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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.