Shed antler hunting restrictions set to begin March 1 on Western Slope, restricts shed hunting until April 30 each year | CraigDailyPress.com

Shed antler hunting restrictions set to begin March 1 on Western Slope, restricts shed hunting until April 30 each year

Sawyer D’Argonne/Ski-Hi News

New restrictions on shed antler and horn hunting on public lands were approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission earlier this month, banning collection on all public lands west of Interstate 25 Jan. 1 through April 30 each year.

The new restrictions take effect March 1.

The purpose is to reduce stress on wintering wildlife during the time of year when deer, elk, pronghorn and moose are most vulnerable, according to Jeromy Huntington, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“It really has a lot to do with their energy, food availability and body condition,” Huntington said. “There’s less available food and lower quality food this time of year.”

Forcing these animals to expend more energy than necessary can reduce their body condition, Huntington explained, which can affect their survival.

The seasonal restriction was chosen to coincide with Colorado’s biggest influx of wildlife and shed antler hunters. The commission considered a year-round closure on shed hunting, with fee-based permits, but the idea was shot down to emphasize it is a wildlife protection measure, not an attempt to make money.

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“I’d like to start with just a time restriction, without the fees,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Alexander Zipp. “This is not a money-making decision. This is a wildlife regulation matter.”

The restriction is also meant to address concerns regarding the rapid expansion of antler hunting as a for-profit business.

“The activity is increasing,” said Mike Porras, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region. “It’s become much more about profit and making money. … These people are eager to find these antlers. Many use dogs, and wildlife and dogs are a bad mix. Wildlife is surviving on food storage, and they can easily starve to death.

As the state’s population continues to grow, Porras said the winter range is dwindling and, in many areas, wildlife has nowhere else to go.

Violators of the new shed antler restrictions will be assessed a $50 fine, in addition to an $18 surcharge, and each individual antler could be considered as a separate violation, compounding the cost. Parks and Wildlife noted that, since other recreational activities are still allowed on the land, those who stumble across antlers while hiking or hunting should leave them alone, as there is no way for a Parks and Wildlife officers to differentiate between someone having found one by chance and someone entering the area for the purpose of shed hunting.

“There’s a big disturbance associated with collecting the antlers,” said Huntington. “When the antlers drop, the animals are still in that area. When you go to pick them up, the activity in that area naturally forces them to move off.”

New restrictions for shed antler hunting

Shed antler hunting will be banned on all public lands west of Interstate 25 — which travels north and south from the Wyoming border to the New Mexico border, passing through Denver and Colorado Springs — from Jan. 1 through April 30 each year.

Violators of the new restrictions will be assessed a $50 fine and an $18 surcharge, though, each individual antler could be considered as a separate violation, compounding the cost.

The new restrictions will take effect March 1.