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ID legislature votes to limit when people can search for antlers

Courtesy Idaho Department of Fish and Game
The governor will decide whether to allow the Department of Fish and Game to make rules that specify when people can search for antlers and horns.

The Idaho legislature has voted to put restrictions on people who want horns and antlers from wildlife.

“Idaho Fish and Game has been dealing with an ongoing issue during the wintering season with herds being harassed by individuals who are coming in and looking for shed antlers,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Britt Raybould (R-Rexburg). She said many of those antler hunters are coming to Idaho from other states where similar restrictions have been put in place.

“There is a market to be had for this particular product and, during the winter season, it tends to be an opportunity for folks to come in and look for that particular product,” she said.

Raybould’s bill would allow the Department of Fish and Game to make rules regulating when antler foragers could go collecting. Wildlife managers say the presence of people in the wild, especially in the winter, puts extra stress on animals at a time when they’re just trying to survive “which, as we all know, can then create a domino effect of decreasing the health of those herds for the following hunting seasons,” she said.

“Today, deer are dying. This is the time of year their fat reserves run out and we’re out there shed hunting this time of the year,” said Rep. Rick Cheatum (R-Pocatello). “What these animals don’t need is people in tract ATVs, side-by-side in snow machines, out looking for horns, and that’s what’s happening. Earlier in the season, they start chasing these animals, making them jump fences, hoping the horns will fall off and they can pick them up. We need a season. We need to be the advocate for wildlife in this group.”

Raybould says many sportsmen’s groups support her legislation.

Opponents, such as Rep. Douglas Pickett (R-Oakley), worry this will lead to further restrictions in how people can use wildlands.

“I did vote for this bill to come to the floor but not without major hesitations,” he said.

“All the arguments that are made in favor of this bill can be handled simply by seasonal access restrictions on federal lands,” he said. “What this bill does is allow the opportunity for an additional layer of regulation to come upon a casual public lands user who may be out there with their kids” and just happen upon antlers shed by an animal.

“I urge caution because the places that this can go if we’re not careful and we don’t do our due diligence in the rule making process, could add unnecessary regulations to our use of public lands,” he said.

The bill passed the House on a 45-to-22 vote. It had already cleared the Senate, which means it’s now headed to the governor’s desk.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.