Heads up, horn hunters: No more midnight marauding

JACKSON, Wyo. — New regulations on shed antler and horn collection are now in effect that expand boundaries and delay the opening time some 12 hours this year.

Updated directives expand seasonal closure areas to include enhanced critical wintering habitat, and also enact a new opening time of on public lands. The 2020 shed season opens May 1 at 12 noon. In years past, the closure lifted at midnight on May 1.

Collect 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 during the closed season. A violation of this regulation carries the same penalties as many other Game and Fish violations. Photo: Courtesy WGFD

Since 2009, Wyoming has prohibited the collection of shed antlers and horns on most public land west of the Continental Divide from Jan. 1 through April 30 of each year. The annual closure is to protect wintering big game.

“In the winter, big game animals such as mule deer and elk use most of their energy just to survive,” said Rick King, chief game warden. “Limiting disturbance during this critical time of the year may help them hold on to more of their valuable reserves.”

The closures affect land administered by U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands and Wyoming Game and Fish Commission owned or administered lands west of the Continental Divide, excluding the Great Divide Basin.

In 2019, new legislation granted the Game and Fish Commission the authority to regulate shed gathering in expanded areas across the state.

“Extending the closed areas in southeast Wyoming will benefit mule deer on critical winter ranges in the Sheep Mountain and Platte Valley herds,” King added. “The Game and Fish Department has established mule deer initiatives for the Platte Valley and Sheep Mountain mule deer herds to address concerns with these mule deer populations. A lot of people recreate on winter ranges in these areas, and this new regulation can make a difference in reducing disturbance during a crucial time for mule deer and other big game animals.”

The delayed opening decision was made to avoid problems that have arisen as hundreds in the Jackson area jockey for position for a mad scramble in the dark. It has resulted in injuries in the past. A noon start time will also allow for better policing of opening day by game wardens.

Antler Hunting Area. Image: Courtesy WGFD

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