Has shed hunting opening day in Teton County become the Black Friday of outdoor sports? It can feel like it, photographer Natalie Behring said.

Behring was outside of Jackson Monday at first light to capture the mad dash for antlers, and said the scene was infused with urgency as hunters scrambled in a race to collect as many of the prized horns as they could.  

A convoy of vehicles arrives at the hunting area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest for the May 1, 2023 opening day of the antler shed hunt near Jackson. The participants gathered at the Jackson rodeo grounds and were led in a motorcade by Jackson Police to the hunting grounds, near the National Elk Refuge. (Natalie Behring)

“It was like an Easter egg hunt, for adults,” she said.

The event has become such a frenzy, drawing intense interest from out of state, that lawmakers passed legislation to give Wyoming residents a head start starting in 2024. 

But on Monday, the rollout was familiar to those who have participated in recent years. Hunters gathered at the fairgrounds, checked in with police and were assigned a line-up number before they joined an escorted convoy onto the hunting grounds on Bridger-Teton National Forest at the appointed hour of 6 a.m. Once they got there, it was a sprint.

A shed hunter scans the landscape as the Grand Teton peeks out behind a ridge on the opening day of the shed hunt near Jackson. Raena Parsons, the public affairs officer at the National Elk Refuge, said “we don’t expect it to be good this year. We don’t expect there to be a lot of antlers in the forest.” Parsons said the elk spent the majority of the harsh winter on the neighboring Elk Refuge, where shed hunting is prohibited, so the antlers would have been dropped there. (Natalie Behring)

Several successful shed hunters gathering on the forest land adjacent to the National Elk Refuge told Behring the key to scoring a good haul is simple: “Run like hell.”

The lion’s share of the vehicles — many trucks with passengers riding in their beds — were from out of state, Behring said. “There were very very few Wyoming plates.”

A man takes a rest next to an impressive collection of antlers May 1, 2023. Although some hunters got skunked, they reported enjoying hiking in the warm weather after the long winter. (Natalie Behring)

Next year locals are likely to get first dibs. A law passed this spring directs the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to give Wyoming residents a one-week head start over nonresidents starting next season. Another makes public land shed hunting a licensed activity, requiring nonresidents to possess a conservation stamp to legally partake in public land shed hunting. 

A horse and a trailer with an array of saddles are seen after shed hunters returned to the Flat Creek area on the opening day of the shed hunt near Jackson. Shed hunting on horseback can be a huge advantage as the hunters can cover ground faster. (Natalie Behring)

Though Behring spoke to a Wyoming hunter who is thrilled by the head start, she said, nonresidents expressed pretty unanimous dismay about the planned delay. 

A group from Driggs, Idaho relaxes with beers next to a haul on the May 1, 2023 opening day of the shed hunt near Jackson. Group member Hunter Rackham described the outing as “really fun but really chaotic at the same time. Adrenaline is always really high, you never know if you’re going to get up there and find anything or if you’re going to find the whole lot.” (Natalie Behring)

Outside of Teton County, the 2023 shed hunt opener has been delayed until May 15. Wildlife officials made the “unprecedented” decision to offer a reprieve to Wyoming wildlife devastated by a severe winter. 

Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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  1. I strongly disagree that WY residents should be allowed to hunt sheds on Federal lands in WY ahead of non-residents. BLM and Forest Service lands belong to all Americans, not just WY residents. What authority does WY have to regulate activities on Federal lands?

  2. Thank you for a great article and story about tradition and the great outdoors. I can sympathize in part regarding the new regulation pushed through to allow residents a head start on shed hunting, but I mostly disagree with the legislation for several reasons. First off, why a full week difference to the start of the season between residents and non? Maybe a day or two would have been better received. Secondly, how does a state get to regulate what happens on Federal lands? Nobody “owns” the wildlife, but as tax payers, we all share the burden of paying for, and maintaining Federal lands. If non-residents are not welcome, then the state shouldn’t be allowed our tax dollars. So how about a percentage reduction in federal grant monies to the state for overreach like this? Besides, with a severe winter like these areas just went through, and a severe impact to the herd overall, not only will the animals need to recover over several years, but the market for antler sheds will see steep pricing increases due to limited supply over the next several years, thus making it become another “rich persons game”. Increasing fees, putting further restrictions on non-residents who enjoy such “sports” as shed hunting, and making further legislation that will be difficult to enforce, only serves to cause further divide amongst those who enjoy these activities. It further supports the theory “that it’s all in the interest of capitalism”. It will only serve to drive more of a wedge between those that enjoy the outdoors, respect the wildlife they seek and admire, and could result in a decrease of revenue overall for the state. Remember, when folks from out of state travel and spend time in your state, they spend lots of $$$. Those $$$ support local businesses, vendors, restaurants, and the local economy.

  3. I personally think Wyoming residents should have first chance to get the antlers. We live, work here and spent alot of time outdoors. We’re the ones who support our state the most. I agree we should be allowed first chance to get antlers. A lot of locals use them for custom artwork. And there’s alot of Wyomingnite who can use the extra money for their families. We live here all year long. I’m sure there will be more for out of state people to collect after we get first chance. There’s Wyoming families struggling here. I would like to be able to new glasses and have some of my teeth fixed. Can’t do that with our jobs here. Getting first chance to collect antlers could help many Wyomingnite. We’re the who help tourists have a great time when they vacation here. Our hash winter has hard on the wildlife this winter. I’m hoping the Wyoming Game and Fish dept will be cutting down on both resident and non resident big game tags. This winter I’ve never seen antelope lay down on the interstates to try to get warm. I’ve lived in Wyoming for 42 years and never seen that. Time we give the animals a break this hunting season.

  4. “Wrong Move Wyoming”

    Since Wyoming has done this with Out of State Horn Hunters. Montana should suit, we have some great areas also to Hunt for Antlers! This will cause a Domino effect in other States. Which will lead to other States delaying of Out of Staters for the Opening Days of Hunting and Fishing! I hope Wyoming reconsiders this move!

  5. As a resident of western Wyoming I love that they passed those laws the sad thing is that fish and game better do I.D checks because the Idaho people will just come over and ride in a friends car who is a resident

  6. Interesting. This seems totally weird to me but I suppose things like this are inevitable. The photography for this article is stellar.

  7. Anything is on the table when people will buy anything.
    I am surprised nobody has started a market for selling real human bones. Probably in the near future. As morbid as it sounds, you can almost guarantee a lot of people will be offering up past relatives and family. SMH!

  8. National public grounds ….are they funded by the Federal government?? If so any tax payer should have a right to go on that property.

    1. Some people might think this article has nothing to do with the WyoFile article about the upper Hoback. I guess they haven’t been “educated” yet by the brilliant billionaire who wants to charge them for learning about the public’s elk, deer, moose, and antelope herds – as they disappear from Wyoming’s landscape.

    2. reply to Kingston Cole:
      I’m more interested in how many tons of minerals and nutrients derived from antlers are leaving the ecosystem? What we going to end up with … starved, dying big game herds? Oh wait, that’s already happening because their historic winter ranges have been fracked, drilled, and “developed” for oil and gas decades ago and it’s finally caught up with a few REALLY bad winter in the basins.
      $$$/pound for antlers? Couldn’t care less.

    3. Antlers sell for market rate, last I heard it was $15-20/lb. 2 antlers go 10-20 lbs. $150-400/pair. That sums up the excitement. delaying and charging non-residents is awesome !

    4. Normally it’s a price per pound, but a dead head or sometimes even sets will hold a solid price, everything depends but some dead heads or sets go for thousands.