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Shed hunt responsibly and legally

Angie Dixson
Jason Dixson
Shed hunting. Photos courtesy of Oregon Shed Hunters.

March 11, 2016

SALEM, Ore.—A few people have already been cited by Oregon State Police for trying to cut antlers off deer and elk skulls they found in the outdoors. Others have wrongly picked up bighorn sheep skulls with horns attached in the Owyhee Unit, where a disease outbreak has left dead scavenged sheep on the landscape.

ODFW and Oregon State Police are reminding shed hunters that they can only pick up naturally shed deer and elk antlers in the wild, not antlers with skulls attached. The skulls and horns of bighorn sheep should be left where they are found, as rules state horns can only be taken during authorized hunting seasons. “If possible, please get a GPS location and take a photo of the dead sheep, then contact your local ODFW office to help wildlife biologists track the disease,” said Phil Milburn, ODFW district wildlife biologist in Ontario.

ODFW and OSP are also asking shed hunters to follow these other rules to protect big game at this time of year, when animals need to be conserving energy to get through the winter:

  • Don’t disturb big game animals: Don’t approach animals or follow the same ones on a daily basis.
  • Respect road and area closures. These are in place to protect winter range and wintering big game. Some ODFW wildlife areas are entirely closed to public access during late winter; other areas have road and travel restrictions. More information on specific closures below or see the 2016 Oregon Big Game Regulations
  • Don’t take vehicles off-roading. The ground is water-logged at this time of year and off-roading in the wrong place can damage critical wildlife and fish habitat. Travel by foot or horseback instead.
  • Try not to be in the same spot every day. Deer and elk might need to be in that spot for food or cover, and your presence will keep them from it.
  • Keep dogs under your control. Don’t let dogs approach or follow wildlife. State law prohibits dogs (and people) from harassing wildlife. (OAR 498.102 and 498.006)
  • No trespassing on private property. You always need permission to be on private land. Antlers that are shed on private land below belong to the landowner under Oregon statutes.

“With shed season upon us, we are getting a lot of sheep skulls and horns picked up,” notes Phil Milburn, district wildlife biologist in Ontario, where a disease outbreak has killed 70 percent of the Owyhee Unit’s bighorn sheep. (No sheep tags will be available in the Owyhee Unit this year due to the outbreak and ODFW continues to monitor the extent of the disease.) “Remember it is only legal to pick up naturally shed antlers from deer and elk, not antlers or horns with skulls attached.” (Unlike deer and elk antlers, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mtn goats do not shed their horns each year.)

People are also allowed to sell or exchange shed antlers, but certain rules apply. Only naturally shed antlers, antlers detached from the skull, or a skull split apart can be sold or exchanged. For antlers detached from the skull or skulls split apart, the seller must have legally taken the animal (e.g. on a big game tag).

Past poaching problems led to the regulations. Skulls that are split have less value and are not eligible for record books. These regulations reduce the incentive for someone to kill animals on winter range or out of season, hide the skull, and go back months later and “find it.” A Hide/Antler Dealer permit ($34) is needed to purchase antlers for use in the manufacture of handcrafted items.

Oregon’s buck deer shed their antlers from late December through March and bull elk shed them from late February through early April. Antlers begin re-growing soon after they are shed, with most growth happening in spring and summer months. The antlers are covered by “velvet” throughout this growth period, before hardening to bone in late July-early August for elk and late August-early September for deer. This makes antlers ready in time for breeding season (in September for elk and November for deer), when male deer or elk will fight for dominance using their antlers.

Road closures and other regulations

Jason Dixson
Shed hunting. Photo courtesy of Oregon Shed Hunters.

Several ODFW managed wildlife areas and Travel Management Areas are closed during the winter to protect big game on winter range. Others have travel restrictions. See page 102-109 of the 2016 Oregon Big Game Regulations for more information.

  • Phillip W Schneider Wildlife Area (Dayville): Closed to public access Feb. 1 - April 14, some roads closed seasonally from Dec. 1-April 14.
  • Elkhorn Wildlife Area (Baker and Union Counties): Closed to public access Dec. 1 - April 10.
  • Bridge Creek Wildlife Area (near Ukiah): Closed to public access Dec. 1 - April 14.
  • Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area (Clatsop County): Refuge and area closures.
  • Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area (La Grande): Lands west of Foothill Road closed to entry Feb. 1 - March 31.
  • Prineville Reservoir Wildlife Area (Maury and Ochoco Units): Closed to motorized vehicle access Nov. 15 or Dec. 1-April 15.
  • White River Wildlife Area (Wamic): Road closures and restrictions.

Other winter range closures (see page 106-109 of 2016 Big Game Regulations)

  • Lost River Winter Range (Klamath Falls Unit): Closed to motor vehicle use Dec. 1 – April 15.
  • Bryant Mt (Klamath Falls Unit): Closed to motor vehicle use Nov. 1 - April 15.
  • Tumalo Winter Range (Upper Deschutes Unit): Closed to all motor vehicle use Dec. 1 - March 31.
  • Cabin Lake-Silver Lake Winter Range (Paulina, Silver Lake, Fort Rock Units): Closed to motor vehicle use Dec. 1 - March 31.
  • Metolius Winter Range (Metolius Unit): Closed to motor vehicle use Dec. 1 - March 31.
  • Starkey Experimental Forest Enclosure (Starkey Unit): Closed to all public entry Nov. 15 - April 30.
  • Spring Creek Winter Range (Starkey Unit): Closed to all motor vehicle use Dec. 15 - April 30.
  • McCarty Winter Range (Starkey Unit): Closed to all motor vehicle use Dec. 15 - March 31.




Michelle Dennehy
(503) 947-6022

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