Game and Fish see mixed hunting success
by Wyoming Game & Fish
October 24, 2006
(Jackson/Pinedale region) With some hunting seasons now ended and some just getting underway, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials report seeing a mixed bag, as far as success, so far this hunting season. Each year, biologists and wardens set up hunter check stations across the state allowing them to collect data on animals that have been taken and get a picture of the total harvest and overall health of wildlife populations. Hunters are required by law to stop at any hunter check station they encounter.
Hunters generally have good success in finding antelope and this year was no exception. “I think most hunters filled their tags, however, it did seem that horn growth on bucks was down slightly, which is typical during drought years,” said Jackson/Pinedale Wildlife Management Coordinator, Scott Smith.
“The dryer conditions seemed to cause a noticeable distribution shift from dry sagebrush habitats on BLM lands to irrigated private lands, making them less available to hunters in places,” he said
Each August, Game and Fish Department biologists conduct their annual antelope count and classifications across the state. This year biologists counted an average of 67 juveniles per 100 does, which is actually up slightly from the ten-year average of 63. The total number of bucks was also up slightly at 54 per 100 does. The ten-year average for bucks is 50.
“Overall, antelope numbers appear to be maintaining in the northern portion (Hunt Areas 85-90) of the Sublette Antelope Herd,” said Smith. “Buck and Fawn ratios are slightly higher than the 10 year average, but were highly variable between hunt areas, with better fawn production noted on the wetter more productive habitats.”
Overall, hunters reported seeing fewer deer and the harvest generally reflected that. “Given poor habitat conditions, increased gas development, and hard winters we’ve experienced in recent years, we expected to see some tougher hunting,” said Smith. “And, unfortunately, that’s what we saw at the hunter check stations this year.”
In addition, rain and snow during the first week of the September deer season made for tough hunting conditions. “The poor weather definitely affected the amount of time hunters spent in the field.”
Due to a combination of several years of drought, coupled with a particularly severe winter in 2003-2004, Game and Fish biologists estimate a loss of approximately 75% of the mule deer fawn crop in the Sublette Herd that year. “We know we lost the majority of our fawns in the winter of 2003-2004 and those animals would be the three and four year old mature bucks most hunters are looking for this year and next year” said Smith.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to get out of this drought which makes it really tough for these populations to bounce back. Our shrub production was down again this summer and that, coupled with the rigors of winter, can really be hard on a population.”
We’re hoping for mild fall weather into November so deer can spend more time on transition ranges before moving onto winter ranges where browse production has been impacted. Poor habitat conditions, the current rate of natural gas development on winter ranges and the increasing number of wildlife-vehicle collisions, have all contributed to the slow rate of recovery for western Wyoming mule deer herds.
The elk harvest has been quite variable across the region with the early dry weather causing tough hunting conditions, yet some hunters harvested some really nice bulls. Elk hunting success seems to have picked up as of late with recent snowfall in the higher elevations causing some elk to move towards lower elevations, making them more available to hunters.
With generally high populations of elk across the region, many seasons will be turning to antlerless elk only in an effort to keep numbers in check. Elk hunters are reminded they must leave evidence of the sex of their animal on an edible portion of meat when field dressing. This can be as easy as leaving the cow elk’s udder attached to the hind quarter.
Enforcement officials are reminding hunters to avoid a couple other common violations they are seeing, which include: no elk management stamp and no hunter safety card. Most elk hunting in the Jackson/Pinedale region requires an elk management stamp, which can be purchased at any license selling vendor for $10.50. The specific elk Hunt Areas requiring an Elk Management Stamp are areas 7072 and 7498. Additionally, any hunter born on or after January 1, 1966, must carry a card proving they have successfully completed a hunter safety course. All hunters pursuing elk in Grand Teton National Park or the National Elk Refuge must have a hunter safety card.
Moose, Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat
Moose numbers have been down across much of the Jackson/Pinedale Region, causing wildlife managers to reduce the number of licenses issued in recent years. For those who were fortunate enough to draw a license, the success seemed to be pretty good. “It seemed most hunters reported being able to find moose this fall’” said Smith. “And we had some nice bulls taken again.”
Similarly, those hunters fortunate enough to draw a sheep or goat license seemed to do pretty good. “The sheep hunting seemed to be very similar to last year,” said Smith. “We had several nice rams taken again from Hunt Areas 8 and 23 north of Pinedale.”
The mountain goat hunters in Hunt Area 2 again were able to find good goat numbers to select from. “Like many other big game populations that are in that ‘pioneering stage’, this herd seems to be pretty robust right now,” said Smith.
In addition to the late season elk hunting, there are also bird hunting opportunities still available in the Jackson/Pinedale Region. Seasons for blue and ruffed grouse run through November 30th. On the waterfowl front, seasons in the Pacific flyway run through December 29 for Dark (Canada) Geese and through January 6th for ducks. Remember, new licenses and stamps are required after the first of the year.
The Wyoming Game and Fish reminds everyone to stay legal, stay safe and enjoy the extraordinary fish and wildlife resources Wyoming has to offer. For more news from the Jackson/Pinedale Region you may refer to regional web page on the Game and Fish Department’s website.
Wyoming Game & Fish