Could our right to hunt for whitetail shed antlers be banned or regulated? Recent events across the country suggest that it certainly is a possibility.
Last month, board members of Nevada’s Wildlife Commission voted unanimously in favor of new regulations on shed hunting. Specifically, this new regulation will ban shed hunting from Jan. 1 through April 15 each year.
As bad as that might sound for shed hunters, this isn’t some kind of anomaly. Similar regulations continue to pop up in various states out West as well. In Montana, shed hunting isn’t allowed until May 15. If you want to shed hunt in Utah between Feb. 1 and April 15, you must first complete an online course and carry a printed certificate with you while afield.
The word from out West is that these changes have been put in place to limit the harassment of elk and mule deer during the winter, a time when animals are already struggling to survive the harsh weather and conditions.
Regular human presence at these times is believed to add extra stress to wildlife populations. It has also been reported that some shed hunters in these states have been known to chase deer and elk with ATVs in an effort to accelerate antler drop.
To get a local hunter’s perspective on these new regulations in Nevada, I reached out to Karen Boeger, Nevada board member for the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Association.
“The newly adopted regulation to create a season for gatherers is a well-intended attempt to address the problem of harassment and habitat impacts at vulnerable times, but one which potentially could have been addressed through existing regulations,” said Boeger. “Pre-existing regulations make it illegal to travel off-route, cause habitat damage, harass wildlife, or cause property damage. The problem to be addressed, as we see it, is how to ensure those existing regulations are being enforced.”
But what does this mean for whitetail hunters? Some are concerned that the recent precedent set in western states could lead to new regulations popping up across the whitetail range. If that happened, it would impact popular shed hunting destinations such as Iowa, Illinois, Kansas or Missouri.
According to Kevin Baskins of the Iowa DNR, this doesn’t seem like something to be worried about. Baskins explained that no shed hunting regulations, to his knowledge, have ever been up for discussion within Iowa.
Additionally, he explained that the problems being addressed out West are mostly unique to those areas where high populations of animals are at risk, which are situations not commonly seen across the whitetail range.
For the moment, it appears shed hunting licenses, seasons and other regulations will be limited to western states. But if extreme winters, defined by polar vortices and heavy snowfall, continue to be the norm moving forward, we may see concern rise across the whitetail range about the potential negative effects of human pressure or harassment during the late winter. Could this result in new regulations? Only time will tell.
Mark Kenyon runs Wired To Hunt, one of the top deer hunting resources online, featuring daily deer hunting news, stories and strategies for the whitetail addict.