Where we had our trailer there was a pasture for the ranches dude horses and mom and dad enjoyed their presents.
Mom was always feeding them sugar cubes or carrots that would magically appear from her pockets and she would be
thanked with a nudge or soft whinny. Dad, who had worked horses in the woods, would spend
time currying them while whispering to them about things to private for his wife or sons to hear.

Our old green and silver trailer was no complement to the rivers edge or the mountains beauty but I think it was far
less intrusive than the million dollar homes that compete with each other for attention in
the same pasture today. All of that aside, in the late fifties, to a spirited ten year old, it was a paradise to explore and a
place where adventure was only limited by ones imagination. The collecting of
antlers just seemed a natural thing to do. A treasure with ivory tips peeking through twisted golden blades of spent
grasses, begging to be discovered.

We had the trailer there for three summers and then were asked to leave. Dad found some lots for sale across from
Squaw Creek, in the lower part of the canyon. I remember fun filled summers working
on the grounds and building the three cabins. By then I was a teen and mom, dad, or Uncle Glen would take me up
the canyon to different areas so I could hike. It was in my blood by then and I would pester till some one took pity on
me and would drop me off some where between our place and the Park Line. My hikes would
last all day now and I would cover a lot more area.

It was in these first years that I learned where to look for antlers. Trial and error were my teachers. Starting so young I
never thought about wintering areas. I was doing my hiking in the summer so the harshness of winter went unnoticed.
My antler hunting was not restricted to wind blown ridge tops or sunny facing south slopes. I learned to look where no
one else would by accident. Heavy timbered north slopes produced antler sheds in mild winters. Sagebrush flats
with little cover but some feed were better in tougher winters. I’ve clawed through brush and cedar choked draws in
the hopes of finding an old buck or bull that succumbed to the hard ships of old age. There was no place I didn’t look
and I was always looking. In a way I learned to walk all over again. Early on, I remember crossing an open meadow
looking for ivory tips peeking out of the tall grass and tripping over a small five-point elk antler causing me to do a
face plant. With practice, I learned to glance right in front of me and memorize the terrain for six to ten feet so I could
look on both sides of me while I was walking that stretch, then glancing back and
continuing that routine all day long. To this day I can’t cross a football field or stroll in a city park without unconsciously
walking in this manner.

My days were spent zigzagging up hills and down them to cover as much area as possible. The word zigzagging is a
joke in the family but not always a funny one to Diane and the Girls. They remember to many days going back and
forth, back and forth up steep hillsides in the hot sun. Lisa, complaining but going along, giving all
her effort to be a part of the adventure. Angie, complaining but humming songs or pantomiming cheers to make the
best of the situation. Wendy, complaining but determined to see it through, and show me she could take what ever
was dished out. I started out my antler hunting with nothing more than a keen eye and intuition. No thought of
stopping to glass with binoculars or spotting scope. I’d been led to believe that these were the tools of a lazy man. I
still don’t carry them. I do what I call combing an area.

Depending on the terrain and what I’m finding I might keep going over an over it maybe only five to ten feet from
where I had already gone. I have spotted sheds from the highway at sixty miles an hour because of the suns
reflection. I have found sheds in waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. I’ve been hiking along and come to an involuntary halt,
sensing that an antler was close by. Sounds a little crazy even to me but it’s happened numerous times. I guess it is a
knowing or presents that makes me stop and look closer at my surroundings. I usually hiked alone. No one wanted to
spend a day packing antlers out of the hills and thought I needed some serious help if this is what I called fun. Some
gave it a try but the novelty soon wore off. I wanted to go as often as I could and spend the whole day. I remember my
dad going with me once and my brother a few times, but Lee was five years younger and not interested. My parents
knew that hiking alone was not the best idea but I was determined to go and they finally just gave in. They were raised
in a different time and learned to be hard workers and to depend on their own inner strength and ingenuity. My father
had to quit school in the fourth grade to work in the woods cutting railroad ties just after WWI to help support his
younger brothers and sisters. Maybe it was a test to see if some of those traits had been pasted on.

A couple of my first cousins went with me a few times. One still talks about once when were hiked up on the west side
of the highway, below what is now Big Sky. We found sixteen or eighteen elk antlers and I had the big idea to put my
belt around them and put a pole between us to bring them out. We could get them lifted up but when we started
walking, they would start swinging and we had to put them down. The belt finally broke so we ended up taking them
out an armload at a time. The only time I can remember anyone ending up with the antlers but me, was when I took a
cousin from Minnesota.

We found a few deer antlers just south of Karst Camp and mom talked me into letting him take a couple home. I let
them go but promised myself it would never happen again and it never has happened. I guess being a little selfish
over the years has helped me amass over 15,000 antlers and counting.

