Game and Fish hosts public meetings to discuss 2013 hunting seasons
Meeting in Pinedale on March 21st
by Wyoming Game and Fish
March 11, 2013
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department invites the public to participate in the 2013 big game season-setting process. This year’s formal season-setting public meetings will be held in Pinedale and Jackson with an open house to be held in Afton.
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 approximately 11,000 animals, slightly lower than last year, but right at the established population objective. Managers rely on the ratio of calves per 100 cows 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 24, up from 17 last year.
"It’s encouraging to see the overall calf ratios up from past years," said Game and Fish Jackson Wildlife Biologist Doug Brimeyer. "I suspect it may have been related to the warm, dry spring we had this past year. In talking with other wildlife managers, it sounds like calf ratios were generally up throughout the region."
Hunters can expect similar hunting-season proposals for the Jackson elk herd in 2013 with a continued focus on harvesting that portion of the herd that summers along the Snake River corridor in southern Grand Teton National Park, and in Hunt Area 78. One of the proposed changes is to offer some antlerless archery-only permits in Hunt Area 78.
After several years of high elk numbers in the Fall Creek elk herd south of Jackson, managers are counting numbers near the population objective of 4,400. As a result, hunting seasons were more conservative in 2012 and hunters can expect similar types of seasons to be proposed in 2013. Similar to the Jackson herd, calf ratios were up slightly at 30 per 100 cows. Bull ratios were up as well at 22 per 100 with managers noting one of the highest bull counts of the past 10 years.
The Jackson moose herd is continuing its downward trend with low numbers of moose being observed during this winter’s aerial surveys. Similar to elk, the number of moose calves was up a bit at 33 per 100 cows. "It continues to be a pretty bleak picture for the Jackson moose herd," said Brimeyer. "We have continued to scale back 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 were implemented 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 2013.
Moose numbers in the Sublette herd south of Jackson do not seem to be experiencing the same precipitous declines as the Jackson herd, however, managers are maintaining conservative hunting seasons. In 2012, all hunting licenses for cow moose were eliminated in hunt areas 10, 20 and 21. Managers noted that moose numbers in the hunt areas in Sublette County have increased slightly in recent years after significant reductions in cow moose licenses in 2005.
Wildlife managers are proposing a liberal 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 2012, there were 265 hunters that chose to participate in the hunt. There were 200 bison harvested. Recent counts showed a wintering population of approximately 850 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.
After another year of very poor shrub production on deer winter ranges, managers have been concerned about the potential to lose a lot of deer over the winter. So far, the winter has been relatively mild and it appears survival has been better than expected. However, managers warn that late-winter storms can be devastating to animals with depleted fat reserves. Wildlife managers remain concerned about the overall winter range conditions for both deer herds after decades of drought.
"Hunter success improved slightly in 2012 after the tough winter of 2010-2011, which significantly reduced the number of available bucks for the 2011season" said Wyoming Game and Fish Pinedale Wildlife Management Coordinator Scott Smith. "The decline in overall deer numbers was evident in our 2011winter counts. During the 2012 survey this past December, deer numbers, especially fawn production, showed improvement over 2011 levels." The 2013 proposed hunting seasons will be similar to last year’s.
Pronghorn in the Sublette herd near Pinedale also felt the effects of the hard winter of 2010-2011 and license quotas were reduced accordingly. Pronghorn numbers stabilized in 2012 and the 2013 season proposals will be very similar to last year’s.
The public is encouraged to attend one of the public meetings held in each Game and Fish region to discuss the proposals.
March 19, 6-8 p.m. (Open House) Afton Civic Center
March 20, 6:30 p.m. Jackson Game and Fish Regional Office
March 21, 6:00 p.m. Pinedale Game and Fish Regional Office
Written comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. April 1 via mail to: 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 the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s Chapter 1 Regulation Governing Access to Public Records.
All written comments will be presented to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission prior to the public hearing at their April 25-26 meeting in Casper.