SALT LAKE CITY — Collecting antlers that fall off the heads of deer, elk and moose each winter is a popular pastime in Utah. Before heading outdoors to collect shed antlers, though, gatherers are required to complete the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Antler Gathering Ethics course.
After dropping their antlers, male deer, elk and moose will grow a new set starting this spring. Looking for the shed antlers is a fun activity that your whole family can enjoy. However, late winter and early spring is a tough time of year for these animals, which is why the educational ethics course is required for those wanting to go “shed hunting” between Feb. 1 and April 15.
“During winter, big game animals, especially deer, often have a difficult time finding food,” DWR Law Enforcement Chief Justin Shirley, said in a press release. “If you spook an animal and cause it to run, the animal has to use up fat reserves and energy it needs to make it through the winter.”
From late winter through early spring, the habitat that big game animals rely on is usually wet, which means it’s more at risk for damage. Fortunately, shed antlers can be gathered without stressing the animals or damaging their habitat, and the free antler gathering ethics course will teach participants how.
The course can be found on the DWR website. After finishing the course, participants must print their certificate of completion and carry it with them while gathering antlers. Those who have completed the course’s children don’t need to take it so long as they are accompanied by a certified parent while looking for antlers.
Completing the course is mandatory for those wanting to gather shed antlers from Feb. 1 through April 15. Those who wait until after April 15 to gather antlers don’t need to complete the course.
After the course has been completed, antlers can be gathered almost anywhere across Utah, except for in the following areas:
Wildlife management areas: Many of the state’s wildlife management areas are closed in the winter and spring to protect animals and their habitat. Make sure to double-check for any closures before entering a WMA to gather shed antlers.
Private property: Gatherers must have written permission from the landowner before collecting antlers on private land.
If a skull with the antlers or horns still attached is found, it’s possible the animal was poached. Do not pick up or move the skull or disturb footprints or other evidence at the scene. Instead, take photos of the skull from a couple of angles, pinpoint the location of the skull (preferably using GPS coordinates), report the find to the nearest DWR office and provide specific details in the report.
The DWR will send a conservation officer to investigate. If it’s clear the animal died of natural causes, the gatherer might be allowed to keep their find.
For more information about gathering shed antlers in Utah, call the nearest DWR office.
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