After a few years I decided to do something with the antlers. I had most of them stored in an old shed in our backyard
in town. I was trying to figure a way to stack the antlers so they could be appreciated and a person would be best able
to view them. I just didn’t want a pile, like so many I had seen. From the beginning I felt that each antler had it’s own
character and a story hidden in its hardness. In the early eighties I lost some of that respect for each ones
individuality. I sold over 600 fresh elk sheds and 1500 deer sheds, to help put three daughter through college. I never
sold any deer sets or elk sets and haven’t sold or traded any antlers in the past 25 years. To start building the stack I
put the butts of the elk antlers on the ground and tilted the tips in toward the center. They naturally formed a circle as
I wired the tops in place. I hung deer antlers all around the outside, by their brow tines. This gave the stack an over all
rounded affect. It was like looking through a frosted netting of woven tines. I kept the deer and elk sets in the shed
because they just didn’t work into the stack very well. As the years went by, I would add another tier by wiring the elk
antler butts to just above the third or forth tine of the first tier. I took it apart a few times, till I got them wired in the way I
wanted. By the time I graduated from high school, I had added four more tiers and the stack was over sixteen feet
high. I had widened the bottom so it was over eight feet across. The second tier was about four feet wide and the third
one bulged out some and was five feet across. The last two were more like the second one. Ladder length and fear of
falling were the only things that kept me from going higher. I had wired a giant set of elk antlers on top and a set of
moose antlers on the front. I had the deer sheds hung on the outside all the way around and all the way to the top. I
never remember counting how many were in the stack, but I’m guessing around two hundred elk sheds and three
hundred deer sheds. For the first few years, most of my hiking was done in the Gallatin Canyon. I don’t remember
when I first started hiking close to town. I do remember it was before I was old enough to drive, because mom would
take me out along the Jefferson Bluffs and dropped me off for the day. I would hike back toward the “T” area. This
would be done during the summers when school was out or on a weekend. There was no thought of having to get out
in early spring when the antlers first dropped, because I was the only one picking them up. White or fresh, it made no
difference as long as the points were in good shape. I spent many hours in the “T” area and found a lot of nice shed
deer antlers. The Haskell Hills, north of town, is another place I would look for antlers and fossils. I loved the openness
and the different type of terrain than that of the mountains. I still love the smell of sage and cedar seasoned with
greasewood and juniper. The first year I was allowed to go hunting I didn’t get to carry a rifle. My dad believed that I
had to learn a little about what it meant to hunt before I was allowed to kill. The gun, the bullet, or the kills were the
least of it. I’m like that today, I love to hunt but hate to kill.

I remember picking up sheds in the Dry Creek area, out of Townsend and Johnny Gulch, north of the Toston Flats. My
dad or one of my uncles would be sneaking along concentrating on the hunt and I would be tagging along looking for
antlers, seldom paying attention to the lessons I was supposed to be learning. I would spot a shed and tap
them on the back and they would be looking in the direction I was pointing hoping for the big one when it was usually a
shed antler I had spotted. I would be scolded most of the time but also allowed to quietly retrieve the antler.

To this day, when I’m hunting and find a shed or twenty of them, I always pick them up. None of this leaving them and
getting them on the way back. Many times I have come up on a big buck and clattered an armload of antlers to the
ground before I could raise my rifle.

When I was a sophomore in high school, Bob and I became friends. Bob liked to hike and I remember going hiking in
the Haskell Hills and mom taking us out there. I have a freak two point in my collection from a day when I fell and hurt
my knee, and Bob helped me walk out. It’s the only time I can remember getting hurt while hiking. Bob didn’t care
about collecting and so what we found went to my house. The following spring we planned on hiking up Porcupine
Creek in the Gallatin when school was out. Bob sprained his ankle a week before we were to go and we were both
worried hismom wouldn’t let him go. She wasn’t real happy about the idea anyway. While Bob was around her he tried
not to limp and he spent a lot of time at my house. We took five days the first of June. Neither of us knew anything
about back packing, so we made up a stretcher to carry between us. Tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, and food
were all piled on. We went back about three miles and set up camp. There was still a lot of run off so the creek was
high and roaring.

