2012 hunting seasons public meeting March 24
by Wyoming Game and Fish Department
March 9, 2012
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department invites the public to participate in the 2012 big game season setting process by attending one of the public meetings scheduled in the region. This year’s formal season setting meetings will be held in Pinedale and Jackson with an open house to be held in Thayne. One notable change in meetings this year is that the Pinedale meeting will held at 10AM on Saturday, March 24. "We thought we would try something different this year in an attempt to accommodate those folks who have to work evenings during the week," said Pinedale Wildlife Supervisor, John Lund.
As always, Wyoming Game and Fish biologists and wardens will be on hand at all meetings to discuss big game population data collected this winter, and any resulting season changes being proposed for next fall.
Wildlife managers estimate the population of the Jackson elk herd at 12,000 animals, similar to last year, but are concerned about the number of calves being counted. The ratio of calves per 100 cows is a crucial piece of information managers rely on to help predict future population trends. Managers generally believe a ratio of 25 calves per 100 cows is needed to sustain the population over time. This year the overall calf ratio for the Jackson Elk Herd was 17. "Despite overall numbers being about the same at 12,000, we do not anticipate being able to maintain that with overall calf production being below 25 per 100 cows," said Wyoming Game and Fish Jackson Wildlife Biologist, Doug Brimeyer.
In general, hunters can expect similar hunting seasons for the Jackson elk herd in 2012 with continued focus on harvesting that portion of the herd that summers along the Snake River corridor in Grand Teton National Park, and south in Hunt Area 78.
Hunters in the Fall Creek elk herd south of Jackson can expect somewhat less liberal hunting opportunities as this population appears to be coming down closer to the population objective. It is being proposed to scale back the number of antlerless elk permits offered in both Hunt Area 84 and 85.
Unfortunately, the Jackson moose herd is continuing its downward trend with low calf:cow ratios observed during this winter’s aerial surveys. "Both the numbers of moose, and the low calf:cow ratio we’re seeing, continues to paint a pretty bleak picture for the Jackson moose herd," said Brimeyer. "We have continued to scale back the hunting for the past decade, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference in this herd."
In 2011, the four moose hunt areas in the Teton Wilderness north of Moran were closed. In 2012, further reductions in hunting are being proposed for the Gros Ventre by combining Hunt Areas 17 and 28, and reducing the overall number of licenses. It is proposed to offer just 10 hunting licenses in the entire Jackson Moose Herd in 2012. The population is currently estimated at 900.
Similarly, low calf ratios were noted during the winter counts for moose south of Jackson, which are part of the Sublette Moose Herd. As a result, it is proposed to eliminate all hunting licenses for cow moose in Hunt Areas 10, 20 and 21. Managers are hoping the cuts will produce similar results as seen in moose hunt areas in Sublette County, which have increased slightly in recent years after a majority of the cow moose licenses were eliminated in 2005.
Wildlife managers are proposing a bison hunting season similar to last year, offering approximately 400 licenses, with the majority of those for cow bison in a continued effort to bring the population closer to the objective. In 2011, there were 227 hunters that chose to participate in the hunt. There were 194 bison harvested, including 101bulls, 86 cows, and 7 calves. Recent counts showed a wintering population at approximately 900 animals, well above the management objective of 500. Managers are expecting approximately 200 calves to be brought into the population this spring.
Wyoming’s two largest deer herds, the Sublette and Wyoming Range herds, encompass much of the western part of the state west of the Continental Divide. The Sublette herd includes those hunt areas around Jackson all the way south, and east to the town of Farson. The Wyoming Range herd includes those hunt areas south of Alpine including Star Valley, the Salt Range, and the west slope of the Wyoming Range south to Kemmerer and Cokeville.
Like most big game species, the quality of the winter range is often what determines the quality of the herd. While the annual growth on some key shrub species has improved in recent years, wildlife managers remain concerned about the overall winter range conditions for both deer herds after decades of drought.
With generally poor winter habitat conditions, and a hard winter in 2011, managers documented above normal winter mortality in both of these deer herds last spring. Consequently, Game and Fish officials responded with more conservative hunting seasons last year, and are proposing even more conservative seasons for 2012.
"As expected, hunters saw fewer deer in the field last fall after the tough winter of 2010-2011," said Wyoming Game and Fish Pinedale Wildlife Management Coordinator, Scott Smith. "The lack of yearling bucks in our recent winter counts was reflective of the significant fawn loss we experienced last winter. As a result, we are proposing to further reduce hunting pressure in 2012 with slightly shorter seasons, and a reduction of nonresident licenses in both herds."
Pronghorn in the Sublette herd near Pinedale also felt the effects of the hard winter last year. Again, despite a reduction in licenses in 2011, Game and Fish managers are proposing another slight reduction in licenses across all the hunt areas for the Sublette Herd. For the six hunt areas in the Sublette County portion of the herd, it is proposed to trim several hundred licenses for any antelope, and doe/fawn tags, in 2012.
All interested parties are encouraged to attend one of the public meetings held in each Game and Fish region discussing the proposals.
March 21, 6-8PM: (Open House) Thayne, Elementary School
March 24, 10AM: (Saturday) Pinedale, G&F Regional Office
March 26, 7PM: Jackson, G&F Regional Office
Written comments (no faxes or emails will be accepted) will be accepted through 5 p.m. April 2 by mailing: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604. Copies of the proposed regulations are available at the same address in accordance with Chapter 1 Regulation Governing Access to Public Records.
All written comments will be presented to the G&F Commission prior to the public hearing at their April 25-26 meeting at the Casper G&F Office.
The G&F supports the Americans with Disabilities Act. Every effort will be made for reasonable accommodations by contacting the nearest G&F office.