Citing vicious conditions that still have many big game herds stuck on their winter ranges, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on Tuesday announced a two-week delay in the shed antler hunting season.
The season will open as usual at 6 a.m. on May 1 in Teton County. Elsewhere across much of southern and southwestern Wyoming, it has been pushed back until 6 a.m. on May 15.
Teton County Exception
National Forest land adjacent to the National Elk Refuge near Jackson is the state’s hot spot for shed antler hunting, and the season opener there draws mobs of people — many of them nonresidents. So, the decision to start the shed hunting season at the normal time there is significant.
It was decided to not delay the season in Teton County because antelope and mule deer have been the hardest hit by winterkill, and those species aren’t prevalent in Teton County, Game and Fish said.
Teton County hosts vast elk herds, and elk antlers are considered the ultimate prize for many shed hunters. They can fetch a handsome price as well, $20 or more per pound, because many craftspeople use elk antlers to make furniture, chandeliers and like.
The ground where most of the shed hunters converge is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service, not Game and Fish.
“Also, the large influx of antler hunters who come to Teton County to collect antlers on U.S. Forest Service lands adjacent to the National Elk Refuge requires a coordinated interagency effort to manage,” Game and Fish announced. “After a meeting of all the partner agencies, it was decided to move forward with the standard opening at 6 a.m. on May 1 for Teton County.”
Critters Still Suffering Effects Of Winter
Elsewhere, the season was pushed back over concern about game herds — mostly mule deer and antelope — still stuck on winter range where crowds might go seeking the antlers and horn sheaths that bucks shed, according to Game and Fish.
Animals already pushed to their limits trying to survive the winter probably couldn’t handle the additional stress of shed hunters being nearby. This has been a brutal winter for many herds. It’s feared that tens of thousands of deer and antelope have frozen or starved to death.
Last Hurrah For Nonresidents
This also is the last shed hunting season opening in which nonresidents will get an even start with Wyomingites.
The Wyoming Legislature earlier this year passed a bill outlining that, beginning next year, nonresidents will have to wait a week after the May 1 shed antler hunting season opener to start scouring the landscape for treasures.
Only Wyoming residents will be allowed to start on May 1, 2024, and every season opener thereafter.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.