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.
First time shed hunter Amber found these impressive racks. Just goes to show that it doesn't matter if it's your first or tenth time, success is all about getting afield.
A Winter Shed Head
Ben Williams found this massive 173-inch gross, 3.5 mainframe set in New York. Nice find, Ben!
Central Illinois' Finest
Rain, snow, or shine, sheds are out there for you and Brian Gauge to find. Brian found this nice set in west central Illinois.
Shed Hunter in Training
Shed hunting is a great way to get your kids out in the field while providing an excellent opportunity to teach them a thing or two. Casey Charlton's 4-year-old son looks like he's going to be a full-time shed hunter before long.
Shed Hunting Like a Pro
Craig Bell shows off his impressive 10-pointer set.
A Shed Head
Shed Head's Craig Bell with yet another impressive set of sheds.
Ethan Bailey's Rack Room
Ethan Bailey certainly knows his whitetails.
The Great Anticipation
Jeff Schoeps with a great set he picked up. This buck carried match for eight days and had Jeff walking with great anticipation.
Collect Your Thoughts
Joe Kelly with the biggest set from his collection. Found on his private property, 214 1/8 in.
Jason Bethel: "First ones of the year here in Kansas, what a find! Match set." Awesome!
Start 'Em Young
Kelly Lynn starting out the little one right! Now that's parenting!
Matt Davis: "It's a shame when you find quality dead heads on your farm."
All Grins Here
A happy Ryan Dreher poses with his matching 7-point set.
Breaking the Ice
An 8-point set like this is enough to bring a smile to any shed hunter's face.
Know Where to Look
Often times bucks will bed just off the edges of food sources, such as corn, bean or other agricultural fields during the night while feeding and drop their antlers.
A Needle in a Haystack
Sometimes the best place to find sheds is near the bedding area of a buck. Look for thick cover, cedars and other conifers, or south facing hillsides. All of these types of areas can be popular bedding areas during the winter. This shed hunter obviously did his homework.
The Rack Room
It won't be tough finding room for a giant set like this. Very nice!
The Big Score
Finding matching sheds like this 20-point set is what shed hunting is all about.
Craig Bell shows that with persistence comes great results.
Regardless of the temperature, now is the perfect time to get afield and find those sheds!
The First Set is the Toughest
Nothing breaks the ice quicker than finding your first sheds of the year. For Shelby here, this rack looks to be the first of many in Kansas.
Take a Load Off
Is there anything better than laying down after a hard days work shed hunting? We didn't think so.
Hunting for All Ages
Tyler Treft: "My daughter natalee found this matching set today in Kansas. And found 7 all together." Wonderful to see kids out and about. Great set Natalee!
Fetch the Bone
Zachary Pearson and his lab doing some training with the shed she found last year.
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.