We hiked on the north side, toward Portal Creek Divide, most of the time. We found the country was more open and
inviting. We would find a winterkill bull and stack the sheds along the main beams of the set so we could carry them
out. We would have over twenty elk antlers each and a few deer and moose antlers wedged in. Then we
would get in the center with the skull pointed forward and lift the whole thing up by the main beams of the set. We
gathered antlers to one location and then each made up his own stack to carry out. Winter kills were fairly common in
those days, so by the end of a day we would each have one. There was a little bit of a trick to keeping things
balanced. I’m not sure what some of these weighed but well over hundred pounds. We would walk like this till our arms
gave out,then rest, and continue, always pushing to see who could go the furthest. We would stash the antlers and
Glen would show up at the Ranger Station, in the middle of the week and haul them home. The second year we were
a little more familiar with the country and worked the lower end toward the river. We still camped where we had the
year before and we packed everything in on the stretcher. We found lots of antlers everywhere we looked and dad
and Glen drove back to the piles we had stacked and loaded them. In those days you could drive into the area with a
four-wheel drive. Dad wasn’t much on four-wheel drives or my uncle Glen’s driving. He was a horseman with out
horses, but he still loved the quiet humming’s of nature that the roar of motors only interrupted. He figured since we
were young and so full of energy we could release some of it through a little old fashion sweat. He believed as I do
today that the harder you have to work for something the more you appreciate it. We had most of these antlers
stacked within a mile of the highway so he let us retrieve them with the jeep. The ones that were three to seven miles
back we had to pack out. The last year we were able to go and spend a week, was the end of my senior year. We
both had jobs for the summer so we knew this would be the last rip. Jobs, college and an uncertain future awaited. As I
look back now I guess it was more of a door closing on our freedom from responsibility. We camped in the same place
but hiked farther up the creek and more on the timbered south side. We found a huge set of elk antlers in the creek
bottom. It was a good six miles from the Ranger Station and down in a deep canyon. We pasted it up the first part of
the week because we convinced our selves that it was just too big to bring out. I could hardly reach across it when
standing in the center. The beams were so big at the third tine that about all I could do was cup my hands under them.
It had six points on one side and seven points on the other. Moss had colored it green and the cracks of aging were
very evident. Porcupines must have thought it to tough to gnaw on because only a couple tips had been touched. Bob
wasn’t too thrilled about bringing it out and besides we were finding lots of antlers. I just couldn’t leave the set so he
helped me get it out of the creek bottom and up the steep face. No antlers stack around this set. It took me an entire
day to carry it to the Ranger Station. There was no thought of measuring anything in those days but I know I have
never found a set of antlers larger. With a little ingenuity and a lot of help, I got it hoisted to the top of the stack in the
back yard. That’s where it weathered for a few years. One night we had a freakish howling wind that rattled the
windows and snapped cottonwood limbs a foot thick. When morning came my mother woke me and with a jaw
dropping expression I stared out the window. The top half of the stack had collapsed and antlers had avalanched
across the yard. I ran out in bare feet and underwear to assess the damage. My worst fears were affirmed. One side
of the giant set was broken off just above the skull. Years later it was one of the sets that were

While I was in high school I did a lot of hiking at the mouth of the Gallatin Canyon. Mom or dad would let me off along
the highway and I would spend the day. There were lots of deer sheds and some elk sheds. I would bring out thirty or
forty at a time. Many of the deer sheds were huge but I would just take them for granted. I might find five or six in a
day, that were exceptional. Now I would be lucky to fine that many in a year. I have a huge seven point elk shed with a
2 ½ foot eight point coming out of the back of the main beam, from one of those trips.

After the stack blew over in the back yard, I hauled a truckload of the antlers back up to the cabin and built an
archway just below the house. I used the same principle as I did in the back yard. I made two columns parallel to one
another about four feet apart and put the butts on the ground and brought the tips in. I wired them together and then
started the next tier and wired the bottoms of those antlers to the third or fourth tine up from the first tier. I would go up
three tiers so the opening in the center was about eight feet high. Each column was about four feet across. Then I
would take an elk set and turn it upside down so the top points would be on the inside of the two columns and that
helped tie them together. Then I would bring the fourth tier in and I hung deer antlers on the outside all the way
around the two columns. I tore this archway down in the late seventies and hauled all the antlers home. A few years
later I built two arches at the end of our driveway.

Over the years, I have tried to express why I enjoy antler hunting. I still don’t know what possesses me to tromp
through the hills, alone, year after year. I have often asked myself where dose the nagging insistence come from? It’s
hard to believe but I still get as big a thrill finding antlers now as I did that first time in the summer of 1958, over 50
years and over 15,500 antlers later. The thing that is most puzzling to me, is that I enjoy packing them out almost as
much as I do finding them.

