Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Here's how to gather shed antlers in Utah this year

a single deer antler shed in the snow
The real Kam75
Deer, elk and moose in Utah shed their antlers once a year.

Shed hunting, or antler gathering, is a popular activity this time of year in Utah. Animals in Utah that shed their antlers include mule deer, elk, and moose.

Rusty Robinson with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said for these animals, antlers serve as weapons in male fights for dominance and as a signal to females of the individual’s health. Because they drop and are regrown each year, their size reflects the nutrition that an animal has been able to access.

“They just eat, eat, eat and try to grow those antlers as quickly as possible. And then by August, September, they're done growing, and then they go into the breeding season, … and then they start all over again,” Robinson said.

Shed season starts in early winter and runs through spring. Different species may lose their antlers at slightly different times.

“Moose are pretty variable …. Most of them probably shed that December, January timeframe. So they're kind of the first ones to drop their antlers. Deer shed their antlers, usually right around now — February into March — and then elk will shed anywhere from March to even May, sometimes,” Robinson said.

Robinson said about 20,000 people in Utah participate in shed hunting. From Feb. 1 to April 15, anyone who wants to gather shed antlers must take an Antler Gathering Ethics Course and carry their certificate with them.

Robinson said the ethics course addresses things like habitat destruction, private property, and the well-being of the wildlife themselves.

“This is a time of year where ... they're living off of fat reserves, they're not taking in a lot of nutrition yet until green up, and so they're kind of running on fumes, and we don’t want people out there pushing them around the mountains," Robinson said.

Chasing animals to try to force their antlers to drop, or even approaching an animal to retrieve their shed antlers can be considered wildlife harassment.

"If you're going to be out shed hunting in Utah, … make sure you know where you're at, and what the rules are with those different properties, and … be safe,” Robinson said.

For more information, visit the DWR website.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.