I’ve already spotted a few “unicorns” and friends have found some browns. If you’re a shed hunter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m referring to those bucks who’ve already started to drop their antlers. The #ShedRally is coming up, and I knew more than a few people who are excited to get out and scavenge. Antler hunting will be in full swing soon, so I thought it important to share this news brief with you.
Not all sheds are free for the taking, so you should check with wildlife officials in your area to make sure you’re following the rules. Happy Hunting!
NEW SHED ANTLER HUNTING RESTRICTIONS IN WESTERN COLORADO PROTECTS WINTERING WILDLIFE
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – In an effort to reduce stress and the disturbance of wintering big game animals, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted a new regulation in January that limits shed antler collecting in portions of Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, and Routt counties, effective March 1, 2015.
The new rule prohibits the collection of shed antlers in game management units 25, 26, 35, 36, 43, 44, 47, 444,and 471 from Jan. 1 through March 14, and only between the hours of 10 a.m. and sunset, March 15 through May 15. For a map of Colorado’s GMUs, go to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website.
“Available winter range in this area is being reduced due to increases in the human population, development, and outdoor recreation,” said CPW’s Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde. “If they are pressured during the cold weather months, big game animals here have no place else to go to find food, so it is critical that people cooperate and respect the regulation to prevent animal mortality due to starvation.”
Similar restriction are already in place in game management units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551 in Gunnison County, instituted several years ago to protect Gunnison sage-grouse and big game animals.
“Violators may be fined and assessed points against their hunting and fishing privileges,’ said Velarde.
Each year, male ungulates grow antlers used for display and battles with competitors during the fall mating season. By mid to late winter, the antlers begin falling off naturally and the process begins anew.
During late winter into early spring, considered the prime collecting period, shed hunters fan out across the state in search of fresh antlers that artisans use to make furniture, knife handles and other art projects, or are sold to make dog treats and other creations. Often involving large groups or entire families, the practice is becoming more popular across the country and Colorado.
Wildlife officials believe most collectors are conscientious and careful, but concerns arise when some search for sheds on noisy, fast-moving ATVs and off-road vehicles. In addition, a growing number of collectors use dogs trained to find shed antlers. When allowed to run off-leash, many of these dogs chase deer and elk, occasionally causing severe injuries and extreme stress.
Running from noise and dogs adds to the difficult conditions the animals already endure during winter months.
“That’s just about the worst thing that can happen to them,” said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will of Glenwood Springs. “Any unnecessary movement during the cold weather months causes big game to use up their fat stores very quickly and there’s little chance of replenishing it. This situation leads to their death, or the deaths of their unborn calves and fawns due to poor body condition.”
Wildlife managers remind shed hunters that keeping their distance from wintering big game is the most effective way to prevent animal stress and mortality. Even searching for antlers on foot or horseback can create stressful conditions for wildlife, they say.
“We understand that people enjoy hunting sheds, but we ask everyone to be legal and ethical,” said Will. “The best option is to follow the laws and keep your distance, and maybe wait until big game has moved to summer range to begin looking for sheds.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges anyone that observes illegal activity to contact their local wildlife officer, or to remain anonymous, contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation.
For more information about the new shed collection restrictions, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920.
Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast.
Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.
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