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'Stay away from the herds': How to shed hunting responsibly to protect wildlife

Mule Deer
Posted at 12:09 PM, Feb 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-27 14:09:16-05

IDAHO — Searching the hills for deer and elk shed antlers is a popular late winter, early spring activity, especially for people wanting to get outside. But, for wildlife, this activity can add more stress to an already difficult winter season.

“They have survived through winter for as long as they have been in the landscape, and one of the ways they do that is they come in with pretty healthy fat stores into winter,” Roger Phillips, Idaho Fish and Game's Public Information Supervisor said.

Deer and elk can survive off of their fat stores for quite a long time, but that's only if they preserve their fat for as long as possible.

"The most important thing for them is to not burn extra calories," Phillips said. "So, when people are out, especially this time of year when it kind of seems like we are getting close to spring if you are a deer or elk it really isn’t that close to spring."

Deer and elk still have a ways to go before spring brings them plenty of food. To prevent added stress on the wildlife IDFG is reminding recreationists, specifically shed hunters to stay away from the herds.

"Just let them be. They are going to be sitting out there kind of loafing or feeding in herds and when you see them kind of just turn and go the other way and just give them their space. Let them rest and relax," Phillips said. "It applies to everybody not just shed hunters, but shed hunters are specifically going to where the deer and elk are or have been recently."

IDFG recommends bringing binoculars and glassing the landscape to make sure there are no herds around before proceeding to where you want to shed hunt. It's also a good reminder to leave the pets at home while looking for sheds this time of year because they can also scare off deer and elk.

"Get out the binoculars, take a look, and if you see deer or elk out there on the landscape just don’t go there," Phillips said. "Wait a little while longer. I know it is competitive but at the same time, you have to think about the animal first, and these things kind of take care of themselves."