just to keep the moisture out? Yep. The oxygen absorbers act in a way, so like when you put your meal in, you throw an oxygen absorber [00:59:00] in and you seal it as best you can with as much air as you can out of it. And then you heat seal it, which super seals it.
And then eventually over the course of three or four days, those oxygen absorbers ultimately ends up. It self vacuum seals. It's wild cause I don't vacuum seal 'em, but it feels like it's vacuum sealed, so I know they're gonna stay for a long time. The first meal I did was, like I said, a couple, two or three months ago.
And I mean it's it's a tight package of food so I know it's gonna last. And that's the process is literally what the big companies do. It's just not on a commercial scale. So you're putting together food that's gonna last you for a long time and I've tried the meals and that I've made just cuz you have to obviously to see if it's all worth.
Its while I've never been happier with a, that kind of a purchase before than I am with like the freeze dryer, do you think it's definitely worth it? Do you think your meals will last like the 40 years that mountain house will last? No, I don't. I think they'll last 10 to 15 years is what I, everything I've been seeing the do-it your home, the do-it-yourself stuff, all natural[01:00:00] without the preservatives and stuff to kick it over that edge of 40 year preservation.
We don't have that, and I don't want that in my food anyways. So 10 to 15 years for me is pretty good. I think that's more than what you need. In 10 or 15 years, if things go bad, at least you have however many meals you've been making over the last 10 or 15 years, which should be substantial.
Yeah. I've not real. If there's a need for food to be prepped 10 or 15 years and we can't replace food for 15 years. We've got a lot of other issues, man. Even the people that have the 40 cases of Mountain House, they will be the first ones to get robbed. Or they'll be such chaos in the streets.
I don't need that, that I'm needed for elk cunning and I would do the same as you cost analysis. It makes sense. We're going to use it this much. But that's a, yeah that's what kind of made me interested in it because, I think Mountain House is great once maybe twice here and there, we still bring it out. Every elk hunt, we just don't eat it four days in a row, twice a day anymore. Cuz it, it messes you up. Like [01:01:00] we get archery elk cunning, we're planning 60, 50, 60, 70 degree days depending on where you go. But every now and then, we had a blizzard, 18 degrees in Montana with two feet of snow.
It's like mountain house sounded a lot better for lunch that day on the mountain than a cold sandwich. And oh yeah, you're throwing in. It's fine. You're not no issues whatsoever, you'll be fine. But when you spend as many days as it sounds like you do, or some of the people do, or even just like a week straight eating two or three a day to get your calories in, you're gonna start to feel it.
If you've ever been to Taco Bell for lunch and dinner in the same day, you know what we're talking about. Exactly. Exactly. Yep. That's nice to be off of that. Actually, I've got a couple meals sitting right here.
So you see that's what they look like. The bags, this is the chicken off Alfredo pane that I made. It looks almost vacuum sealed. That's not vacuum sealed. It's just sealed with an oxygen absorber in it. And okay, I made that on three two [01:02:00] 2023. Nice. Dude. That's exciting. That is exciting. Yeah.
And then you're also doing the antler restoration, right? Yes. Yep. So you just seems like you're kinda like the jack of all trades, but did you, what was the start of master of them? What was the start of that? Did you find like a giant chalker and you're just like, man, what would this look like?
Fresh or brown? Yeah, so I used to actually, so when I was a kid, I would paint them, I would paint them brown with brown paint in a paintbrush and. I would always, I just always wanted to find them fresh or I always wanted to make 'em look like they were off the head. So I, I started doing it a long time ago, but I don't do that anymore.
Obviously. I tried to find ways to make the, yeah, the bigger chalks, it's man, that would be so cool if I could take that outta my keeper pile and display it or it would look better in my keeper pile without these three times missing or, just brown. So yeah, I just started dabbling in ways to get rid of the chalk [01:03:00] scale.
I've wasted a lot of antlers trying to, get my method down right. But eventually, I found my way of doing it, which is a natural way, involves no stain, just a sealant. And yeah, I've been doing it ever since. A lot of buddies. I've been fortunate, a lot of buddies trust me with their memories to bring 'em back to life.
I've had a couple guys that have had giants hanging on sheds or cabins that just. They're like, man, this sucks at that bowl is sitting up there just gathering snow and dropping CHF flicks. So they'd take it off the cabin, give it to me, and I bring it back to 'em and now it's in their house.
