Return to front page
Antler hunting. NPS photo.

Antler Hunting

Antler hunting in Wyoming. NPS photo.

Deer, elk and moose antler shed hunting is usually done in late winter and early spring in Wyoming.

NPS photos

Antler Hunting

What is antler hunting?
Male deer, elk and moose grow impressive antlers each year, some reaching impressive sizes by mating season in the fall. These antlers eventually fall off in the late winter/early spring, and the cycle begins again. The size of the antler rack usually gets larger each year as the animal grows and matures. The dropped antlers, or sheds, are sought by people who enjoy getting out for recreation and finding a 'treasure' and by people who sell the antlers to those who use them for commercial purposes. The activity of going out and searching for shed antlers is called antler hunting. For some people in Wyoming it is a casual sport, for others it is a competitive business.

New laws related to antler hunting (updated March 2014)
Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners Restrict Antler Hunting on State Lands West of the Continental Divide from January 1 – April 30

At their October 4, 2012 meeting, the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners approved a restriction prohibiting antler hunting on all parcels of land under the jurisdiction of the Board of Land Commissioners West of the Continental Divide, excluding the Great Divide Basin, from January 1 through April 30 of each calendar year. This restriction will begin on January 1, 2013. These lands are often referred to as “state lands” and are usually blue in color on land status maps. This state land restriction coincides with the current authority of Wyoming Statute §23-1-302(a)(xxxi) that gives the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) the authority to regulate antler collection on “public lands” west of the Continental Divide between January 1 and May 1, as per WGFC regulation, Chapter 61 Collection of Shed Antlers and Horns.

Many western Wyoming big game herds migrate from high elevation summer ranges to constricted winter ranges as a means to survive harsh winter conditions. Big game animals that concentrate on winter ranges are frequently faced with near starvation conditions, and human disturbances contribute to additional losses of fat reserves, which directly affects their survival.

Disturbances can include wildlife viewing, development activity such as construction or energy exploration/production, off-road travel by snowmobiles and ATVs, and antler hunting. Winter range human activity restrictions have been in place for many years on some United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands on key winter ranges in western Wyoming and for decades on various WGFC lands and elk feedgrounds. Over the last decade, interest in antler hunting has increased dramatically. As antler hunting increases, additional harassment and disturbance of big game animals similarly increases. These disturbances are occurring at a time when winter conditions play a significant role in big game survival, and any harassment or displacement from crucial winter ranges can dramatically impact over-winter survival.

The WGFC antler hunting regulation prohibits antler collection between January 1 and April 30 throughout western Wyoming on public lands. State lands were not included in the regulation’s definition of public land as they are not considered public land in the same sense that BLM or USFS lands are. Therefore, antler hunting was legal on state land. As the public became aware of this, antler hunting activity significantly increased on state lands, resulting in enforcement concerns and harassment and displacement of big game animals from their crucial winter ranges.

The actions of the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners to close state lands to antler hunting will allow game wardens to more effectively enforce the antler hunting regulation and clarify which lands are open or closed to antler hunting. More importantly, the intent of the antler hunting statute and regulation will be realized by reducing impacts and enabling big game animals to remain on more suitable winter habitats, thereby increasing winter survivability.

If you have any questions regarding the Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners closing state lands to antler hunting, please call the Office of State Lands and Investments at (307) 777-7331 or email slfmail@wyo.gov

To view a copy of the WGFC regulation, Chapter 61 Collection of Shed Antlers and Horns, please go to: http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/Departments/Hunting/pdfs/Regulations_Ch61.pdf

To find out if the area in which you wish to antler hunt is open to public presence and antler hunting, contact the Pinedale Field office of the Wyoming Game & Fish, 307-367-4352.

_________________________________________

WYOMING GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
January 22,2014

WYOMING CAME AND FISH COMMISSION
CHAPTER 61
COLLECTION OF SHED ANTLERS AND HORNS
Section 1. Authority. This regulation is promulgated by authority of W.S. 523-1-103 and 523-1-
Section 2. Definitions. Definitions shall be as set forth in Title 23, Wyoming Statutes, Commission regulations, and the Commission also adopts the following definitions:
(a) "Antlers" mean the bony, deciduous appendages protruding from the heads of members of the deer family (Cewidae), including deer, elk or moose.
(b) "Collecf' means to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land or attempt to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land.
(c) "Horns" mean the hard, permanent appendages protruding from the heads of bighorn sheep, mountain goats or pronghorn antelope.
(d) "Public land" means federal lands and lands owned or administered by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
(e) "Shed" means having become nalurally separated from the skull.
Section 3. Collection of Shed Antlers or Horns. No person shall collect shed antlers or horns from big game animals on public land west of the Continental Divide, excluding the Great Divide Basin, from January 1 through April 30 of each calendar year.
Section 4. Exceptions. Department personnel and elk feeders under contract with the Department may take antlers on Department elk feedgrounds during the closed season dates specified in Section 3 only when the taking of such antlers is part of their official duties. All antlers taken by such personnel on Department elk feedgrounds are property of the Department and shall be disposed of in accordance with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission policy VIIL "DISPOSITION OF ELK ANTLERS", dated December 7, 1999, and which does not include any later amendments or editions of the incorporated matter. This Commission policy can be viewed at regional offices and the Headquarters

