As spring approaches people tired of cabin fever are looking forward to getting into the great outdoors. One of the first groups of outdoor enthusiasts that are ready to head into the woods is shed antler hunters.
Antler hunters are reminded that seasonal restrictions on motorized travel are in effect on the Fishlake National Forest to protect habitat, wildlife, and roads. Cross-country travel for antler hunting is prohibited.
Seasonal restrictions should be of particular interest to antler hunters. Several areas around the forest are restricted to motorized travel during the time when wildlife is on winter range. Animals trying to survive the harsh winter months are stressed enough without the added pressure from motorized traffic.
The natural behavior for deer and elk is to come to lower elevation as winter snows start to melt and vegetation starts to grow. They then follow the melting snow to the high elevation for summer. When this natural feeding pattern is altered by human activities during this crucial time, animals are forced into higher elevations where snow is still deep and vegetation is months from green-up.
The downside is the animal’s body condition suffers. Body condition becomes poor and antler development for the next year cannot be maximized. “Good body condition-good antlers”—“Poor body condition-poor antlers”. It is with antlers that bucks and bulls spar for the right to be the strongest animal, passing on their genetics, thus making for stronger healthier offspring.
“It is for these reasons we have developed travel restrictions on big game winter ranges forest-wide,” said Kreig Rasmussen, Richfield Ranger District wildlife biologist. “In order for big game animals to have maximum body condition they need low stress and natural conditions. During a winter like we are experiencing it is common that we will have a 35-45% loss on our deer fawn populations.”
The restrictions associated with winter range travel run from January 1 through April 15 of each year.
To better understand where restrictions are in-place, shed antler hunters are encouraged to pick up and use a Fishlake National Forest Travel Map. Maps are available at no charge from the Forest Supervisor’s Office and the Richfield Ranger District Office in Richfield, and the Ranger District Offices in Fillmore, Loa and Beaver. The maps are also available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/fishlake.
Law enforcement personnel from the Forest Service and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will be patrolling winter range access points to educate and enforce the winter range restrictions. Already this year tickets have been issued to antler hunters using motorized vehicles in seasonally restricted areas or using their ATV to grid cross-country looking for antlers.
Help give these wintering animals the best possible opportunity to make in through the winter in good shape. Like hunting, it’s the responsibility of each hunter to know where they can and can’t be during a particular season. Everyone should enjoy their outdoor experience and be able to enjoy abundant wildlife opportunities in the years to come.
Please report any wildlife harassment immediately to Utah Public Safety dispatch in your area. Violations notices may be issued to those who are found on seasonally restricted routes. Violations carry a potential fine of not more than $5,000.00 and/or imprisonment for not more than six months.
- 2011 Shed Antler Gathering Course (shadowwolf32.wordpress.com)
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