Antler Hunting and Possession Requirements
Elk Antler shed
Elk, moose and deer all shed their antlers each winter and grow new ones in the spring and summer. NPS photo.
by Wyoming Game & Fish
February 22, 2008
Considering hunting for shed antlers this winter? Make sure you understand and obey antler and horn possession laws that are enforced by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
When someone finds a skull with attached antlers or horns, they must contact a Game and Fish law enforcement officer as soon as possible so the scene can be investigated and make arrangements for inspection and potentially tagging of the antlers or horns with an Interstate Game Tag. All bighorn sheep horns picked up must be taken to a Game and Fish Regional Office within 15 days of being picked up for registration, plugging and interstate game tagging.
Naturally shed antlers and pronghorn horns do not require Wyoming Interstate Game Tags, nor does the department need to be notified when they are found.
"When someone finds a dead buck deer or bull elk in the field, they have stumbled upon a potential crime scene," says Assistant Wildlife Division Chief Scott Talbott. "If that same individual removes the head before notifying us of their discovery, the crime scene may be compromised and any chance of apprehending the poacher or poachers is lessened."
According to Talbott, protecting wildlife is a high priority. "Our job is to enforce the laws and regulations that protect our wildlife resource and we have a responsibility to investigate the illegal killing of game animals," he said. "Not every dead buck or bull found in the field has been poached of course. Disease, weather, predation and old age also kill animals."
According to Talbott, the "soon as possible" reference means just that. "In back country situations contact should be made as soon as a public telephone or cell phone service is available and in other areas where cell phone or other telephone service is routinely available the contact needs to be made before the antlers or horns are picked up or transported," Talbott said. "Failing to notify us is a violation we will strictly enforce.
"Once we have been contacted and obtain detailed information regarding the dead animal and its location, it is possible that the person who found the skull may be allowed to bring it in and have it properly tagged. If we feel it may have been poached, we will investigate."
If illegal activity is suspected, the Game and Fish will likely retain the antlers.
There are no antler hunting seasons in Wyoming, however, the Game and Fish urges all antler hunters to avoid moving elk and deer while they are on their winter ranges, especially when deep snows or cold temperatures persist. Some Game and Fish, U.S. Forest Service and BLM winter range areas are closed to all human activity during the winter period.
For more information about winter range closures or the proper procedure for tagging or plugging pick-up antlers or horns, contact your local game warden or nearest Game and Fish regional office. To report suspected illegally taken wildlife please contact a department law enforcement officer or the STOP Poaching hotline (877) WGFD-TIP.