Antler gathering 01

Shed antlers are seen in a winter landscape. Deer, elk and moose shed their antlers each year and grow a new set in the spring.

If you enjoy outdoor expeditions during winter but don’t like hunting animals, you have an alternative — hunting the antlers shed by big game.

“Collecting antlers that fall off the heads of deer, elk and moose each winter is a popular pastime in Utah,” according to a press release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “ ... Looking for the shed antlers is a fun activity that your whole family can enjoy.”

Before embarking on an antler hunt, though, all prospective hunters are required to take the 2020 Antler Gathering Ethics Course on the DWR website, the release says. In addition, they must carry a course certificate of completion with them while on the search for antlers.

The ethics course helps people understand the impact they could have on deer, elk and moose that are trying to survive the winter.

“During winter, big game animals, especially deer, often have a difficult time finding food,” said Justin Shirley, law enforcement chief with DWR, in the release. “If you spook an animal and cause it to run, the animal has to use up fat reserves and energy it needs to make it through the winter.”

According to the DWR online ethics course, ungulates — the family of animals deer, moose and elk belong to — can lower their metabolism by reducing their movement.

Weather conditions like wind and cold temperatures cause the animals to be inactive. The course says “they may lay curled up for days at a time” to avoid these conditions. This inactivity allows the animals to conserve their fat stores.

When an ungulate is disturbed and forced to move by human activity, it upsets this process. If an ungulate’s fat stores are exhausted, the animal is vulnerable to starvation, the online course says.

The ethics course and certificate requirements are in effect from Feb. 1 through April 15. Those gathering antlers after April 15 are not required to take the course, the release says.

“People can do it year-round,” said Faith Heaton Jolley, public information officer for DWR. “ ... These big game animals are so much more sensitive and vulnerable during the early spring — that’s why they require the ethics course then.”

Young children do not need to take the course if they’re accompanied by an adult who has completed it.

Not all areas allow shed hunting. Those wishing to gather antlers on private property need written permission from the property owner, the release says.

If planning to visit a DWR wildlife management area, visitors should check the DWR website before their trip to see if the area is closed, as many are during winter and spring.

Contact reporter Megan Olsen at or 801-625-4227. Follow her on Twitter at @MeganAOlsen.

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