Many hunters are chomping at the bit and ready to get into the field this fall. or they have already been out with their bow and seen some of the wildlife that Wyoming has to offer. Either way, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has put out their annual forecast for area hunters and there are a wide variety of animal populations and conditions that hunters should take into account before heading into the field.

ANTELOPE
Pronghorn hunting in the Casper Region will be good in most hunt areas in 2014, but hunters should expect to work harder than they have much of the past decade to fill their licenses. Due to elevated winter losses during the winter of 2010-11 and three consecutive years of record low fawn production, hunters will again see much lower antelope densities compared to those of a few years ago. However, appropriate license reductions were made for the fourth consecutive year in an effort to sustain hunter success rates and overall hunting opportunities. While overall buck numbers will be down in most areas, buck quality should be a little better than normal. The excellent moisture received last fall, coupled with improved forage production this spring and summer, resulted in productive pronghorn habitat going into the 2014 hunting season. This translates into improved horn growth and trophy quality.

DEER
Public lands within the Black Hills National Forest continue to provide reasonable hunting opportunity for white-tailed deer. However, following harsh conditions during the winter of 2010-11, subsequent mediocre fawn production, along with losses to EHD, white-tailed deer numbers are still much lower than those of the past decade. As such, hunters can again expect to see reduced densities of white-tailed deer in the Black Hills this fall. Fortunately, fawn production and winter survival improved somewhat in 2013-2014, so hunters should expect to see slightly more deer in 2014 than in the past two years. Hunt Areas 1, 2, and 3 will close on November 21st this year in an effort to continue reducing buck harvest, while Hunt Areas 4, 5, and 6 will close on their traditional date of November 20th.

Following several years of poor fawn productivity, the number of mature mule deer bucks available to hunters has declined across much of the region, especially on public lands where hunting pressure is heavy. For the most part, already conservative seasons are unchanged for this fall. In 2014, the Department will implement a 3-point or better season in Hunt Area 66 for the second consecutive year. This restriction will reduce harvest of yearling bucks and will likely result in decreased hunter numbers. Ultimately, this season should help to enhance yearling buck survival and improve mature buck availability in future years. Hunters in the Black Hills and Cheyenne River areas will likely experience another year of tough mule deer hunting on both public and private lands. There are quality bucks available, but numbers are low. Doe/fawn licenses have been eliminated throughout much of the region, and the few remaining private-land licenses quickly sell out. Deer hunting in limited quota Hunt Areas 34 and 89 west of Casper should continue to be good this year.

ELK
High elk numbers continue to provide outstanding hunting opportunities throughout the Casper Region. Nearly all elk hunt areas in the Region have opening dates and season lengths nearly identical to those of the past few years. Elk hunters should continue to enjoy remarkable numbers of elk and good hunting success, especially if the weather cooperates. Elk hunters in the southern Bighorns should again expect to see improved bull quality and availability, with good access to antlerless elk as well. Elk hunters in the Laramie Range (Hunt Areas 7 and 19) should continue to enjoy outstanding hunt quality, especially for bull elk, as bull numbers and trophy quality remain strong. Casper Region managers noted a substantial increase in the number of large trophy quality bulls in Hunt Area 7 following last year’s hunting season, which should bode well for the 2014 season. Access for cow elk hunting on private lands continues to be relatively good in Hunt Area 7, especially later in the season. Hunters are reminded to take advantage of the Department’s Walk-In and Hunter Management Areas, which provide tremendous opportunities throughout the region, but especially for antlerless elk in Hunt Area 7.

Those hunters with general licenses should not plan to hunt in Converse, Niobrara or Weston counties unless they have secured access to private lands known to contain elk. General license areas within these counties are not managed for a sustainable elk population as most of these lands do not provide quality elk habitat. In the Black Hills, elk hunters should expect to see improved hunting opportunity in limited quota Hunt Area 1.

For more information on hunting areas and statewide forecasts, CLICK HERE

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