Before your next hunting excursion, you may have to take a shot at passing an ethics course.
Some states are aiming to ensure ethical hunting practices by mandating the completion of an ethics course. Before venturing into the woods to legally bag the largest and most impressive antlers, the proper certification must be obtained by passing the program.
Utah Ensures Ethical Antler Shed Hunting
Utah is one of the states requiring those who participate in antler shed hunting to complete the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Antler Gathering Ethics Course.
Gathering the antlers is legal in the state. However, from Feb. 1 through April 15 it’s mandatory for these hunters to complete a free ethics course. After April 15, taking part in the program isn’t necessary.
Utah’s DWR Public Information Officer Faith Jolley states approximately 19,000 residents participated in the course last year.
“It is more common to find deer antler sheds, but yeah people will find elk, people find moose,” she says. “It is pretty exciting when you do find it. The quintessential moment is when you find both pairs of those antlers you have a full set. That’s kind of what a lot of people look for. It’s a common pastime for a lot of Utahns, and we just want to make sure they’re doing it responsibly.”
What is Shed Hunting & Why Is It So Popular?
During this time of year, the amount of shed hunting increases due to bucks dropping their antlers. Now that mating season has come to an end, bucks will shed their horns since they no longer need them to fight for a female. They will do this in order to prepare for the growth of new ones in the late spring.
“People will just use them in décor, that’s becoming a popular trend,” says Jolley. “People will make chandeliers, different things out of them, sometimes people will sell them. Kind of a variety of things that people will do with them. A lot of times it’s just a fun exciting way to connect with nature for people. They’re out hiking, and they also like to look for these antlers at the same time. So it’s just kind of a fun family activity for a lot of people.”
The Mandatory Ethics Course & Its Purpose
Taking only 30 minutes to complete, the quiz contains 25 questions. Upon passing the course, the certification must be printed off and carried on your person while hunting for antlers. Jolley states DWR officers will be looking for these certificates.
It is illegal to hunt for antlers in wildlife areas that are closed during the winter and spring months. These closures are enforced to specifically protect the animals and their natural habitat. If looking for antlers on private land, a form of written permission by the landowner is required.
“It’s just kind of a sensitive time of year for big game animals like deer and elk and moose,” Jolley explains. “They’re having a hard time finding food because of the snow, and they typically run off of their fat reserves at this point in the season. So, you just want to educate people on that and remind people not to chase any of these animals because that can cause them to burn up some of that energy that they need to be able to make it through the winter.”
If a skull is found with the antlers still attached it can be a sign of illegal poaching. DWR must be informed of the find. If it is determined to be from an animal who died of natural causes, the antlers or horns may be kept by the hunter who found the shed.