Don't forget to take this course before you go shed hunting this year!
Shed hunting is becoming more and more popular every year. This is especially true in western states like Utah where you can search for antlers from three different species including deer, moose and elk.
With more people wanting to gather antlers each spring, though, some western states are putting new rules in place for shed hunters at this time of year. That's why the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding everyone to take their online antler gathering ethics course before they head out.
If you're wondering why you need to take a course to look for shed antlers, it's because winter is a tough time of year for the animals.
"During winter, big game animals, especially deer, often have a difficult time finding food," DWR Law Enforcement Chief Justin Shirley said in a press release on the DWR website. "If you spook an animal and cause it to run, the animal has to use up fat reserves and energy it needs to make it through the winter."
Now before you brush this off, you should know the online course is mandatory for anyone planning to head out in the late winter and early spring months between Feb. 1 and April 15. The exception is small children accompanied by an adult who has taken the course.
You'll need to have your certificate of completion printed out and with you while you're looking.
The Utah DWR also wants to remind shed hunters to be aware of closures of the state's wildlife management areas. Some areas are closed completely to human traffic during winter to take the pressure off the animals.
Don't forget a note of written permission if you're looking for antlers on private land.
Wildlife officials are also taking this time to remind shed hunters that it's illegal to pick up the heads of deer with antlers still attached. This is because of the possibility of poaching. Instead, they ask anyone discovering a dead deer to take GPS coordinates of the location and multiple photos of the skull.
Send this information to your local DWR office and they'll send an officer to the location of the skull to investigate.
The DWR might allow you to keep the skull if they determine the animal has died of natural causes.
Conservation officers do take shed hunting season violations seriously. In previous years, they've cited people for shed hunting during WMA winter closures. They have also confiscated people's finds, so it's worth taking the time to complete the free course. It is comprised of 25 questions and only takes a few minutes of your time.
To take the DWR's shed hunting course, visit the DWR website.