Caven Wade

(UM Legislative News Service) A bill in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee would add penalties for criminal trespassing while collecting antlers, sheds, or horns.

Rep. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, is sponsoring House Bill 548, which would add language to protect private property owners specifically from hunters trespassing to collect antler sheds.

“It’s essentially saying that we are not going to monetize the location of our great wildlife resources in the state of Montana,” Cohenour said. “It’s good legislation, it’s good ethics, and it’s good for Montana.”

There were three supporters of the bill who shared similar sentiments that oftentimes when individuals are looking for horn sheds, the animals travel down onto private lands. This leads to people trespassing on private property to collect horn and antler sheds, often where ranchers or farmers are managing livestock or running other operations.

Katjana Stutzer, representing the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said in support of the bill that shed hunting can be seen as a form of criminal trespassing, and can lead to a loss of fishing and hunting privileges, but the charges are at the discretion of the court.

“The courts haven’t quite made that connection between those two things as related, and the bill would explicitly do that. In other words this bill would create a real deterrent for criminal trespass for shed hunters on both private and state-owned land,” Stutzer said.

HB 548 has a non-mandatory sentencing recommendation of a $500 maximum fine or no more than six months in jail.

Joe Cohenour, the spouse of Rep. Cohenour, said in support of the bill that this was an idea he had after he retired from the Highway Patrol. He said oftentimes shed hunters will chase animals around using snowmobiles on private property hoping animals shed.

He said this is done for monetary gain because one pound of brown antler can go for $16, so if you find a bull that sheds a 20-pound antler you can profit $300.

“A lot of the people around here have gone out shed hunting just for profit. It’s unfortunate because when I was out hunting I would love to find a shed. I think it’s a really neat thing to find a shed out in the wild anymore, but you can’t find them anymore because it’s commercialized,” Cohenour said. “My friends who own a large ranch up in the Elkhorns are running people off their ranch.”

Cohenour said the bill would create a deterrent that can be used by the courts to help private property owners with individuals trespassing and running livestock around.

No one testified against the bill and the committee didn’t take immediate action.