Antler ethics: take this quiz if you want to pick up shed antlers this season

Jan 25, 2022, 12:27 PM | Updated: 2:11 pm
Shed antlers bounty. Photo: Utah DWR...
Shed antlers bounty. Photo: Utah DWR

SALT LAKE CITY — If you’ve been in Utah for a while, you have likely met someone who decorated their home with shed antlers. Each winter season, many in Utah head outside to seek and collect antlers that fall off the heads of deer, elk and moose. However, the Division of Wildlife Resources asks the public complete one extra step this year before bringing home the bones.

The DWR has set up an ethics course for gathering shed antlers.

Before you go “shed hunting”

The DWR’s 2022 course is 25 questions long and asks questions about Utah’s wildlife, survival and patterns. Passing it is required in order to go “shed hunting” between Feb. 1 and April 15. 

All questions have to be answered 100% correctly to pass and receive certification to gather antlers. After finishing the set of questions, test-takers have the ability to go back and correct answers. 

shed antlers

Gathering shed antlers is a fun thing to do in Utah in the spring. Before you gather shed antlers, make sure to complete the state’s free online shed antler gathering course. Photo: Utah DWR

You can find the free course on the DWR website. After you finish the course, you must print your certificate of completion and then carry it with you while you’re “shed hunting.”

The course establishes a greater understanding of big game animals that shed antlers. It explains the difficulty of the late winter and early springtime for deer, elk, and moose.

A hard time for big game animals

Utah DWR Law Enforcement Capt. Chad Bettridge said during this winter, “big game animals, especially deer, often have a difficult time finding food.”

If you spook an animal and cause it to run, the animal has to use up fat reserves and energy that it needs to make it through the winter.

During early spring, the habitats big game animals inhabit are usually wet, and more vulnerable to damage. Therefore, during this period of time, winter to early spring, any disturbance to the animals or to their habitat poses a larger threat than during other seasons.

Beware of signs of poaching

The questions also outline legal and illegal activity during the season. 

For example, finding a big game animal’s skull with the antlers or horns still attached indicates a possible poaching. The DWR instructs that you do not touch the skull or disturb the scene.

shed antlers

Legal antlers: These shed antlers are legal to keep. Notice how there’s no skull matter attached to them. Deer, elk, and moose shed their antlers in late winter or early spring as part of their annual life cycle. Photo by Brent Stettler, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Instead, the DWR asks you take photos of the skull and the scene, pin the location and report the finding. Once reported, a conservation officer will investigate. If it’s clear the animal died of natural causes, you might be allowed to keep your find.

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Antler ethics: take this quiz if you want to pick up shed antlers this season