And I like to think I think I said on my post that it's a cool thing to be a part of someone's memory when the conversation comes up over drinks or whatnot. Or someone says what? That's a great bull. Tell me the story about that. And then they tell the story and I may not come up, I'm a part of the memory and part of the reason they're having that conversation.
It's cool to me, to pre preserve those memories for people and for myself. So is that something that you offer that service to anybody, like on a website or is it just you gotta know me and be close cuz who's gonna put an [01:04:00] antler through the us p s overnight? That's what it's developed into.
I probably will actually open up a an actual. That does it. Right now I do it under my, cuz I own a lawn care company, which is ace, like outdoor solutions. And I built it that way so that one day I can maybe push this into that as an umbrella or as a subsidiary of that umbrella corporation. I do it right now under my lawn care and outdoor company.
So it's mostly people that are close to me or that know me. And I've got, plenty of business and stuff like that to keep busy. But I'm trying, I'm trying to transition out of doing the snow removal with my business and stuff like that. So I want to do more of the antler work and over the last year I've really been doing a lot more of it.
And it's it's been cool to see the stuff that people send me. Cause people are starting to send me things. There's a fellow that sent this weirdo, it's just a club of a bull with a really weird pedicle. So I'm gonna end up, bringing that back to life for 'em. And I've done a few of the bigger things from.
That people drop off to me. So it's starting to, it's starting to grow into that where [01:05:00] people are traveling to drop things off to me, so I feel like I'm doing something right. And I'd love for that to be more of a revenue source for me because it's something I enjoy doing so much. Does the, are you able to recapture some of the weight that's lost?
It depends on how far gone the chalk is. That's the problem. Putting weight back into an antler is really tough to do. The best thing I can do is make sure that the cracks are not visible or not apparent and make sure that the color looks natural. So that's where my, I would even call it expertise.
My tactics lie to get that antler looking like it fell off the head or as close to it as I can possibly do it, even when it's chalked or broken tines. So if it's got broken tines, I can definitely repair the tines and you can gather some weight back to it that way. And with some of the methods that I use to fill the cracks.
But, You're not gonna get much weight back out of it. So when you pick it up, it's probably gonna still feel like a chalk hard whites though. They feel like a brown. And I always tell people when they drop it off, I'm like, do not try to sell this. Do not burn a bridge with your antler buyer if this is what you're trying to do.[01:06:00]
And I try to give 'em a warning and stuff like that to absolve myself of any of that liability cuz it's certainly, I don't want to, I don't want to be sending people off to their antler buyer with false horns. It's just bad. It's really bad business. Yeah. You almost have to have a brand that you stamp into the pinnacle, like this one was revived.
Yeah, the whole antler buyer thing is wild to me. Cuz that's not a big thing up here in Minnesota because shed hunting isn't that there's pockets of people that love it and go wild and maybe they sell some, but it takes a long time to, to pile up enough whitetail sheds to make it kinda worth selling your memories and selling your effort versus sure.
Like you could probably match my cell pile in whitetails with two elk sheds. And those aren't even stand, like those aren't even in your keeper pile anyway. Like you're not giving up much. For me it's like my whole season here's a hundred dollars. It's thanks. Yeah. It's, I think it hit 20 bucks a pound last year and it's still holding it 20 bucks a pound.
We found a 13 and a half pound brown the other day. And it, [01:07:00] you look at the cost right there, it's ridiculous. And then I also see that's the problem. I would never sell a 13 and a half pound brown because I don't, can you see that picture? You can see the tops. That's my North Dakota ball. Let me see, I gotta look around here.
Oh, you can't see much.
Yeah. Gotta see it. Yep. There he is. Yeah, so his are 11 pounds and he's a 354 inch bull. And so it's I wouldn't the problem for me would be the antlers that are worth the money are the last ones I would ever sell. That's why you have to build that keeper pile to a, like epic proportions.
That way you can part with some of 'em. But it's weird. I, I remember ev like exactly where I picked up every single antler. That's what so blows my mind. But I can't remember what I had for breakfast some days yeah. That's super cool. Is there a, so for anyone that's not feasibly close to you to drop off an antler to get restored, do you sell any type of like kit with a YouTube, like a code to watch a video and buy the kit and do it at home yourself the [01:08:00] best you can?
