Reminder: Antler gathering closure remains in effect until April 15 - East Idaho News
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Reminder: Antler gathering closure remains in effect until April 15

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The following is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

IDAHO FALLS — The antler gathering closure runs until April 15 in the Upper Snake and Southeast Regions. The closure is on public land only, and is intended to reduce stress on wintering big game and help eastern Idaho mule deer herds recover after the harsh winter of 2022-23.

The closure includes searching for, locating, gathering, possessing or transporting shed antlers and antlers from animals that died of natural causes, commonly known as “dead heads.”

Idaho Fish and Game officials recognize antler gathering is not the only winter activity that can disturb wintering big game. The department’s authority is limited to fishing and hunting-based activities, and regulating other activities on public lands lies with the land management agencies.

Fish and Game officials encourage all winter recreationists to be mindful of wildlife during winter, which is the most vulnerable season for big game animals, especially young animals trying to survive their first winter.

Temporary antler hunting closure Q&A

Q. Is this closure statewide?
A. No, it only applies to the Upper Snake and Southeast Regions.

Q. What are the new restrictions related to possession and transportation of antlers?
A. Searching for, locating or gathering shed antlers from deer, elk and moose and antlers from deer, elk and moose that have died from natural causes is prohibited in the Upper Snake Region and the Southeast Region between Jan. 1 and April 14. The temporary closure includes caching, marking locations with GPS and the use of unmanned aircraft systems to locate antlers.

Q. Can a person be cited for violating the closure?
A. Yes, it can result in a misdemeanor citation.

Q. Does this apply to private lands?
A. No, the law does not apply to a private landowner or his/her designee on land leased or owned by that person.

Q. Why not close winter ranges to all human entry when so many other activities can disturb wintering big game herds?
A. Fish and Game authority is limited to fishing and hunting-based activities. Authority over access to public lands lies with the land management agency.

Q. Will this closure happen every year?
A. No. The intent is to protect wintering big game during or after extreme winters, and to help them recover more quickly. Future closures will depend on future winter conditions.

A quick history of antler gathering closures/seasons

Antler hunting and gathering and its impact on wintering big game has been discussed for decades in Idaho, and the 2024 closure is not the first.

In 1994, the Fish and Game Commission instituted an antler gathering season in a portion of the Upper Snake Region, and in 1998, the commission expanded it to include the Southeast Region. That season was rescinded in 2002 because the Commission’s authority over wildlife parts was not clearly defined by state statute.

The state of Wyoming instituted an antler gathering closure along and near the Idaho border in 1997, and Wyoming expanded that area in 2020. Since 1997, Nevada and Colorado set annual antler gathering closures in portions of each state, and Utah set antler gathering closures during the severe winters of 2017 and 2023.

Last winter, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill that gave the Commission authority to seasonally restrict the possession, transportation, and collection of antlers. The legislation was at the request of hunters and other people concerned about big game herds being disturbed on winter range.

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