While shed hunting may be a popular thing here in Idaho, especially in the winter months, Idaho Fish and Game pleads with hunters to wait until early to late spring to come and hunt for the antlers that were shed during the past months.
In a recent press release from Idaho Fish and Game, they spoke of the urgency to leave animals alone during these winter months, explaining that hunting during these times can make animals feel the need to leave their environment and can actually endanger these animals greatly.
Shed hunting is the hunting of antlers that have been naturally shed in the wintertime by any animal that has them. The most common of these animals are moose, elk and deer.
Shed hunting is important to most hunters because, depending on the antler size, it could show how big of game they are looking at for the upcoming hunting season. A lot of people like to commercialize the antlers as well, as they are a big selling point.
“First is satisfaction without anything spent,” according to raisedhunting.com. “It does not require a license, does not require a set in season. It is going out to the woods for one goal, to find deer sheds and the rewards of finding a shed go much farther than just holding a deer antler. Finding a deer shed provides more history, more information, the locations and habits of that buck. It confirms that he has survived the season, and knowing that he will be bigger than what you are currently holding.”
Bighorn sheep can also shed their antlers, but hunters must have a permit to do anything with those other than keep them for themselves. Even then, it needs to be permanently marked with a metal pin at the Idaho Fish and Game office within the first 30 days that you have it.
“Wintering big game animals are very susceptible to any kind of disturbance, whether it is from passing motorists, domestic dogs, predators or shed hunters in late winter and early spring,” said Greg Painter, Fish and Game wildlife manager based in Salmon, in an article written by the staff biologist Mike Demick. “There’s growing concern over shed hunters putting additional stress on wintering big game in many areas of the state.”
In states like Idaho and Wyoming, among many others, winter hits hard and the environment is not as homey as it is during the rest of the year for these animals. There’s not as much food, there’s less warm shelter, and a disturbance in their surroundings and environment could potentially ruin that even more.
Idaho Fish and Game has given several steps to avoid disturbing animals, such as merely waiting to search, respecting the lands, walking instead of driving, not bringing dogs and watching from a distance.