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    Know Before You Go: Shed Hunting

    By Visit Jackson Hole

    Shed hunting: (verb) The Spring acitivity of venturing into pre-designated areas of the forest to search for animal parts that were dropped over the winter. Example: "Shed hunting in Jackson Hole is a serious adventure which requires preparation and planning."

    Synonyms: unique tradition; spiritual experience; reverant exploration

    Shed hunting is an important tradition for many Wyoming residents. Some treat opening day of the shed hunt like a religous holiday or a national championship game, camping overnight and entering designated shed hunting areas before the sun. With all backcountry adventures, especially those of such excitement and importance, it's critical to know the rules and regulations, the safety procedures, and designated areas before you go.

    Wildlife in Jackson Hole. Wildlife in Grand Teton National Park in Winter.
    NEW REGULATION: WYOMING RESIDENTS ONLY MAY 1 – May 7

    In 2024, a new regulation was passed for shed hunting in Wyoming. Only Wyoming residents will be allowed to collect shed antlers between May 1, 2024 (opening day) and May 7, 2024. For the shed hunt in Jackson Hole on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, residents MUST register to collect between May 1 and May 7.

    REGISTER HERE

    Beginning May 8, 2024, non-resident visitors may begin to collect shed in the Jackson area, only in designated locations (never on the National Elk Refuge) and according to Wyoming shed hunting rules and regulations. Non-residents must purchase a conservation stamp prior to collecting antlers.

    What’s It All About?

    Much like explaining your obsession with your favorite baseball team to someone who doesn’t care about sports, shed collectors may sound a little crazy when they start discussing this unique passion. They’ll gladly tell you about their traditions, which involve camping overnight and rising before dawn in below-freezing temperatures, and the fruits of their labor, which include deer and elk antlers, moose paddles, and the rare but valuable dead head.

    What they won’t be able to tell you, is the why. In keeping with the sports theme, we’ll compare it to the time your team finally made it to the World Series. But in reality, it can only be explained after hiking, or horseback riding, for hours in the forest, connecting with your surroundings, and feeling deeply grateful and eternally appreciative of the gifts this world gives us. After all this, when you finally come across a shed of your own, then you’ll understand.

    Where to go

    First thing’s first, antler collection is not permitted on the National Elk Refuge. Raena Parsons, Visitor Services Manager at the National Elk Refuge has asked us to remind visitors and locals that, “people visiting or passing through the National Elk Refuge must note that it’s illegal to take, collect, retrieve, possess, or transport any natural product, including shed antlers, from the Refuge at any time of the year.”

    Outside the Refuge, Jackson Hole and surrounding areas are known for their elk populations and shed hunting opportunity. The famous shed hunt that has Wyoming residents lined up and chomping at the bit takes place in Bridger-Teton National Forest. “There are three authorized National Forest access points from authorized access-possession corridors in the National Elk Refuge,” explains the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “Elk Refuge Road and Crystal Butte National Forest Access Trail, Curtis Canyon Road and National Forest Access Trail, and Flat Creek Road and Dry Hollow National Forest Access Trail.”

    When in doubt, stop by the Visitor Center. The staff can help you better understand these access points and clarify any questions to make your shed hunting experience the best possible.

    Safety

    Shed hunting is a outdoor experience that takes place in the backcountry with no immediate access to help if something goes wrong. Not to mention, there are other people and wild animals invovled. Safety precautions, preparedness, and well-placed plans are key to enjoying the process of shed hunting.

    “North facing slopes hold deep snow. Skis or showshoes will be required for any travel in those areas. Trying to post hole through soft snow will result in exhaustion and/or injury,” says the Fish & Wildlife Service. “Grizzly bears have emerged so carry and know how to use bear spray. All coolers, food, and garbage must be stored within a hard-sided vehicle.

    Be Kind

    Outdoor exploration and adventure should be a place for gratitude, love, and care. When shed hunting, treat others with respect. That goes for our human and non-human neighbors: other shed hunters you see along the way, any animals you may encounter, and even the very ground you walk on.

    After all, it’s just shed. The animals we love didn’t spare it for you to fight over it.

    How to Find Antler of Your Own

    The beauty of shed hunting is that it’s the hunting, not necesarily the shed, that make it worthwhile. At the very least, you spend time in one of the most beautiful parts of the country with people who appreciate it as you do. Best case scenario, you find something you can take with you to memorialize that feeling.

    On May 18, 2024, Jackson’s world-famous ElkFest takes place on Town Square. If you want to take home shed without shed hunting yourself, or perhaps your hunt wasn’t successful, here you can find thousands of antlers, paddles, horns, prongs, and more.

    #VisitJacksonHole