The Colorado Division of Wildlife is reminding antler hunters that the collection of shed antlers in the Gunnison Basin is regulated by strict guidelines.
The purpose of the regulations is to protect vulnerable wildlife species, especially Gunnison sage-grouse and mule deer, explained J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison.
Collecting shed antlers for commercial use has grown significantly during the last decade in the Gunnison area. The activity can disturb Gunnison sage-grouse during their mating period, and also cause unnecessary harassment of deer and elk on winter range. Collectors are cautioned to know the regulations. Violations could result in confiscation of antlers, a $68 fine and five penalty points against hunting and fishing privileges.
"The Colorado Division of Wildlife takes the disturbance of wildlife species during the critical winter period very seriously," Wenum said.
Over the years, unscrupulous antler collectors have been observed chasing deer on foot and with snowmobiles, searching areas at night, and going onto private land without permission.
Shed antler collection on public lands in Game Management Units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 is closed completely from Jan. 1 through March 14 annually. From March 15 through May 15, collecting is prohibited from sunset to 10 a.m. daily.
The regulations were adopted by the Colorado Wildlife Commission and based on a collaborative petition submitted by the Gunnison Basin Sage Grouse Strategic Committee, Gunnison-area sportsmen and shed antler collectors. The DOW worked closely with those groups to develop the regulations.
The period of the first closure (Jan. 1 to March 14) assures that deer herds and Gunnison sage-grouse are not harassed during the difficult winter months. The second closure period (March 15 to May 15) ensures that Gunnison sage-grouse are not disturbed during the critical early morning hours of their mating period.
The closures will be strictly enforced. Collectors are advised to consult official sunset tables and to obtain accurate public lands maps.
For more information, or to report violations or suspicious activity, call the DOW office in Gunnison at (970) 641-7060.