Shed antler hunting, the sport of heading out to elk or deer trails to collect fallen antlers, has been rapidly growing in popularity over the last decade. Studies show that hunters are increasingly taking to the trails to hunt for these lucrative trophies, which can sell for up to $10 per pound in some cases.
The antlers are collected by trophy hunters, alternative health specialists, furniture makers, craftsmen, and artisans alike. The economic incentive, accessibility, and sense of adventure provided by the sport have spurned a boom in shed antler hunting across states.
More recently, however, the ethics of shed antler hunting have been called into question. While shed antler hunting is a non-violent form of hunting – elk shed their antlers naturally each, without being harmed – Many experts and government officials have expressed concerns regarding the destruction of habitats and harassment of animals.
Less ethically-inclined hunters have historically ignored ethical guidelines in an attempt to find more antlers. This has lead to some hunters harassing or scaring these animals in order to frighten them into dropping their horns, as opposed to watching and waiting for this to happen naturally from a safe distance. Hunters who drive vehicles into fragile habitats in order to pursue the elk have also contributed to the destruction of protected areas.
This has led state officials in some states to impose legislation and restrictions on the activity, preventing or restricting hunters from participating in the sport.
In Utah, for example, those wishing to hunt for Antlers between February 1 and April 15th now need to apply for an antler-gathering certificate by completing an online educational course on the official Utah wildlife website, according to information on https://outdoorempire.com/state-shed-hunting-laws/
The Outdoor Empire website also states, on its page dedicated to state shed hunting laws, that it’s considered illegal to keep, maintain, or possess Antler sheds in West Virginia unless the animal is legally killed. It may be the case that other states which currently don’t impose restrictions on shed antler hunting will soon follow suit to impose restrictions of their own.