Antler Hunt Hike at Thomas Mitchell Park

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Last weekend we had a family outing to Thomas Mitchell Park, to take part in the “Antler Shed” programming put on by Polk County Conservation. I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it was a lot of fun and we hope it becomes an annual event so we can go again next year!

[You can see more specific details on the Thomas Mitchell Park page or check out its location on the interactive map.]

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I appreciated the big sign on the drive in, it isn’t a big park but it’s always reassuring to know you’re headed in the right direction.

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The PCC naturalist gave a brief talk about deer antlers and where to find them, I believe her name was Heidi. There wasn’t a specified age range on the listing, and there were families with kids of all ages. I loved that she brought so many hands-on examples. Apparently now is a great time to find shed antlers “in the wild”, and she gave us tips of where to look. Basically, anywhere an animal might itch is a good spot, like along old fence. She then told us that she’d hit a bunch of antlers on the Devotie loop trail and set us loose to look for them!

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Everyone went the same direction on the loop trail, so we decided to try the opposite end. It only took a few minutes to spot a deer trail and an antler – though I gently guided my son (he is 4) to find it once I did.

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Can you spot it?? I was so surprised at how well they blended in with the leaves!thomas mitchell park des moines iowa (4)

After we found the one, we just enjoyed hiking around for a while. It’s a relaxed trail, nothing too strenuous, but we did find a cute little log to cross over. We ended up stumbling on another antler (left it for someone else to find) but none “of our own” that weren’t pre-marked by Heidi.

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I struggle a bit with what to “look for” in the bleak, brown months but fungi are always fun! These are two specimens that caught my eye, I loved the subtle grey and cool shapes.

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This is the view walking back down from the trail,  you can see the large lake and the “shed” in the far back where Heidi gave her speech. This lake had a few kids fishing, which my son was very intrigued by.

We’re eager to find a shed antler of our own sometime and really enjoyed the programming! Sometimes I hear people say they don’t want to go with younger kids unless it specifically says it is geared towards them, but I try to have the attitude that if it isn’t a good fit, we can just leave. The week prior, my husband took just my eldest to a Dallas County “owl prowl” program at night and was surprised at how well he did.

Thomas Mitchell is really awesome for creek jumping in warmer weather, as you can see in this post.

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