Mountain Pursuit Recommends Paid Permits, Standardized Seasons for Western State Shed Hunting
By Mountain Pursuit
Shed hunting in the Western United States has grown exponentially in recent years, driven by both increased antler prices, and social media marketing:
- The Average Price Per Pound for antlers sold at the annual National Park Service Elkfest in Jackson, Wyoming increased 121% from $8.29/pound in 2011 to $18.36/pound in 2018.
- Years ago the market for shed antlers was in Asia, but now shed prices in the United States are driven by pet supply stores, where the sheds are cut up and sold as dog chew toys.
- A search for the hashtag, "#shedhunting" yielded 301,708 posts on Instagram
- A google search for "Shed Hunting Podcast" yielded 20+ individual podcasts
- A YouTube search for "Shed Hunting" yields hundreds of individual videos
Shed Hunting's popularity has build a niche industry around the activity, including the National Shed Hunting Dog Association, which offers products/training and holds shed hunting dog trials, multiple online-shed hunting buy and sell websites, and purpose-built shed-hunting gear including backpacks.
Hunting industry brands, websites, publications and non-profits market shed hunting as an offseason hunting activity. Hunting industry brands as diverse as Realtree, Mathews Bows, Mossy Oak, Meat Eater, GoHunt, First Lite, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have all published multiple shed hunting articles and how-to's.
The result of increased shed prices and multi-media marketing has resulted in a significant increase in shed hunting participation and activity, and the increased participation, corresponding violations, wildlife harassment on winter ranges and enforcement challenges.
From a wildlife management perspective, harassment of big game on their winter range has been a growing concern. Several western states including Wyoming (2009), Colorado (2018), and Nevada (2018) have implemented shed hunting seasonal restrictions to protect big game from harassment.
In 2017, Utah closed shed hunting until April 1 down due to a high snow year and fear over animal harassment and Nevada reported a significant increase in shed hunting activity linked to Utah residents traveling to Nevada to hunt.
In 2018, the Wyoming Legislature passed a resolution which gives the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission specific authority to regulate shed hunting.
Shed hunting violations western state-wide include shed hunting out of season (prior to the opening) and trespassing on private property. Since 2010, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department has cited 172 individuals for violating Wyoming's shed hunting season.
See the chart below for current Western State shed hunting seasons, permitting requirements and antler possession rules:
Only one state, Utah, has a permitting requirement for shed hunting. Utah requires shed hunters hunting antlers between Jan 1 and April 15 to complete on online shed hunting ethics course. Shed hunters, after completing the course, must print a course completion certificate and carry it with them in the field while shed hunting. The online course and the permit are free.
Utah's ethics course permit requirement provide the only hard data available for the number of people participating in shed hunting in any western state. According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, overall shed hunting participation increased 44% from 2009 to 2018.
Framing the Issue
1. Shed hunting has increased significantly in recent years driven by increasing shed prices and multi-media marketing. States have responded to concerns about wildlife harassment, trespassing by individually be setting seasons and other regulations.
2. Only Utah, via it's required shed hunting online ethics course requirement, has some hard data on the number of individuals participating in shed hunting, broken down by resident and non-resident.
3. Shed hunting can be a threat to wintering wildlife when competition or greed causes shed hunters to harass wildlife prior to seasonal openings.
4. Even though shed hunting is a wildlife-related activity, and perhaps the only recreational wildlife activity which has clear financial incentive/reward, no State generates any income from the sale of shed hunting permits or the auction/sale of sheds themselves. Seventy-five percent of the money raised by the annual Elkfest in Jackson, Wyoming goes to the National Elk Refuge (a federal entity). The other 25% goes to the Boy Scouts.
Mountain Pursuit's Shed Hunting Management Recommendations
1. Western States Should Create and Require a Paid Shed Hunting Permit for both Residents ($5-$15) and Non-Residents ($15-$30). Permits should be purchased online, and only be required for shed hunting during a set period, 90 days from the individual state's shed hunting season opening date. Required permitting will give agencies income to help fund management and enforcement, as well as a method to control numbers if shed hunting continues to grow and becomes more of an issue.
2. Northern Western States, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Colorado should implement a coordinated shed hunting opening day on May 1 annually. This will dissuade commercial shed hunters from traveling from state to state for differing opening days, increase the resident experience, and decrease pressure on wildlife. On big snow years, these states can delay the opening date together as needed to protect wildlife on their winter ranges.
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