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Utah asks shed hunters to stay on roads and trails

From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

-- Warmer weather is bringing more and more people into Utah's backcountry, but many aren't hiking or mountain biking, they're hunting for shed antlers.

Every spring, shed antler hunters comb Utah's backcountry, looking for deer, elk or moose antlers that have dropped.

Those who look for shed antlers this spring should remember to search only on foot. Keep off-highway vehicle and truck only on roads and trails open to use to avoid the damage vehicles do when taken illegally off-road.

The result is often serious damage to habitat that deer, elk and other wildlife rely on. Because the ground is muddy in the spring, it's easy for vehicles to leave deep tracks that erode soil and reduce the ability of the land to support deer, elk and other wildlife.

Tire scars that are left take years to heal, and become an eyesore that causes people to further oppose OHV use and shed antler hunting.

Shed hunters are asked to follow simple rules provided by the Division of Wildlife Resources, so they can have fun collecting shed antlers without damaging the landscape and causing animals stress.  Shed hunters are also asked to leave the area as good as they found it to avoid being responsible for more land closures and vehicle restrictions.

Hunters are also advised not to collect antlers attached to the skull. This restriction was enacted after conservation officers discovered  trophy animals were being shot on their winter range, and during spring, poachers would return to retrieve heads and antlers of the animals they had poached.

If officers stopped and questioned them, they would  say the animal the head and antlers belonged to must have died of natural causes, and they were lucky to find its antlers.

It's easy to tell a shed antler from an antler still attached to a skull plate or that's been broken off.

Shed antlers-which are legal to possess-have a rounded base, commonly called a button or burr.  Antlers that are attached to a skull plate or that have been broken off of a skull plate do not have this button or burr, and may not be possessed legally.

Those who want to gather shed antlers in Utah between now and April 15, should complete a free shed antler gathering course first. For those who wait until after April 15 to gather antlers, you don't need to complete the course. The free course is available online.

Upon completion of the course, print a certificate that shows you've completed it. "And make sure you carry your certificate with you," says Mike Fowlks, law enforcement section chief for the DWR. "By law, you must have your certificate with you while you're gathering shed antlers."

If you have young children, and you've completed the course, your children don't need to complete it. If you've completed the course, your certificate will cover your kids, too. Fowlks says if you complete the course, you can gather antlers across Utah. "Please remember, though, that many of the state's wildlife management areas are closed in the spring to protect wildlife," he says.

For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801)538-4700.

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