On Saturday the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of regulating shed hunting, or the collection of shed deer and elk antlers by hobbyists. Although the board voted against requiring Nevada shed hunters to purchase a hunting license, the commissioners did agree on prohibiting shed hunters from collecting antlers during the winter-spring period.
Shed hunting is popular with many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Some see it as an excuse to venture into the woods during the off-season, while others simply want to add to their collection of antlers. Many shed hunters also say it is a good way to introduce children to the outdoors. Depending on region, deer and elk shed their antlers starting in mid-January and can leave behind a treasure trove for the hunters.
“The price is somewhere around $9 to $12 a pound for elk antlers,” Nevada Department of Wildlife’s head of law enforcement Rob Buonamici told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If you find a matched set from a trophy bull elk, they could be worth from $500 to thousands of dollars.”
With more than 17,000 elk and over 110,000 deer roaming the state, it can mean a lucrative hobby. Shed hunting is rising in popularity and while wildlife officials support the growth of the activity, Buonamici said that overzealous collectors can harm wildlife. Methods used to cause premature shedding include following an animal on an ATV through dense forests. Officials say that these kind of practices can stress herds, especially during a rough winter.
In nearby Utah, prospective shed hunters are required to enroll in an online course and obtain a permit. These changes came in 2009 after a series of incidents that negatively impacted the state’s moose, elk, and deer populations. One of the most famous, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, occurred in 2005 when conservation officers discovered seven bull elk dead or injured in a canyon after collectors were believed to have chased the bulls from the adjacent plateau.
“Shed hunters and other visitors need to act responsibly,” said Utah conservation officer Randy Scheetz said. “Otherwise, they’re going to kill animals and damage the habitat of the deer and elk they claim to love.”
Collectors, however, have mixed opinions about regulating shed hunting. While some agree that regulations would benefit wildlife, others say the new rules will only punish those that follow them. Until now Nevada has not regulated shed hunting, which made the state a major draw for collectors. The recent board vote will prohibit antler collection from January 1 to April 15.