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Experts say shed antlers may be more scattered this year for opening day of season

Fish and Wildlife Service

Western and Southern Wyoming opens to shed antler hunting beginning Sunday, but due to a mild winter, antlers may be more spread out than in years past.

The opening day of the season is especially popular in the Pinedale and Jackson areas because of the nearby elk feed grounds and Wildlife Habitat Management Areas, which are closed to human activity until May 1.

Many of the feedgrounds in the Pinedale and Jackson area stopped feeding elk early this year. When the winter is mild, the elk start migrating earlier to higher elevations to find food.

John Lund, Pinedale regional wildlife supervisor, said because of the mild winter it is possible that antlers will be spread out more than usual.

“A lot of elk left feed grounds before they shed their antlers and so at that time when they were shedding, they're going to probably be definitely off of feed grounds as well as in higher elevations,” Lund said.

Lund added that antlers were more scattered last season, as it was also a fairly mild winter.

In Jackson, the National Elk Refuge stopped feeding elk early. But Mark Gocke, public information specialist with the Jackson and Pinedale region of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said a lot of the elk still hang around.

“But you know, some of the bulls like to venture off and head up into the hills and that's where, you know, most people go and search for the antlers,” Gocke said.

The National Elk Refuge itself is closed to antler hunting year-round.

Most public land in Western and Southern Wyoming is closed to shed hunting from January 1 to May 1 at 6 a.m. This regulation was established in 2009.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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