My unusual and some might call it strange hobby is "bone collecting."
Yes, I am a a collector of bones. Not the hoarder type of collecting, mine is specialized and limited to things found in nature. To me it is treasure hunt.
**Let me make it abundantly clear I am not a hunter. I have nothing against hunting. It just isn't something that interests me. All bones collected are from creatures who were already deceased and are found artifacts.
For me being out among nature is relaxing. It clears my mind and causes my focus to shift from the mundane problems of the day. I tend to take notice of everything except the occasional well camouflaged snake. I have walked into snakes of all types from harmless to downright dangerous. Rattlers are the worst followed closely by water moccasins. I did on one occasion have to shoot a moccasin.
Once when I was walking in the woods with my dog I walked to within 10 feet a coyote sunning itself in the tall grasses! I was more worried about my dog and getting her turned around before she spotted it. She now stays home.
Some of the bones I've found wandering the woods include cat, hawk, raccoon, possum, bobcat, armadillo, dog, wild boar and fox. I really get excited when stumbling upon skulls! Many finds include deer mandibles, leg bones, vertebrae, digits or toes, teeth and so on.
I searched an area once that was a bit scary and found a alligator carcass that had been poached out of season. It was missing only its head and feet.
Poaching makes me really angry and sad at the same time, it's usually not about the food, but instead for money or admiration!
My favorite finds are the skulls of 3 large cows who were struck by lightening while sheltering under a tree during a bad thunderstorm. Two are proudly displayed on my front porch and the rack from a 6 point buck hangs proudly above the screen door.
One day my farmer friend called me to say I was free to come by his property to retrieve any of the cow bones I wanted. The bones had been there for a couple of years and were bleached from the sun. There was wide variety of cow bones lying around so I filled up two 32 gallon trash cans to the top. Those bones were used to make sculptures all along the pathway leading up to my house. It's rural so most people would never know and those that did would hightail it off the property!
Hunters usually have sites where they dress their kill leaving a nice supply of bones from the previous year. Those sites are prime hunting grounds for me. Sometimes I drive slowly along the rural roads, stop the car and start walking into the woods. After years of doing this I know the signs of a good area to search. I do this when searching for deer and wild boar skulls.
Hunters rarely take doe or wild boar skulls if they are dressing it in the field. Some will take a doe skull if they planning on tanning a hide in the traditional manner-it's a method of tanning using the brains.
Having learned a few secrets from local taxidermists regarding fresh finds that have not been bleached by the sun or if bits of flesh or hide still remain all is not lost. They are still salvageable by using peroxide purchased at a beauty supply that's much stronger then 3% household peroxide. It's usually 20 to 30 percent. Household chlorine bleach will ruin a fine bone specimen.
Other artifacts stumbled upon throughout the years are shells, lichens, wood mushrooms, stones, metal tools, glass fragments, arrow heads, scrapers, pottery, and flints.
Sometimes I even make art with them...
I simply enjoy the hunt, my heart begins to race when I spot a promising find.
All text and images owned by @mother2chicks