It is estimated that there are over 1 million deer-related vehicle collisions every year…
And you are not the only one to have driven past a big buck on the highway and thought to yourself, is it legal to take antlers from roadkill deer? What about the meat?
Each state has different laws concerning the take or harvest of antlers or meat from roadkill deer. In some cases, no permit is required. In other states, you may need to obtain a salvage permit or have a valid hunting license.
In fact, there are at least 23 states that don’t allow any kind of possession of roadkill deer or their antlers.
Let’s dive deeper into the legality of obtaining these antlers, and when you may or may not get to keep them!
Table of Contents
- Roadkill Laws For Deer Harvest
- Salvage Permits For Roadkill Deer
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
- Related Posts
Roadkill Laws For Deer Harvest
Every state will have different roadkill laws. In some states, if you are the one to hit and kill the deer with your vehicle, then you will be allowed to keep it.
In other states, however, you are not entitled to the deer even if you are the one that took damage to your car.
Some states offer roadkill removal programs that will actually donate the animals to food banks and other charities, while other states do nothing with them.
As you can see, the actual roadkill laws have a lot of variance to them depending on the state or province where you live.
The easiest way to find out if you can take the antlers or meat from a roadkill deer in your area is to contact the state wildlife agency.
Each of the 50 states has public wildlife, fish, and game agency (commonly referred to as the Department of Natural Resource) in charge of laws such as roadkill possession.
For example, where I live in Florida that agency is called the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.
To find the state agency in your area, visit the Association Of Fish And Wildlife Agencies.
Salvage Permits For Roadkill Deer
Most states will offer what is called a salvage permit for a person that hit and damaged their vehicle in a collision with a deer or other big game animal.
This salvage permit allows the person to legally possess the deer, from its meat to the antlers. This is done to ensure that the deer are legally taken and not left to waste on the roadside.
Salvage permits for roadkill deer and other game species can usually be obtained from the state’s wildlife agency, local police force, or highway patrol and are generally free.
Some states where you can obtain a simple salvage permit, whether in person or online, include places such as Kansas, Idaho, Oregon, Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan, and there are plenty of others as well.
Again, it is important to do your due diligence to know and understand the laws of the state that you live in.
The good thing about these salvage permits is that they entitle you to the entire animal, antlers included.
See Also: How Much Are Shed Antlers Worth?
While it can be highly illegal to cut the antlers off of a dead deer you see on the road, you can legally do so if you are the one that has the salvage permit for it.
Always call or contact the wildlife authorities first!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are roadkill deer safe to eat?
As long as the proper precautions are taken and the deer is recently killed, roadkill deer are safe to salvage and eat. As with any wild game meat, its important to clean and process the animal as soon as possible.
Is it legal to cut the antlers off a dead deer?
Each state has different rules on whether or not you can cut antlers off dead deer. In some states, it’s perfectly legal, and in other states, it is strictly prohibited.
Contact a game warden or wildlife official from your state wildlife agency in your area to find out more.
Can you keep found deer antlers?
You can keep shed deer antlers found on private property, and often times on public hunting land too. However, on public National Parks, preserves, and Wildlife Refuges, you are not allowed to keep deer antlers.
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Always check with the wildlife manager on what natural specimens (if any) are legal to keep.
How can you tell if a roadkill deer is still good?
You can tell how freshly killed a deer is by looking at its eyes, how stiff the body is, and if there are any smells present. A fresh kill will have clear eyes, a limp body, and no bad smells.
See Also: What Should Venison Smell Like?
What does the game and fish department do with roadkill deer antlers?
Every state agency is different, but many will donate the meat to food banks and sell roadkill deer antlers to raise money for wildlife conservation.
While it may be tempting to hop out of your vehicle and chop off the antlers, you probably shouldn’t attempt it as it may be illegal.
Although dead deer on the side of the road is a common sight all across the country, every state has devised a way to properly care for and handle these deer carcasses, including the antlers.
These laws are put in place to prevent fraudulent claims of harvest, protect motorists and conserve wildlife.
When in doubt, do not be afraid of calling your local game warden to ask about all the specific laws and rules in your area.
Who knows? You may get lucky and be able to obtain a salvage permit in order to keep the antlers!