No antler hunting allowed until May

Last spring CPW restricted dates on horn hunting. In January they voted to make those restrictions permanent and extend the closed season through April 30. Jen Hill Photo

RBC | In a January meeting Colorado Parks and Wildlife voted to restrict shed antler hunting from Jan. 1 through April 30 for all public lands west of I-25. In addition, they banned the activity in Gunnison Basin Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67, and 551 through May 15 from sunset to 10 a.m.
According to a CPW Press Release the CPW Commissioners had been considering the shift for several months following a formal request filed in September. The press release states, “The purpose of this request was to reduce the recreational impacts from shed hunting on wintering big game animals during the time of year when deer, elk, pronghorn, and moose are most vulnerable to stress. The result of this stress can be decreased body condition, increased mortality, and decreased fawn/calf survival.”
According to CPW the seasonal closure was, “met with broad public and agency support.”
The agency also discussed potentially requiring a license and fee payment for shed antler hunting, but ultimately determined to hold off on that decision.
Local rancher Tyler Robertson is pleased with the new rule. “This will give the wildlife time to lose their horns and be out of that area before the people start looking for sheds and hopefully reduce stress to the wildlife. It will also allow the snow to melt and the ground to dry out so the horn hunters that decide to use ATVs instead of walking will have a lower impact on the terrain, not leaving ruts or tearing up the ground when they go off-road. In the spring the grass is just beginning to grow. Off road vehicles can cause massive damage on the tender shoots,” Robertson said. He, like many others, enjoys horn hunting, but understands the vital need to protect winter weary animals and range.
Wes Torsell and Kobe Rose, owners of the apparel and hunting guide company Colorado Tines, are less pleased with the rule change. “Our wildlife is very important but our right to public lands access is being infringed on,” said Torsell. “I’ve shed hunted for 15 plus years and harassing animals during their weakest time of the year is never the intent. Most shed hunters will wait until the animals move away from their wintering areas to look for sheds. There are some people that get out early and put stress on elk and mule deer, but they are always under stress year round with threat from common predators.”
Rose pointed out that horn hunting isn’t the only winter time stress on wildlife saying, “There are plenty of other people that enjoy the outdoors like mountain lion hunting, sheep herding, mountain biking and ATVing that also put stress on many animals. Let’s not forget about the Colorado Parks and Wildlife doing deer studies. Whether it be netting deer, tranquilizing them to put collars on or simply just flying around them with an aircraft to count them.”
Shed hunting, along with the price of horns, has grown in popularity in recent years. Many of the hunters collect the antlers in order to sell them to traveling buyers. JD Bowen, owner of Tex Creek Antler, is one such buyer. For Bowen buying antlers is a family affair.
“Our family has been in this business for almost 40 years, we are on our third generation of antler buyers,” he said. Bowen and his buyers travel the country year round purchasing horns which typically wind up going towards one of three uses; a chandelier shop, sold to market in Asia or sold for dog chews. According to Bowen prices hunters can expect for their horns fluctuate regularly in accordance with the market and are based on the quality and species of the horn. Brown elk horns, which are considered the top end of horns, are currently bringing approximately $14 per pound.