With the arrival of spring and melting snow, shed hunters take to the hills in search of cherished shed elk and deer antlers.
It's become an annual ritual for many. Some seek a fun way to get out in the field and others hope to turn found antlers into profit.
And that can turn a walk in the woods into a competitive enterprise where some are apt to break the rules, or overlook the impact on wildlife, or potential dangers to themselves.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds shed hunters that most Wildlife Management Areas that provide important winter range sanctuary for elk are closed until noon on May 15.
Each year, a number of people can't seem to resist the urge to get a jump on the rest of the crowd and access WMAs early and unlawfully.
It's important to remember that WMAs provide vital, protected winter range for deer and elk. And this is the time of year these animals are the most stressed.
Also, shed hunters should stay alert and remember that most of Montana is bear country. It's easy to get so focused on searching for sheds that one can forget to remain ever mindful of bears.
Shed hunters should be especially cautious when approaching carcasses and carry bear spray in a holster on their hip or across their chest. Be aware that bears may be looking for winter kill in the same area one looks for sheds. Never try to haze a bear off a carcass.
Recreationists seeking access to private land for any reason must ask first for permission.