Bills before the Wyoming Legislature that would restrict shed antler hunting for nonresidents could essentially ruin people’s Western “Easter egg hunts,” says a Montana outdoorsman who hunts antlers in Wyoming.
“I refer to shed hunting as the ultimate adult Easter egg hunts,” Josiah Baer, who lives in northwest Montana, told Cowboy State Daily.
A bill that would make nonresidents wait three days before joining shed antler hunts in Wyoming would be like “telling kids that they have to be three days late to the Easter egg hunt,” he said.
He was referring to House Bill 123, which would ban nonresidents from participating in in first three days of shed hunting season, which typically begins May 1 in such hots spots the Jackson area near the National Elk Refuge.
HB 123 passed the Wyoming House and was introduced to the Senate on Monday.
A similar measure, House Bill 276, passed a first reading on the House floor Monday.
That bill would require anybody older than 15, residents and nonresidents, to buy a $21.50 Wyoming conservation stamp to hunt for shed antlers.
Once an obscure niche activity, hunting for shed antlers has grown increasingly popular in recent years.
Male elk and deer shed their antlers in later winter or early spring so that they can start growing new sets. Enthusiasts will take to the fields, forest and mountains hoping to find and scoop up the shed antlers.
Some people collect the discarded antlers for themselves. Others offer them for sale, often making thousands of dollars. Antlers are popular for use as decorations or in various arts and crafts.
Thin The Mobs Out
Ever-growing crowds of nonresident shed hunters have pushed Wyomingites out of some of the best spots and also put undue pressure on wildlife, proponents of the bills have argued.
However, legislators opposing the bills have argued that nonresident shed hunters contribute significantly to Wyoming’s tourism economy and shouldn’t be discouraged from coming here.
Baer said he and some of his relatives have been coming to Wyoming, usually to the Jackson area, for shed hunting vacations for the past several years.
“By the time you figure in what we spend on gas, motel rooms and the like, it’s a big expenditure,” he said.
There’s shed hunting in Montana, he said, but nothing like what they’ve found near Jackson.
But making them wait for three days would likely ruin the trip, he said.
“In Jackson, as soon as the season opens, everybody runs up the mountain and tries to spot antlers as quickly as they can,” he said. “About 99% of those sheds are gone within three days.”
Bringing The Outdoors Home
He added that he and his wife were contemplating taking their three children, ages 11, 9 and 7, with them to Jackson this year for the first time.
“They’re kind of disappointed to hear about House Bill 123, and they’re thinking they might not be able to go do this after hearing us talk about it so much,” he said.
He added that the family collects shed antlers purely for enjoyment, not to sell them, and keeps some for decorations in their home.
“We do all the outdoor activities – hunting, fishing, hiking, camping – and shed hunting has become an extension of that,” he said. “Having antlers around the house reminds you of being outdoors and being around the animals.”
Agrees Something Should Be Done
Baer said he hopes Wyoming can find a way to ease the crowds without penalizing nonresidents.
“I get that there’s too many people in some places and something needs to be figured out, but cutting nonresidents out isn’t the answer,” he said. “That’s not very neighborly to the other states.”
He added that he feels particularly bad for Idaho residents who might work in Jackson, but live across the border because they can’t afford the cost of living in the resort town. Making them wait to go shed hunting would be particularly unfair.
Also, much of the shed hunting takes place on federal Forest Service land, which belongs to all Americans, he added.
Shed hunter Greg Bell of Oregon previously told Cowboy State Daily that he also understands why Wyoming wants to somehow thin the crowds.
He noted that most of the bad behavior he’s seen involved Utah residents crossing into southwestern Idaho for the shed hunting season.