Citing safety concerns and the impact of humans on a thawing ecosystem, Wyoming has delayed the start of shed hunting (the collection of shed antlers) season by 2 weeks across the western half of the state. The new season opener is May 15, 2023.
The exception is Teton County, where antler collectors can begin searching on May 1, 2023. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed the emergency order on April 25, 2023.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recommended the delay because lingering snowpack and high water crossings might cause safety issues for elk-shed hunters. On top of that, pronghorn and mule deer populations in Wyoming recently eclipsed 50% mortality, reported Montana outlet WyoFile. Delaying the shed hunt by 2 weeks will allow the remaining animals more time to recover from the winter before having stressful encounters with humans.
“We certainly are concerned that increased human activity in those places where those animals are at right now would be detrimental to big game, particularly pronghorn and mule deer,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik told the State Board of Land Commissioners on Tuesday, per WyoFile.
2023 marks the final year non-Wyoming residents can hunt for sheds on the same footing as Wyoming locals. Next season, Wyoming will allow its residents to begin hunting for sheds a week in advance of nonresidents. Out-of-state shed hunters will also have to purchase a conservation stamp.
The move comes as shed hunting continues to rise in popularity, often attracting participants from across the country. The New Yorker reported that the popularity boom springs from two factors: antler market price (currently as much as $18 per pound, dependent on quality) and the rise of hunting influencers on social media.