Late winter and early spring is the worst time of the year for elk, moose and especially deer in Utah. 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 usually 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 antlers that drop off of deer, elk and moose is a popular activity across the country, including here in Utah. The downside to shed-antler gathering is that it happens during the worst time of the year for the animals. And it takes place in the habitat the animals rely on in the winter.
“By the time winter ends, the animals are stressed,” says Mike Fowlks, deputy director of the Division of Wildlife Resources.
“Also, the habitat is wet,” he says. “It’s easily damaged. Once the habitat is damaged, it can take years for it to recover.”
Fortunately, Fowlks said you can have fun gathering shed antlers without stressing the animals and damaging their habitat.
“You can access a free course on our website that will show you how,” he said.
Fowlks said you must complete the DWR’s Antler Gathering Ethics course if you want to gather shed antlers in Utah now until April 15.
The free course is available at wildlife.utah.gov/shedantler. After you finish the course, make sure you print your certificate of completion before heading outdoors to gather antlers. “And make sure you carry your certificate with you,” Fowlks said. “By law, you must have your certificate with you while you’re gathering shed antlers.”
If you have children who are 17 years of age or younger, and you’ve completed the course, your children don’t need to complete it — your certificate will cover your kids too.
Fowlks said if you complete the course, you can gather antlers across Utah. “Please remember, though, that many of the state’s wildlife management areas are closed in the winter and spring to protect wildlife,” he says.
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.