Or does it just try to make a trip to Wyoming next time you go on a family vacation? I'll meet you in Gillette or something. Yes. So far that's what it's been. I actually thought about working up a how to a 1 0 1 that I could, somehow monetize, but then I almost feel bad izing the task because I don't wanna sell, sell a task for somebody else to monetize.
I feel like it's one of those art forms. That you develop. And I don't want people thinking that I've got it down, I'm gonna sell this down because that's not why I do it. You know what I mean? It would be great. I could probably make a pretty decent amount of money for it, but I don't wanna, I guess I don't want to take the wholesomeness out of what I do, if that seems any sort of, if that makes any sort of sense.
And I'm also not trying to be selfish with the method either, cuz I know there's a lot of people out there that want to do it. And I'm, I've helped quite a few people just over the phone, just without any, who cares. Just, and I've shared, some of the tactics on my TikTok and stuff like that.
There's some how-tos out there that I've done. [01:09:00] That'd be yeah. I have thought about monetizing the strategy that I use. I don't know if I'll go that route. I'm not sure. If there's, I'm missing out, but there's, if there was things that were like specific that you can't just go to Menards and buy, that would be nice.
Yeah. To go to one person and here's the exact color you need for a Montana Brown, and it's a little different than an Arizona Brown, and here's the exact compounds and the tool that works flawlessly, and you just button it up, 50 bucks, here you go. I can do one or two antlers and then I buy another, it, something like that because I've done that with Bridger boiler buy their skull whitening stuff because it's I don't really care to buy a two gallon jug of whatever that shit is from the hardware store.
I just want enough to do my one skull. Yeah. Yeah, and there are some specialized things that I use. A lot of it is available like at taxidermy shop, so you can get it in pretty small quantities. Like some of the Resculpting stuff that I use is straight up out of the taxidermy shops, antler, sculpt, or You can use Fixit sculpt too.
I'll share that if you're doing tines you're repairing tines, there's a method to it, [01:10:00] obviously. But the stuff that I use Fixit sculpt and you can get it on Amazon for 30 or 40 bucks for, a small tub of it. And it, I use that because it gives me a better base color.
It dries a little bit closer to the, to a, like an off-white antler than the the antler sculpt does. The antler sculpt dries like gray and you really have to work hard to get that color to a base where you can actually add a natural color to it. That's one thing I'll share is the compound that I use for antler time repair is fix it, sculpt, and it works phenomenal.
Awesome. If it's anything beyond that, just give Sean a DM or a shout and figure out a way to get to Mon Yeah, shoot me a message. I'm happy to help, man. I'm not gonna lie. So Awesome. We just did an hour 15, man. It felt like it flew by. Oh, geez. Yeah. I did not feel like that. That's awesome. Yeah. Dude, I appreciate your time and it was a great chat.
We're gonna have to do it again. We're gonna have to get back this fall catch up with you after the season. Maybe try to find some way to meet up somewhere in Wyoming and try to find an antler together. But dude, [01:11:00] this has been a great episode. Yeah, man. Thanks for having me. About a blast. I'll, it's always fun to talk about this stuff with people that wanna talk about it cause my wife's tired of talking about it or hearing me talk about it, so it's good stuff.
Thanks for having me, dude. I think my wife is so happy that I started a podcast so I can get my fix for talking about hunting, especially in the off season with other people. I not hurt. There you go. She can only, just a way to dump it on somebody else and not here. She can only handle so much of it at a time, so it works out perfect.
But give people a chance to follow along with you. Where can people follow you? Where can people connect? At Real Sean Curtis. And again, that's the such a stupid name. I use that cuz I used to sing country music and tour and sing and all that stuff, but I got off the road to hunt more and be with my family.
So that's, my name is still the real Sean Curtis on Instagram. And TikTok is just real Sean Curtis and we've got a way better following on the old TikTok there. I think we're at like right around 175 or 180,000. And it's a really [01:12:00] cool community that I feel like I've helped build over there with a bunch of just regular hunters like myself and shed hunters that we we talk in the comments and stuff like that and I do a bunch of lives over there and stuff like that, which would be fun for people to catch and connect with cuz I do some LER stuff on the lives as well.
Cool. Thanks for sharing. Check 'em out folks. Follow along. Learn a thing or two about shed hunting, re restoring sheds, cooking your own freeze dried meals, being just a more well-rounded outdoorsman. I appreciate that, man. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Thanks for listening folks.