There have been many times when I packed over hundred and fifty pounds of antlers six or seven miles at the end of
a long day, of gathering them. I would be drenched in my own sweat, my back hunched under the weight so all I could
see was a few feet in front of me and every muscle aching to put an end to the lunacy. I’ve rubbed sores on my back
and shoulders from pack frames that folded up under the weight. I have worn blisters on my feet from poor foot wear. I
used to wear my steel-toed boots from work. I have been cut, gouged, skinned, and scraped, from being too focused
on my searching and not paying attention to what was between me and my objective. I have unknowingly dropped to
rest among a colony of red ants and been too exhausted to move. I have come face to face with a black bear on a
narrow trail and was too tired to care whether he moved out of the way or not. Grizzlies have roared, lions have
screamed, and coyotes have howled their distaste at my intrusions but I have ignored their warnings.
I have often huddled in a cold tent surrounded by the loneliness that darkness brings, thinking of my wonderful wife
and children, wondering why I wasn’t with them. I have stumbled in the dark to my vehicle, thinking it was the most
blessed sight on earth, and still I keep going back, some times the next day. Some call it determination or even
bravery but I’m more inclined to think it’s the result of a strong back and a weak mind.

On my mothers side of the family my Aunt Gail collected everything so I guess the collecting is in the genes. Gail
would take me fossil hunting, north of town when I was younger and we would also look for agates out in the plowed
fields of the south bench. She had Parkinson’s disease and I was the oldest nephew so I got to go along. She needed
someone to drive if her eyes got bad and rolled back so she couldn’t see to get home. I was big enough to see over
the steering wheel if I set on a pillow but shifting was a little awkward. At first I would whine and resist thinking it would
be more fun and shaded climbing trees in my grandmother’s back yard. But Gail knew a good lunch with soda pop
would entice me. I learned to enjoy the searching and finding of things that were millions of years old. We would talk
about me becoming a Paleontologist and she would share stories of the carefree adventures of her youth. I owe a lot
to Gail for taking me with her and teaching me about rocks and rattlesnakes, where to look for fossils or Indian
artifacts, and about walking the hills. How to enjoy what each day’s adventure had to offer and the thrill of looking for
one thing and being surprised by finding something unexpected. Gail is also the reason for compiling this book and
writing a little about each trip. She started so many journals and diaries but never finished one. I hope to pass on a
history for my grandchildren and for their grandchildren. There is so much lost because there is no written record.
There were hunting stories my
father and uncles told that I wish I could remember. If they had written something down, I would have a place to go and
visit them, long after they were gone. I could surround myself with their knowledge and adventure. A reminiscing
clothed with their presents.

Our lives pass so quickly and we often want to pass on a little of our history but seldom take the time to do so. Maybe
no one will take an interest in these writings but I’m willing to take the chance. Somewhere down through the years, a
grandchild or great grandchild will read this accounting and say, Thank You. I have no clue what will happen to the
collection after I’m gone or even if I should care. I hope to provide some sort of a way to preserve it for future
generation to enjoy. If I could ask one thing of my daughters, it would be to preserve the collection for their great
grandchildren. As a collection, in tact, it has a meaning, a history and hopefully some purpose. Broken up, it’s just so
many antlers destined for aphrodisiacs, chandeliers, or salt shakers.

So, this is a little history about how I started collecting antlers and maybe a few thoughts of why. In 1969 I started
keeping a diary, thanks to Pete Droge who I worked with on the railroad section. He encouraged me to start one and I
can never thank him enough for keeping after me to do so. I have written a journal as a result of those diaries and the
need to keep some kind of written history to share with generations to come. An accounting, if you will. I have been
lucky in antler hunting but I have been luckiest in love. If it wasn’t for Diane’s patience and understanding over the
years, my dream would have never continued after 1968. The first few years she thought I must have a girl friend or
some hidden agenda to want to be gone so often. Many times she would go along just to make sure my obsession
was for real. As our daughters got older and could hike, we spent a lot of time camping in the mountains. Many an
innocent drive ended up with a hike over a ridge or around a mountainside to see if there might be a shed antler.
They often had to entertain them selves in sun baked tented camps while I took hikes
that lasted all day.

More than once I’ve been gone longer than planned straining to cover one more ridge top or south facing hillside. My
hiking alone has always been a concern over the years. I have returned to a camp or to our house after dark on many
occasions. I have been gone for a week at a time with only a phone call in the middle of the week. Diane knows the
dangers of hiking alone as I know them, but allows me this freedom. Thanks will never be enough but thanks is all I can

I have realized, as would a high jumper, that I will never reach a certain height or amount. I will always have to raise
the bar another level. First it was a thousand, then five thousand and then ten thousand. Now I’m over 1
thousand and I know s
eventeen or eighteen thousand will not be enough. Still it’s not about obtaining a certain
amount or having more than anyone else, so what is it about? After almost fifty years you would think that this
compulsion would wane and that the process of aging or hopefully some maturing, or just a hint of common sense
would dilute this compulsion, but it has only seemed to grow stronger. I keep searching under the next sagebrush,
behind the next tree, down in the next draw, over the next ridge, or around the next mountain. Searching, always