- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) - As the last day of January became history, all deer hunters in Mississippi’s Hill Zone - which includes the Golden Triangle - hung up the camo. No more pre-dawn treks to the stand, no more quiet waits for a while. One of those hunters is Dean Goodman. But for at least this Columbus man, deer season is, in one way, beginning to feel year-round, thanks to a pastime he’s become increasingly consumed with - making knives with deer antler handles.

Faced about five years ago with accumulating antlers from hunts and shed antlers found in the woods, Goodman looked for a solution.

“To be honest, we had antlers all in the workshop from over the years - my dad’s, my granddad’s, my sons’ and myself and other family members’ - and my son would have them everywhere, looking at them,” he says. “I’d almost break my neck stumbling over them. I started to think about what I could do with them.”

He’d picked up a few craftsman skills over the years. After all, when you’ve been married for 20 of them, you learn how to fix stuff, he says. So Goodman marshaled those skills and tried making his first knife.

“I got out there and I made one. I did it by trial and error. I started out with stuff that I didn’t care if I messed up or not, ‘cause I figured I probably would,” he says pragmatically.

He made another, and another, getting them tighter and neater, eventually designing a few for family and friends.

You could make that

Goodman and his wife, Shilo, often attend wildlife-related events. Occasionally, they would see knives and other items crafted with antlers.

On one outing, Shilo said something like, “You could make those and sell them.”

Her husband humbly responded with, “Oh, I don’t know.”

To which his wise spouse said, “I really think you could.”

To demonstrate her faith, Shilo created a Facebook page and Instagram account for Goodman Antler Creations. Pictures went up, and inquiries started coming in.

Goodman gives credit where it is due.

“She’s instrumental in everything. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I’d do,” he says.

“God love him, he’s so sweet,” laughs his wife, who says she’s outnumbered at home, the only girl in a household with three men — Dean and their sons, Hunter, 16, and Cooper, 11. The boys attend Victory Christian Academy. (Learning from his dad, Hunter made his own knife, taking first place last year in an Alabama Christian Education Association competition.)

Since the pages went up, Goodman has made knives for people in several states and in Canada and Hawaii. He orders the blades and makes handles from white-tailed deer, shed red deer and elk antlers. Red deer is one of the largest deer species, sometimes mistaken for elk.

Certain projects stand out. He’s proud of a Case military issue knife someone brought to him. It was missing its handle.

“I was able to take a red deer antler and restore that for him, and it turned out beautiful,” Goodman says. “That’s the one I’m probably most proud of ‘cause it was difficult to work with, and it turned out really good.”

Another memorable knife was made for a great-nephew to commemorate his birth about three years ago. Goodman used an antler from one of his own dad’s hunts and presented it to the infant’s family.

“That was my dad’s first great-grandson,” Goodman explains. “The knife is put away, of course, but one day it will have great significance for him.”

Keepsakes

This past year, especially as Christmas approached, Goodman made legacy knives for others using antlers with sentimental value, antlers from a granddad’s or great-granddad’s hunts, passed down in families through the years. It adds a bit of pressure but also adds meaning to each design. The craftsman knows he is creating something that is likely to be kept for generations.

His custom stands are made from antler and wood, usually live-edge wood, meaning it retains a natural edge, often with bark. Not one to waste much, Goodman has expanded into making antler whistles, letter openers and key chains. All this in the hours he can carve out in the shop at night or on some of his weekends. He has a career as an outside plant manager for AT&T; and has no intention of making changes, no matter how many requests he may get for antler projects.

“If I ever decided to turn it into a full-time business, it wouldn’t be fun anymore,” he laughs, “and right now, I’m still enjoying it.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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