Office of the Department.
WYOMING GAME AND FISH COMMISSION
Signed: Mike Healy, President
Dated: January 22,2014

When are antlers shed?
Mule deer typically shed their antlers midwinter, in January and February. Most elk shed their antlers in February and March. However, some animals of both species may retain their antlers into April. Younger animals retain their antlers longer than older animals. It also appears that animals in good condition drop their antlers earlier than animals in poor shape. Shed antlers typically don't last more than a year in the wild. Rodents and other animals like to chew on them to get the calcium and by summer not much is usually left. It is also rare to find a matching set of antlers near each other in the same location, as the antlers typically drop independently from one another.

Difference between antlers and horns
Animals such as pronghorn antelope and bison have horns instead of antlers, which stay permanently on their heads and are not shed. P
ronghorn antelope do shed their horn shells every year and grow new ones, so antler hunters may find the black, hollow, fibrous horn sheaths when out antler hunting. These are ok to keep.

Sheep, goat and bison are the only ones to keep horns permanently.The only way to get horns is to retrieve them from the carcass of a dead animal, which often requires meeting hunting license proof requirements.

Antler hunting is sometimes called "horn hunting" (even though they are really looking for antlers, not horns).

Antler hunting - Horn hunting
Antler hunting can be a fun and enjoyable activity for the whole family. Many people do it each year to get outside on nice spring-like winter days and fend off cabin fever from the long winter.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials ask that antler hunters be aware that winters are hard on the animals also. Their energy reserves very depleted. Prospective antler hunters are asked to keep their distance from wintering animals to minimize stress and disturbance on winter ranges. Some areas of public land have restrictions between January 1 and April 30 on when and where human presence is allowed, so be sure to know the rules for the area in which you wish to go antler hunting. Antler hunting is prohibited on ALL state land west of the Continental Divide in Wyomin, excluding the Great Divide Basin, from January 1 through April 30 of each calendar year. Motorized vehicles, ATVs, and off-road presence may be prohibited in certain winter range areas between certain dates. Permission is required from landowners to go onto private land to search for antlers. G&F walk-in hunting and fishing areas are only open to hunting and fishing and are closed to antler hunting.

Minimizing stress to wintering animals while antler hunting
Antler hunting, when done after the elk and deer have shed their antlers and left their winter ranges does not pose a problem to wintering big game. However, displacing deer and elk from their winter habitat is the most serious of all problems associated with antler hunting in early spring. Give animals plenty of space. Stay away from areas you know that are "holding" elk and deer, and do not intentionally move them. Disturbance causes stress at a time when cows and does are heavy with calves and fawns.

Where to go antler hunting?
Avid antler hunters learn to spend the winter months watching the herds and observing where the big bucks are spending their time. Deer typically move to the open sagebrush areas on exposures where there is food and snow isn't too deep. Elk tend to stay on south-facing slopes and near elk feed grounds areas in the winter until their food sources free up of snow. Moose antlers are typically found near riparian corridors. Most antler hunters scout antler hunting areas well in advance, learning the areas where the animals overwinter, and carefully selecting their antler hunting locations based on where the animals have been observed. Locations change, so we can't tell you exact locations where you might have the best luck. A big part of the fun of "the hunt" is the preliminary scouting process and watching the herds to find the big bucks and waiting for their antlers to drop. "I know it has to be around here somewhere because he still had it yesterday," is a common remark of dedicated horn hunters. Experienced antler hunters learn to scan the sagebrush and quickly spot the distinct bleached white color of shed antlers on the ground. Many people make this a family event, taking the kids out with them year after year for family recreation enjoying the outdoors and scenery.

To find out if the area in which you wish to antler hunt is open to public presence and antler hunting, contact the Pinedale Field office of the Wyoming Game & Fish, 307-367-4352.

For more information
Contact the Wyoming Game & Fish Department for more information about antler hunting in Wyoming: http://gf.state.wy.us

 

Moose shed their antlers in late winter, early spring. NPS photo.
Moose
NPS photo

Antler Hunting Season is May 1 to Dec. 31 on public lands west of the Continental Divide in Wyoming. Antler hunting is prohibited between January 1 through April 30th.

For more info, call the Pinedale Office of Wyoming Game & Fish, 307-367-4352.

Moose antler shed. NPS photo.
Moose antler shed

Deer spend their time in open sagebrush areas during the winter.. NPS photo.
Deer in winter range

Elk antlers are a real prize to find. NPS photo, Yellowstone Park.
Elk antler shed

Antlers left on the ground get chewed on by rodents and small animals and do not last very long. NPS photo.
Spike shed

NPS photos

Related Links:

Click here for info on Big Game Hunting

Hunting Outfitters & Guides

Sublette County Outfitters & Guides Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to front page
To contact Pinedale Online, call 307-360-7689, e-mail: support@pinedaleonline.com, or stop by our office located in Office Outlet in Pinedale, 43 S. Sublette Ave. Copyright 2014, all rights reserved. Photos by NPS as credited.