January 16, 2024

Shed Hunting Paused in Idaho to Protect Wintering Herds

deer, horns, stage-1255385.jpg
Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: The 2022-2023 winter was hard on ungulate populations, especially mule deer herds in Southeastern Idaho. In fact, record levels of winterkill were recorded across the western states in 2023. One strategy being utilized to help these herds recover is a temporary closure of shed hunting in two Idaho regions as the state works to protect wintering deer and elk herds. This closure will run from January 1, 2024, through April 15, 2024.


  • Last year, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the Idaho Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus championed the legislation (SB-1443) that is being utilized by Idaho Fish and Game to protect ungulate herds during these crucial winter months.
  • Mule deer herds that faced historic levels of winterkill in 2022-2023 will see some relief in 2024 through reduced recreational pressure.

Many sportsmen and women can agree that finding a shed antler on the ground is the highlight of any outing. In fact, shed hunting as a hobby is rapidly growing in popularity, especially as the market for antlers increases and profits rise. While recovering a shed antler from the ground does not harm these animals, the increased pressure caused by added human presence on winter ranges can have an impact.

During winter, food resources are scarce, and herds migrate to their winter ranges in search of essential nutrients. Often by mid to late winter, ungulates are burning more calories than they can replace by foraging because of the limited resources available. Unfortunately, this reduction in food resources often coincides with early antler shedding. The best place to find antlers is close to the herds, however, that proximity can inadvertently spook those animals causing them to expend precious calories during the lean winter months.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) placed a seasonal restriction on the possession, transportation, and collection of naturally shed antlers and horns. Also included in this restriction is a closure on stashing antlers to be picked up when season opens, marking shed locations with GPS, and/or utilizing drone systems. These restrictions will be in effect from January 1, 2024, through April 14, 2024, on public lands in the Upper Snake and Southeast Regions. The closures have received widespread support from the sporting community. In fact, the legislation granting this authority to IDFG was initiated from within the Idaho Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.

As reported in a previous article by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Idaho had been experiencing increasing disturbances of wintering big game as neighbor states placed similar seasonal restrictions on their antler harvest activities. This increased pressure led Idaho Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-chair, Senator Mark Harris, to introduce SB-1143 which passed during 2023 legislative session. This 2024 closure marks the first time that SB-1143 has been utilized to protect Idaho’s ungulate herds. A move that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the sporting community hopes will promote population recovery after last year’s record setting winterkill. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to support legislation that improves opportunity by promoting long-term conservation and healthy herd densities.

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