DWR imposes temporary ban on antler gathering
The Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has banned the gathering of shed deer, elk or moose antlers in order minimize stress on vulnerable animals during what has been an exceptionally harsh winter.
On Feb. 2, DWR Director Greg Sheehan signed an emergency order imposing the ban statewide until at least April 1. The order superseded a previous one that only banned antler gathering in 11 counties.
Sheehan says prolonged cold and deep snow are the reasons for the closure. According to him, these conditions are expected to continue for the next several weeks, making it difficult for deer, elk and moose to find food. To help the animals survive, activities on winter ranges must be kept to a minimum to minimize stress on the animals.
“These animals and other wildlife in the areas are stressed,” Sheehan said. “They cannot sustain being repeatedly moved around by shed hunters looking for dropped antlers.”
Gathering shed antlers is a livelihood for some Utahns. They operate businesses whose only product is antlers. The businesses often export the antlers to foreign countries, where they are in high demand.
Dave Jorgensen, owner of Headhunters Antler Buyers, a Manti-based antler buying business, said so far, the ban has not impacted his business, but may actually help in the long run by consolidating the antler buying season into a shorter period.
“We will end up getting the same amount of antlers still,” Jorgensen said. “We get 100 percent of our antlers from hobbyist hunters, and when the ban is up, they will be back out there.”
Jorgensen said the shortened season will mean his business will not have to spread buying over as many months and won’t have to wait as long to collect the antlers it needs.
As Jorgensen said, many people hunt “sheds” as a pastime.
Cory Gleason, a Mt. Pleasant native and avid shed hunter, says he isn’t happy about the ban, but he understands why they are enacting it.
“I think it’s a good idea to ban it for a while to save our deer herds,” Gleason says.
Sheehan says under normal circumstances, DWR has no problem with shed hunting.
“We support shed antler gathering,” Sheehan says, “but we’re asking, through this emergency order, that you wait until April 1 to move through these winter range areas.”
But not all shed hunter have been able to temper their desire to pick up antlers, says DWS Capt. Mitch Lane.
So far, 16 people statewide have been cited for violating the closure. Lane says several of the individuals were cited for unlawful taking of protected wildlife—in this case, antlers and horns. The offense is a Class B Misdemeanor carrying a fine as high as $1,000.
In two separate cases, a DWR officer watched an individual pick antlers up and then stash them away
so he could pick them up later. As the violator walked off the mountain, the officer was there to greet him.
In one of the cases, Lane said, “the individual denied they were shed hunting, even though the officer watched him do it. It was easy to find the evidence, though. After the officer interviewed the person and let him go, he followed the person’s foot prints in the snow right to the spots where the antlers were stashed.”
Lane says the officer then contacted the individual and let the person know he’d found the antlers. At that point, Lane says, the person admitted he had gathered antlers illegally.
“In each case,” he said, “the person said they knew the shed antler gathering season was closed, but they couldn’t resist the temptation to gather antlers.”
Lane says officers have made several cases after receiving tips on the UTiP hotline. The hotline number is 1-800-662-DEER (3337).