Shed-antler collecting is prohibited through April 30

To protect wintering big-game animals and sage grouse species, collection of shed antlers on all public lands west of I-25 is prohibited from Jan. 1 through April 30.

“The purpose of the closures is to reduce disturbance of wintering wildlife during the time of year they are most vulnerable,” said Scott Wait, senior terrestrial biologist for the Southwest Region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Big game and sage grouse species live in a basic survival mode during the winter when food is scarce. If forced to move and burn calories unnecessarily, wildlife can lose the energy they need to make it through the winter. In addition to the statewide restrictions, additional special regulations are also in place for the Gunnison Basin.

In Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551, it is illegal to search for or possess antlers and horns on public lands between legal sunset and 10 a.m. from May 1 through May 15.

Shed-antler collecting has become very popular. The interest in personal and commercial collection has led to a substantial increase in the number of people searching for antlers across big-game winter range in western Colorado. The seasonal prohibition applies to both commercial and personal collectors.

Violating these regulations can be costly, said Brandon Diamond, area wildlife manager in the Gunnison area. The act of antler hunting during the closure qualifies as one violation and possession of each individual antler is a separate violation. The fine for each offense is $100 plus five license-suspension points. If an individual accumulates 20 points, his or her hunting privileges could be suspended.

“These regulations will be most effective and have the greatest positive impact to our wintering wildlife when we work together within our communities to monitor and enforce them. Don’t tolerate the behavior of those that would cheat,” Diamond advised. "Let’s make sure we are all doing what’s best for wildlife and help give them a break during their toughest time of year.”

Anyone witnessing violations of the shed-antler hunting regulations should call the nearest CPW office or Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.