South Dakota has a law on the books that makes shed antler hunting illegal. There are pros and cons to the law, but what do you think about it?
Recently South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks issues a reminder on their Facebook page that shed hunting is illegal.
This was news to many people, who were somewhat taken aback—and angered—by the announcement. Shed hunting has become a popular pastime and a reason for many people to spend time in the woods during the non-hunting season.
Here was the announcement:
The exact ruling states:
A person may not destroy, damage, or remove a living or dead tree, shrub, or vegetation; disturb any earth, rocks, minerals, natural formations, or cultural resources; or destroy, damage, or remove any antlers, skulls, or other parts of animal carcass located on lands owned or leased by the department…
Many folks saw the reminder from South Dakota as a foolish and selfish regulation. Others saw it as just one more regulation in a sea of regulations designed to limit the public’s right to use public lands. Still others saw it as just another form of revenue yet to be realized by the state agency. Here are a sampling of comments from the post:
“This is ridiculous, you should be encouraging people to get outdoors, and enjoy what nature has left behind. These [are] public lands, [are] not yours. They’re the people’s. Why would you have such a ridiculous law?!”
“What a sad thing to deter people from getting out and enjoying nature’s very own scavenger hunt and to introduce future outdoor enthusiasts.”
“This lot is stupid. Why take away a fun and exciting hobby from people to get their children and themselves out of their houses and into nature and learn what’s going on in their surroundings outside of city limits.”
“Department lands? Maybe wording that differently wouldn’t make it sound like we are peasants in your kingdom.”
“Why is that law in place?? What harm can come from picking up shed antlers?”
These were just a few of the responses that the SDGFP post garnered.
On the other hand, a few others saw merit to the department’s law. Spencer Neuharth, for example, while not advocating for the policy, proposed some possible reasons why the law might be in place.
For example, Neuharth suggests that the wording of the law may be simply a matter of one policy covering all contingencies. “Agencies might make blanket statements like these to prevent any gray areas,” he wrote.
He also makes the “stressed deer” argument. Claiming that in spring, when the deer herd is collecting and recovering itself, so to speak, shed hunters push the deer out of their sanctuaries.
Along with the stressed deer herd he claims that the stress put on upland game birds during their breeding season may be too much to overcome. He suggests that “it seems practical for outdoorsmen to stay inside during upland breeding season.”
Here we have two competing points of view. One which scoffs at the idea of banning or outlawing shed hunting, and sees the agency’s position as one of authoritarianism and tyranny. The other sees it as being a little bit more sensible in the long run, for the sake of stressed animals.
Might a compromise might be in order, with some leeway given to shed hunters to hunt for dropped antlers during an open season, while giving animals some time to recover from stressed out periods during a closed shed hunting season?
Or is that a foolish notion? I mean, how many shed hunters truly are in the woods during this time, and do animals really need that less stressed time period (life in the wild is stressful regardless of what time of year it is; there really is no such thing as a less stressful time of year).
And how should antlers be considered? Are they natural features that should be left alone? Or are they transient leavings that are here only briefly, and should they be allowed to be enjoyed by those willing to search for them?
What do you think?