Winter sheds

Winter sheds

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Shed hunt responsibly to protect big game animals

Just because snow has melted doesn’t mean winter is over for elk and deer

Punxsutawney Phil – aka, the fuzzy little varmint that miraculously forecasts the winter-spring transition on Groundhog’s Day – indicated there would be six more weeks of winter this year. The bigger takeaway from Mr. Phil is an important reminder that winter is not over for wintering deer and elk, so keep that in mind before you start shed hunting.

Shed hunting is a popular activity and an exciting remedy for cabin fever. Armed with nothing more than a good set of eyes, looking for a deer or elk’s shed antlers in late-winter and early-spring is a highly accessible hobby for those squirming like birddogs for the next outdoor adventure.

Shed hunting is accessible for all types of folks, hunters and nonhunters, youngsters, etc. You can bring your friends, your family and enjoy a day outdoors and maybe come home with a natural prize.

But unlike other hunting seasons, there aren’t set open and close dates or daily bag limits. Being respectful of wintering wildlife is part of the sport. Chances are, if it feels too early to start shed hunting, it probably is.

"Wintering big game animals are very susceptible to any kind of disturbance whether it is from passing motorists, domestic dogs or shed hunters in late winter and early spring," said Toby Boudreau, Fish and Game's deer and elk coordinator. "There's growing concern over shed hunters putting additional stress on wintering big game in many areas of the state."

Chalking up a winter season as “mild” is no excuse to hit the hills early, either. Deer and elk still rely on fat reserves to get through winter, mild or not, and with nutrient-dense spring vegetation still weeks away, bumping deer and elk off their winter ranges while looking for sheds can have potentially lethal effects.

Shed hunters can alleviate potential negative impacts by following these simple steps while still enjoying the activity.

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