Shed antler hunting season start date could be delayed this year

If the snow melts pretty rapidly and big game starts moving to higher elevations, the start date will probably stay on May 1.
Some of Jason House’s antlers he has bought from hunters across Wyoming this year. House will either resell the antlers to the dog chew industry or make them into artwork (Caitlin Tan/Wyoming Public Media)

by | Apr 18, 2023 | Environment

Shed antler hunting season is quickly approaching for parts of Wyoming, but a harsh winter could push back the start date.

The season starts May 1 and only exists in parts of western and southern Wyoming. Usually by this time of year, big game are starting to migrate to higher elevations – away from shed hunting areas. That means shed hunters are not disturbing wintering big game, as at this point in the year their fat storages are pretty low, so any unnecessary stress could really hurt them.

But this year, the harsh winter has changed the timeline. The mass amounts of snow and extremely cold temperatures have not only killed many animals, but left the survivors extremely depleted. Also, the lingering snow has made it harder for big game to migrate to higher elevations.

Mark Gocke, public information specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department [WGFD], said the agency is considering delaying the opening date for shed hunting season.

“Obviously, this is an extraordinary winter where [big game] can use a little extra protection, possibly,” Gocke said. “But right now we’re in that period where things can change pretty rapidly.”

Like, if the snow melts pretty rapidly and big game starts moving to higher elevations, the start date will probably stay on May 1. Gocke said the decision will be made in the next couple of weeks, based on snowmelt.

“You hate to do that because people are planning on that every year and so we kind of hate to do that logistically but we’re definitely considering it,” he said.

Just this year the Wyoming legislature passed two bills that will alter the shed hunting season for non-residents. The start date will begin May 8 for non-residents, and they will also have to purchase a conservation stamp to legally shed hunt. However, the laws do not go into effect until July 1, 2023, so the seven day delay will not affect non-residents until next year.

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