Late winter and early spring is a tough time for elk, moose and especially deer in Utah.
In fact, it’s the worst time of the year for the animals.
In the winter, deep snow makes it hard for deer to move and find food. And cold temperatures sap the deers’ strength. By the time winter ends, deer are the weakest they’ll be all year.
Winter is also the time of year when male deer, elk and moose shed their antlers. The animals will be without antlers until spring, when they’ll start to grow a new set.
Gathering shed antlers
Gathering antlers that drop off the heads of deer, elk and moose is an activity that’s grown in popularity across the country, including in Utah. The challenge with shed-antler gathering is that it happens during the worst time of the year for the animals and the habitat the animals rely on in the winter.
Tony Wood, Law Enforcement Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says by the time winter ends, the animals are stressed. Also, the habitat the animals rely on in the winter is wet. “Because it’s wet,” he says, “it can be easily damaged. Once the habitat is damaged, it can take years for it to recover.”
Fortunately, Wood says you can have fun gathering shed antlers without stressing the animals and damaging their habitat. “A free course that’s available on our website will show you how,” he says.
The Antler Gathering Ethics course is available online.
Wood says you must complete the course if you want to gather shed antlers in Utah between Feb. 1 and April 15.
Print your certificate
After you finish the online course, make sure to print your certificate of completion before you take off to gather antlers. “And make sure you carry your certificate with you,” Wood says. “You must have your certificate with you while you’re gathering shed antlers.”
If you have young children, and you’ve completed the course, your children don’t need to complete it — your certificate will cover your kids too.
Wood says if you complete the course, you can gather antlers across Utah. There is at least one exception, though. “Because wildlife are so vulnerable this time of the year,” he says, “many of the state’s wildlife management areas are closed in the winter and the spring to protect the animals.”
You must complete the course if you want to gather shed antlers between Feb. 1 and April 15. If you wait until April 15 or later to gather antlers, you don’t need to complete the course.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.