Unlocking The Secrets Of Shed Antler Collecting In Utah: An Insider’s Perspective
Utah is home to a vibrant pastime that draws nature enthusiasts from far and wide: shed antler collecting.
As winter gives way to spring, male deer, elk, and moose naturally shed their antlers, marking the beginning of an exciting activity for many Utah families. However, there's a catch – to embark on this adventure between February 1 and April 15, enthusiasts must first complete the 2024 Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' (DWR) Antler Gathering Ethics course.
The shedding process is a crucial phase for these big game species, as they start growing a new set of antlers in spring. Winter is a challenging time for them, with difficulties in finding food.
The educational ethics course aims to educate collectors on the potential impact their activities can have on the animals. Rusty Robinson, DWR Once-In-A-Lifetime Species Coordinator, emphasizes that repeated disturbances from the over 20,000 people engaging in shed hunting annually can deplete the animals' fat reserves needed to survive the winter.
Moreover, the late winter to early spring period exposes the habitat to risk, as it is often wet. The free antler gathering ethics course provides insights into minimizing stress on wildlife and preserving their habitats during this critical period. Completion of the course is compulsory for shed hunting between February 1 and April 15 and must be renewed annually.
Post-course completion, collectors must either store the certificate in the DWR Hunting and Fishing app or carry a printed certificate while "shed hunting." This certificate allows access to many locations across Utah, with exceptions including wildlife management areas, private properties (with written permission), and closures in Native American lands, national parks, and national monuments.
A notable feature of shed hunting is the potential discovery of "deadheads" – skulls with antlers or horns still attached. If encountered, it is crucial not to disturb the scene but rather report it through the Utah Deadhead Reporter app, introduced in 2023.
The app, accessible even without cellphone service once downloaded, requires information like DWR customer ID, GPS location, photos of the animal, and other pertinent details. In 2023, 665 reports were submitted through this app, aiding conservation efforts.
Recognizing the growing popularity of shed antler gathering, the DWR has formed a committee to examine the existing rules. Official proposals for potential changes will be presented at public meetings later in the year to gather feedback. If approved by the Utah Wildlife Board, any changes wouldn't take effect until 2025. Some proposed alterations requiring legislative approval were introduced in a bill, and if passed, they would come into effect on July 1, 2024.
For those eager to explore shed antler gathering in Utah, the DWR encourages reaching out to the nearest office for more information. As enthusiasts eagerly await the decisions on potential rule changes, the emphasis remains on responsible and informed engagement with this cherished outdoor activity.
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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart