Antler shed season is open in Utah for 2024
Feb 7, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: 7:45 pm
SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — We’re officially one week into the annual shed antler and gathering season in Utah.
We’ve all seen beautiful chandeliers, knives or even jewelry made from deer or elk antlers that have been shed during the late winter months. The shed comes as a part of the biological life cycle of these majestic big game animals.
It’s estimated that over 20,000 Utahns participate in the shed gathering season that kicked off February 1 and runs through April 15.
Division of Wildlife Resources’ Once-in-a-Lifetime Coordinator, Rusty Robinson, told KSL Outdoors Show on KSL NewsRadio that the deer population is already going through this change. Meantime, the elk in the state usually start dropping theirs between mid-March and May.
“For me it just gives me an excuse to get out and get some exercise after being cooped up all winter,” Robinson said.
The biology of the shed: A Valentine’s story
It’s not about the commercial appeal for the animals, of course — it’s all about nature.
The growth of the season antlers begins in the spring and continues to grow throughout the summer and right up to the breeding season.
“The rate of growth depends on many factors from night lengths, hormones, testosterone and access to feed but they carry those antlers as a secondary characteristic for their breeding season to show the females how big and macho they are and show dominance over other males,” Robinson said.
This process plays out year after year as the males mature.
How to get started with the antler shed
There are a few things to know before just heading out on your scavenger hunt, however.
First, winter can be very hard on deer, elk and moose as they sometimes struggle to find food. Typically, they are living on fat reserves that can easily be used up when they are under the natural stresses of their existence.
Adding any additional stress — like that of 20,000 excited shed hunters chasing down an animal that is clearly about to drop a sizable rack — can become too much at a critical time. That said, an online ethics course is mandatory before heading out. It provides much-needed information and a certificate that you can copy and carry with you on your hunt adventure.
“It’s not a hard test just a reminder that you’re out on winter range, these animals are stressed and to make sure you are hunting where it’s legal and not on private property,” Robinson said.
It’s important to carry that certificate with you to show you have taken the free course until April 15. After that time, it’s not necessary.
Completing the course and having the certificate of completion with you allows you to gather antlers in many locations across Utah. However, some notable exceptions include:
- Wildlife management areas: Many of the state’s wildlife management areas are closed in the winter and spring to protect animals and their habitat. Make sure to double-check for any closures before entering a WMA to gather shed antlers. You can find a list of Utah’s wildlife management areas and any seasonal closures on the DWR website.
- Private property: You must have written permission from the landowner before gathering antlers on private land.
- Native American lands, national parks and many national monuments are also closed to antler and horn gathering.