Antler shed hunting prohibited until April 30 |

Antler shed hunting prohibited until April 30

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds public that shed hunting west of Interstate 25 is restricted to protect wintering wildlife

Shed hunting is growing in popularity, but at the expense of wildlife. To prevent wildlife from becoming stressed by people hunting for sheds, Colorado Parks and Wildlife prohibits the sport west of Interstate 25 until April 30.
Getty Images/courtesy photo

Shed hunting, or searching for and keeping shed antlers in the wild, is widely growing in popularity. Some hunters keep their sheds as trophies, while others craft them in a variety of ways, from dog chew toys, to rustic furniture, to chandeliers upwards of $10,000.

An impressive shed can fetch the hunter a few thousand dollars; some social media “shed influencers” can even make a livelihood from the pursuit. The cost of these antlers, whether they are from deer, elk or moose, has tripled over the past decade. But the hefty price tag on the best sheds mean that animals pay a price, too.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife states that shed hunting can put stress wildlife, potentially putting their lives at risk. During early spring, deer and elk still haven’t recovered from the harsh winter; they struggle to find food until the quality of forage improves later in spring. When humans go onto the landscape to find sheds, animals flee from them, burning calories they need to survive. This can be especially dangerous for a pregnant cow or elderly animal.

“This winter has been harder for wildlife in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties,” stated Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro of Craig, in a Parks and Wildlife news release. “This is a critical time of year for elk, deer and other wildlife that are trying to survive winter. The last thing wildlife needs this time of year is added pressure from people looking for antlers.”

To protect big game wildlife, as well as sage grouse from these disturbances, Parks and Wildlife has prohibited shed hunting on all public lands west of Interstate 25 from until April 30. These statewide restrictions have been enforced since 2018.

The areas in red on the map are where shed hunting is prohibited until April 30. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Courtesy photo)

Cervids (members of the deer family) drop their antlers at different times in the winter. Animals use their antlers to spar during mating season, before they drop to regrow again. In Colorado, deer generally shed their antlers from mid-January through March. Elk shed their antlers in February through April, and moose typically drop their palmate antlers November through January.

“There continues to be a lot of discussion and debate about the impacts of shed antler hunting across the West,” area wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond of Gunnison stated in the news release. “Shed hunters specifically target our best winter-range habitats where animals are or have been, and the activity is more popular than ever, leading to an increasingly competitive environment. As conservation-minded, big-game enthusiasts, it’s one place where we can collectively minimize potential impacts to wintering wildlife.”

The market for antlers found here in Colorado is now worldwide, and people will go in great lengths to find them, from using dogs to high-powered scopes.

People racing in groups (literally) to find sheds can be especially disturbing to animals. The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported that when shed hunting opened in Jackson Hole in May 2022, a group of Idaho cross-country runners collected the most sheds by sprinting across Bridger-Teton National Forest.

In May 2005, another shed hunter in Jackson put his life and his horse’s life in danger when he began hunting as soon as the restrictions were lifted on midnight. He and the horse were swept away when they crossed a river; the horse died. Although most shed hunters don’t engage in risky behavior, others harass the wildlife.

“To make matters worse, CPW has seen an uptick in unethical behavior by shed-antler hunters who were seen chasing deer, elk and moose until their antlers fell off. Obviously, this puts undue stress on already stressed-out animals,” said wildlife officer Cassidy English of Colorado Springs.

Apart from the shed collection rules, harassing wildlife is illegal. This includes a $137 fine that also carries 10 hunting license suspension points. If a person receives 20 points, their license can be suspended. 

Although people may be tempted to find the perfect shed now that snowfall is dwindling, Parks and Wildlife states that snowpack remains high across most of western Colorado. This leaves animals vulnerable and hungry. For people who do venture out for sheds, they can face consequences.

Violators of shed hunting regulations can face a $137 fine and five hunting license suspension points per violation, in addition to separate fines and points for the illegal possession of each shed antler collected outside of the established season.

“These regulations will be most effective and have the greatest positive impact on our wintering wildlife when we work together within our communities to monitor and enforce them,” Diamond said. “Don’t tolerate the behavior of those that would cheat. Let’s make sure we are all doing what’s best for wildlife and help give them a break during their toughest time of year.”

To learn more about shed collection restrictions, visit CPW.State.CO.US. CPW encourages people with information about illegal shed collection to call their local CPW office or the Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline at 1-877-265-6648. Tips to OGT may earn monetary rewards, and individuals who call the hotline can remain anonymous.

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