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Antlering: Hunters and Wildlife Watchers Both Love Collecting Antlers

You can congratulate me now: I just received an antlering permit from Utah after passing the 2010 Antler Gathering Ethics Course. I only got 95%, but they let me redo the question I missed. As gathering antlers shed in the winter by moose, elk and deer gets more popular among both hunters and wildife watchers, states are regulating the hobby so we don’t stress out the ungulates when they’re practically starving. It’s gotten so bad, even libertarian Wyoming has rules this year.

Utah’s online “class” is really to teach you not to follow or harass the animals. They don’t want people stalking¬† deer and elk in the winter and spring, when they could be stressed and starving. Even in a good year 40% of yearling deer and 20% of adults die, I learned. The stress of winter–low food, temperatures and light–can kill them off even into the spring. Expending energy to run away from somebody looking for antlers is the last thing they need. In a podcast, Anis Aoude, Utah’s Big Game Coordinator, says he’s caught people chasing animals around, waiting for their antlers.

The various species can loose antlers November through March. Aoude says shedding the antlers every year might help the animals survive because predators know that males are weak after the rut. The Utah rules say you have to have a permit to hunt for antlers in the spring; Wyoming, home of the National Elk Refuge, just bans horn hunters from December through April. If you don’t manage to gather any for yourself, the Boy scouts will still gather antlers for Jackson Hole’s annual antler auction and Elk Fest in May.

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