What does a girl do who loves wild animals and the outdoors but doesn’t like to carry a gun? She hunts horns. And picks up trash. Sometimes she even creates a scavenger hunt for her younger brother and sister to enjoy.
Coral George just likes being outside and exploring the miles of mountain terrain right in her backyard. The 13-year-old discovered horn hunting about a year ago while on a hike with her mother, Traci Farris, and in the ensuing months has collected more than 70 sheds.
For her, each shed tells its own story, beginning with the first one she found on a hike with her mother.
For Coral, happening upon that discarded deer horn, something that she’d never seen before, was exciting. She remembered instantly reaching for that lost piece of animal and the feeling it gave her. That struck a chord, she said.
For her mother, the thing that sticks out most about that day was toppling down the hill as she tried to keep up with her young daughter, gamely running behind despite the heeled boots that she hadn’t had time to change out of.
Coral laughed with her mom as they remembered the events of that day.
The family time and memories made are a big part of what attracted Coral to the hobby in the first place, and why she likes to display her horns in her room and throughout other parts of the house. She doesn’t want to see the animals die, she said, so this is her way of connecting with both the outdoors and her family without hunting or shooting anything.
“We hike a lot as a family,” her mom said, “and along with building family intimacy and memories, looking for sheds makes us slow down and be more deliberate.”
Coral’s favorite sheds are the muddy ones she found along the Bighorn River, where once again, she laughed, her mom took a spill into the water while trying to jump over to the other side.
In some weird way, she said, it also lets her spend time with the deer and elk she finds so majestic and beautiful…
“It makes you happy when you find them,” Coral said, “and pushes you to go further into the woods to look for them.”
In some weird way, she said, it also lets her spend time with the deer and elk she finds so majestic and beautiful without having to kill them herself, which she just doesn’t have a stomach for, though she’s not opposed to others doing it and enjoys eating meat.
She finds the most horns along river banks and beside trees, where they rub against the bark.
And because her younger brother and sister can’t always keep up, she has laid some horns alongside the road where they could easily spot them, delighted with their find.
Now her friends come with her, too, and they bring a second bag with them to pick up trash they find along the way. It’s her own way of hunting and tidying up the outdoors.
By: Jen C. Kocher
Photos: Traci Farris