Hold off on antler collection until the spring

Winter is a time of slow starvation for mule deer and elk, with food sources at the lowest and energy at the highest. Access closures during the winter prevent unwanted disturbances and enable wildlife to better survive the cold. Special to the Sentinel/Ron Stewert/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

With recent temperatures in the Gunnison Basin dipping well into the double digits below zero, wildlife there is finding this winter a bit more stressful than others.

That’s one reason Colorado Parks and Wildlife is emphasizing the closure on shed-antler gathering on public lands in the area.

“Animals are under a lot of stress during the winter; the less energy they use unnecessarily, the better their chances of surviving,” said J Wenum, Parks and Wildlife area manager in Gunnison. “Please don’t disturb big game on the winter range.”

Antler collection on public lands in game management units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 is prohibited from 
Jan. 1 through March 14. From March 15 through May 15, antler collectors may do so only after 10 a.m.

This early morning closure also protects Gunnison sage grouse during their mating season.

Violators can be fined $70, assessed five points against their fishing and hunting privileges and surrender any antlers in their possession.

“These regulations have been in place for several years now, so collectors should know about them,” Wenum said. “No one can plead ignorance.”

But the popularity of finding discarded antlers has grown to where there even is a national organization promoting the activity.

“We urge our members not to bother the animals too early in the season,” says Mark Miller, co-president of the Wisconsin-based North American Shed Hunters Club, as quoted on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website. “And we also promote shed hunting on foot. You cover more ground on an ATV, but you also miss more sheds.”

Because shed antlers technically are not wildlife, state and federal agencies have no jurisdiction over their harvest or sale.

Those agencies can, however, control access to where deer and elk herds winter, which is how the Gunnison Basin is managed each winter.

Millers says he promotes antler hunting as a family activity, but what attracts most of the newcomers to shed gathering isn’t the camaraderie, it’s the cash. Newly shed antlers may bring $10 a pound, and a single elk shed can weigh 10 to 15 pounds.

According to the Montana FWP, Don Schaufler of Ennis, Mont., is the largest antler dealer in North America. Last year his Antlers Unlimited business sold more than 100 tons nationwide.

For more information about the Gunnison closure, call Parks and Wildlife in Gunnison at 


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