State wildlife authorities are postponing the start of the famous shed antler sh00ting season by two weeks due to the persistence of low-elevation snowfall and the increasing mortality rates of deer and pronghorn.
Except in Teton County, where the traditional starting date for antler hunting is May 1. Most locations east of the Continental Divide do not control shed hunt!ng. Thus, this delay does not affect them either.
“This [delay] is unprecedented,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik told the State Board of Land Commissioners Tuesday(April 25) morning. “I’ve not seen this in my time and the time that the commission could regulate the collection of shed antlers.”
In 2009, Wyoming became the first state to restrict shed hunt!ng on public lands west of the Continental Divide. A State Board of Land Commissioners meeting was called to discuss implementing emergency measures proposed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.
“Yesterday, the governor signed an emergency rule that extends the opener for folks to go out on public lands,” Nesvik said. That rule moved the 2023 opener to 6 a.m. May 15. Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have yet to issue the emergency order as of Tuesday lunchtime.
But the legislation was anticipated. The department’s top warden, Rick King, told last week’s Game and Fish Commissioners meeting that he was leaning toward proposing a postponement. Animals outside of Teton County who struggle to stay alive due to low energy levels may benefit from the two-week deferral.
“We certainly are concerned that increased human activity in those places where those animals are right now would be detrimental to the big game, particularly pronghorn and mule deer,” Nesvik said. But, “That’s why we’re here today.”
As of 10 days ago, ad*lt mule deer mortality on the Wyoming Range had already surpassed 50%. Pronghorn herds in the Green River watershed have had similarly high mortality rates.
Gordon, one of Wyoming’s five statewide elected officials and a member of the SBLC board, stated during a recent meeting that he had seen firsthand the tremendous strain shed hunters could have on a landscape in thawing.”
“It is a zoo out there,” the governor said” “Everybody [is] running as fast as they can trying to get antlers. Many Utah vehicles are stacked at trailheads the night before”.”
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In western Wyoming, non-residents will no longer be able to participate on the same terms as locals after the 2023 shed antler season. In 2024, local antler collectors will enjoy a week’s head start over their non-local shed-hunt!ng counterparts.
A conservation stamp will be required even for non-locals. Shed hunting has become more popular in the West as the price of antlers has increased, but this amount of regulation is unique in the region.