Two bills are currently moving through the legislature that would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department more flexibility to manage the collecting of antlers on the landscape. Right now, people can collect them anytime between January 1 and May 1 in designated areas of the state.
But when there's a lot of snow in the high country, big game like elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer are using all their energy to survive. Green River area wildlife supervisor Todd Graham said when there's a lot of people roaming around the animals' winter ranges, it can undermine the health of the herds.
"Any additional stressors on them including people on those winter ranges looking for antlers is just one of those additional stressors that can push them over the edge and actually ultimately cause their demise," said Graham.
He added that some years, it would be nice to move the start of the antler hunting back a few weeks.
"We get people on both sides," said Graham. "On easier winters, some people want us to open the season earlier and then on harder winters, sometimes it would be nice to keep the antler season closed a little longer into May to prevent further stress on those big game animals."
Graham said antler collecting has become more popular in Wyoming since neighboring states began regulating the practice more strictly. Nowadays, people can also sell the brown elk antlers for as much as $13 dollars a pound. The antlers are used to make furniture, dog chews or to grind into powder to be sold as a traditional medicine for Asian markets.
The bills now move onto the House for further consideration.