At about 10:30 p.m. on April 16, 2018, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens caught Matthew Nelson of Cheyenne and Jason Reidel of Pinedale as they were returning to their vehicle with about 70 pounds of elk antlers near the Hoback Rim north of Pinedale. The two had been out on snowmobiles and snowshoes picking up antlers in an area where bull elk had been wintering. They were each cited for gathering antlers during the January 1-April 30 closure to shed antler collection on public lands west of the Continental Divide in Wyoming. They were also cited for trespassing on multiple private land parcels.
Recently, Judge Curt Haws found both Nelson and Reidel guilty and they were fined $1550.00 each. The two also lost their Wyoming hunting privileges for two years, including the ability to apply for preference points. The loss of hunting privileges also applies to 33 other states that are members of the violator compact. The antlers were confiscated and returned to the field upon closure of the case.
“These were intentional, planned violations and the consequences were a result of those violations,” said Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas. “Hopefully the result of these cases will help deter other violators. We enforce this regulation just as we would any other wildlife regulation and encourage all sportsmen to continue to be vigilant and report any violations they are aware of.”
The antler hunting regulation prohibits the gathering of shed antlers from January 1 through April 30 on all public lands west of the Continental Divide, including state lands. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission enacted the regulation after a series of public meetings held in the fall of 2009 .
In addition, many big game winter ranges in both Teton and Sublette counties have further restrictions to either human presence or motor vehicles during the winter months. However, the shed antler regulation does apply to all other federal or public lands not covered under such winter range closures.
Similarly, Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMAs) managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in the Jackson and Pinedale Regions are closed to human presence December 1 through April 30. For more information on Game & Fish WHMAs, you may visit the website at: http://wgfd.wyo.gov/accessto/whmas.asp
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation, “collection” is defined as: to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land or attempt to search for, locate, stockpile, or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals on public land.
The purpose of the seasonal closure is to minimize harassment or disturbance of big game animals on their winter and spring ranges when animals are most vulnerable to stress and displacement to less productive habitats.
With a continued increase in popularity for shed antler hunting, and a corresponding increase in public complaints of violations, Wyoming Game and Fish wardens are stepping up enforcement efforts to make sure everyone is playing by the rules. Each winter, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department brings in additional game wardens from across the state to increase the enforcement presence on key winter ranges, both to deter the poaching of big game during early winter and to enforce the antler hunting regulation after animals have shed their antlers.
As with other laws and regulations, enforcement and public cooperation are key to effectiveness. Anyone witnessing a wildlife violation may call the Stop Poaching hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. Tips are most helpful when they are reported promptly and include information such as the date, time, location and specific details about the suspected violation. Also important is a physical description of the suspected violator as well as a license plate number and description of any vehicles involved in the incident. Stop Poaching tips can also be reported online at: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/law-enforcement/stop-poaching . Tips may result in a reward and informants can choose to remain anonymous.