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There’s more to antler shed hunting than you might think

Antler hunter walking to their car after a successful morning searching for antlers Sunday morning
KIFI/Braydon Wilson
map of with access road highlighted for antler possession permission
KIFI/Braydon Wilson
Map from U.S Fish and Wild Service with highlight access road in the elk refuge where you can have shed antlers on refuge land if retrieved from public land.

JACKSON, Wyoming (KIFI) - Sunday, May 1 at 6 a.m. was the opening of antler shed hunting in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming. The kick-off to the season was attended by hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts looking for the discarded antlers of big game after their breeding season. More on the event it self can be found here.

As the season for antler shed hunting has begun, Wyoming Fish and Game and Bridger-Teton National Forest service representatives are taking the time to remind us about the rules regarding the favorite pastime for many out door enthusiasts.

It is important to note if you plan on accessing the Bridger-Teton National Forest through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, you can't pick up and take with you any of the shed antlers you find on refuge land. A map for refuge land and public land can be found on the refuge website here. With that in mind, if you did use the main road in the refuge to gain access to the forest you will be able to take the antlers from the public land neighboring the refuge.

Public Affairs Specialist for the Bridger-Teton National Forest Evan Guzik says the winter wildlife closure that starts the beginning of December 1 and running until 6 a.m. May 1, serves a very important purpose for the big game animals that make up the Deer family.

"Human presence will cause them to move off of good feeding areas, places where grass or Forbes are showing snow. And then when they move, obviously they're moving in a faster way than they need to. And so they're using those just those energy stores that are so important to being healthy throughout that tough season," Guzik said.

He says the event on Sunday is a celebration to kick off the opening of the winter closure area. With the winter closure now removed, Guzik does remind us, "So starting May one, everyone is welcome throughout the Bridger-Teton National Forests, there's no area road closures. Though there's no formal road closures, there are areas where the road will be still closed. It's spring in northwestern Wyoming. Mud, floods, all the good things that come with that, and what we're doing right now is trying to protect that road surface."

He says those roads are fairly muddy and still closed will have some visual aides to help remind visitors into the forest.

"In some cases, there'll be a gate across the road, maybe a barrier."

He says in the event you don't see that barrier to just be aware of "we really ask our visitors right now is to help us preserve those road services. Takes a lot of money to maintain those. And the more we can keep them preserved, the better off we all are."

He says any regulations the forest service has regarding possession of the antlers has ended on May 1 for the year.

Public Affairs Specialist for Wyoming Fish and Game in the Jackson and Pinedale region Mark Gocke says the western side of the the state of Wyoming has implemented this antler hunt season to help protect the animals during the toughest time of year for them.

"It was even the antler hunters themselves who were coming to us and and wanting the season because they knew that, you know, if they didn't go early right when the animal had shed its antlers, they probably weren't going to get that antler because somebody else was going to get it. It's just that competitive. And so they knew that they were going to early and it wasn't good for the wildlife. And they generally care about the wildlife and their well-being and didn't want to harass these animals. And so they're saying, hey, put a regulation out there. So everybody has to wait until May 1st. And that's the date we selected then."

He says people are also able to collect what's colloquially referred to as "dead head" meaning the antlers are still attached to the skull There's just a few extra steps you need to follow.

"Dead heads need to be tagged with an interstate game tag for Wyoming. It's just an $8 tag that shows that that head was legally harvested. And that way when when that individual takes that head home or maybe they might be going across state lines, or if there was ever some sort of question, they could show that that tag and show that it was legally harvested."

He says the purpose of the tag is to make sure the animal that died wasn't suspicious in any way, and generally speaking antler hunters will be fine taking it home after speaking with a fish and game representative.

"I mean, we're pretty reasonable when we visit with antler hunters, and we want them to be able to take home that trophy that they found. We just want them to be legal by having that tag on there. It shows any law enforcement in the future that that animal was legally taken then and we're all good. And so that's really the purpose is we just don't want those individuals to have any trouble down the road."

He says the main season for fish and game will end January 1 of next year but to watch out for the winter wildlife closures that public lands will but into place.

He also adds if you have any questions regarding the Wyoming side of antler hunting you can go to this website, to find more on these regulations.

We also spoke with a representative for the Idaho Fish and Game, and they said as of right now, Idaho currently doesn't have a shed hunt season as of yet, but just like the Wyoming side, national forests and other public lands may have winter closures to be aware of. They have a list for the many different wildlife management areas for winter closures here.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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