Collecting the antlers shed by deer, elk and moose in Utah will require a certificate from Feb. 1 to April 15.
As the days grow longer, cervid animals in North America such as deer, elk and moose will begin to undergo an annual cycle of replacing their antlers by shedding their current ones.
Avid and even hobby collectors of these dropped antlers have historically combed the wilderness slopes of Utah that the animals call home hoping to discover the lost appendages.
However, picking up the dropped antlers this spring will require a certificate from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that can only be obtained by completing an Antler Gathering Ethics Course.
Much like hunters are required to carry a permit authorizing them to harvest an animal, individuals searching for antler sheds must obtain and carry their certification from the ethics course while out collecting.
The search for antler sheds increases human traffic to wildlife habitats and adds stress to the animals during an already difficult time of year due to cold temperatures, limited forage and snowfall that increases the difficulty of finding said forage.
“During winter, big game animals, especially deer, often have a difficult time finding food,” UDWR Capt. Wyatt Bubak said in a press release. “If you spook an animal and cause it to run, the animal has to use up its fat reserves and the energy it needs to make it through the winter.”
The ethics course is designed to help shed collectors better understand how to gather the dropped antlers without stressing the animals or causing harm to their habitat until conditions improve for the animals.
Taking the course requires answering 25 questions related to antler gathering regulations and habitat care. As the course progresses, information regarding each question is provided to help the taker better understand best practices.
Once passed with a perfect score, the taker must enter their DWR identification number if they are a registered hunter or enter their personal information to receive and print out the official certificate.
Collection of antler sheds does not include the collection of deer, elk or moose skulls with the antlers still attached. If a skull is discovered with antlers intact, the finder is asked to take pictures, pinpoint the location, report it to the nearest UDWR office and provide details of the report.
A UDWR officer will then investigate for signs of a potential poaching. If the death is determined to be natural then the finder will be allowed to keep the skull.