Because of the severe winter in the Gunnison Basin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has put a special regulation in place that prohibits shed antler collecting until May 15. Under established regulations, collecting is usually allowed to start on March 15.
The Gunnison Basin is nationally renowned as a location to collect the antlers shed by deer and elk. But because the animals, especially deer, are exerting extra energy to get through the winter, CPW's wildlife managers do not want any unneeded pressure to be placed on big game at this time. The special shed collection rule applies to Game Management Units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67.
"Collecting sheds is growing more and more popular," said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison. "But it's an activity that can force animals to move and waste precious calories they need to get through the rest of the winter. The special regulation is intended to relieve the extra stress that big game often face late in the winter."
Until May 15, all wildlife-related recreation, including shed collecting and hunting is prohibited below 9,500 feet in a large area that stretches from Crested Butte south to Lake City and from Monarch Pass to west of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Wildlife officers are patrolling areas throughout the basin to make sure the closure isn't being violated. Anyone caught violating the closure can receive a citation, have points imposed against their license privileges and face fines of $75 or more. Antlers will also be seized as evidence.
Collectors and other recreationists also need to be aware that to protect Gunnison sage-grouse leks, the BLM and Gunnison County close roads throughout the basin to motorized travel during the winter and early spring. To learn about road closures or to report closure violations, call the BLM at 970-642-4940, U.S. Forest Service at 970-641-0471; or Gunnison County at 970-641-8201.
There are no restrictions on antler collecting on public land in nearby areas such as Montrose, Delta, Ridgway, Norwood, Dry Creek Basin, Hotchkiss, Crawford and the Arkansas Valley.
"We're asking for everyone's cooperation and to help spread the word. We realize this is a substantial change, but it is only temporary. We need to do what's best for deer this year," Wenum said.
If you observe or know of closure violations, please call the Gunnison CPW office at 970-641-7060, or Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.