By Sarah Pridgeon
The first of this year’s hunting seasons are now open in Crook County and Game Warden Chris Teter thinks this will be a great year for hunters in this area. Numbers, notes, are healthy for all of the species for which licenses are available this year.
“Elk numbers remain pretty high area-wide,” says Teter. “We have been having some success with placing some early cow hunters on private land where we’ve been having some damage issues, so that’s been a positive. Often times, those elk are causing issues in grain field and irrigated alfalfa.”
The outlook for elk hunting is good for the upcoming season, Teter says.
“Of course, areas 1 and 117 are the better hunt areas at least on public land, area 116 is always a challenge on public land just because those elk tend to move off there with much pressure,” he says.
In area 116, cow or calf licenses are open from October 15 to January 31 and cow or calf valid off national forest from August 15 to October 14. General licenses for any elk can be used between October 15 and November 10 and for antlerless elk between November 11 and 30.
Antelope numbers are also staying strong for the time being, says the game warden.
“We’ve just completed our counts on antelope this month and it appears that the fawn ratios are down a bit and, in some areas, the buck ratios are down a bit, but overall the populations are fairly strong and so there is plenty of opportunity for antelope too,” he says.
“Most antelope in Crook County tend to live on private land and so that limits some opportunity for people who are not connected with landowners. Populations are fairly good though, countywide.”
For those seeking antelope hunting in county borders, Teter recommends the far northwest and northeast corners and the western side, where it’s more open country that tends to be better for antelope habitat.
“And then, of course, you get into farther west and farther south and the getting improves that way too just because it’s better suited to antelope,” he says.
Deer numbers are looking particularly strong all across Crook County this year, Teter says.
“We’ve not completed our counts on those, we’ll do our whitetail counts next month and then our mule deer later on in December, but their numbers are very high right now and so the opportunities both on public land and private land will be good this fall,” he says.
“As always, the northern part of the county has higher concentrations of deer, but there are high populations everywhere.”
For the second year, an additional opportunity for turkey hunters is available in Crook County.
“There is an archery season for turkeys, this will be the second year for that. It runs the month of September and we’ve never had that before last year,” Teter says.
“Turkey numbers are holding their own, but polt production this year was pretty low just because of the weather we had, with all the rain and some cold early on, and so those polts didn’t survive well in areas. I look for that population to trend downwards a bit here in the next year, but there are certainly plenty of turkeys now.”
In turkey area 1, archery season runs from September 1 to 30 and the general season from November 1 to 30 for any wild turkey.
Area 7, stretching down the eastern border of the state, opens for sandhill crane hunting on September 15 and runs until November 11. Crook County isn’t necessarily a good place to head for this particular season, however.
“Sandhill cranes are extending their range some, but not to any great extent here. I would say there’s very, very limited opportunity to hunt a crane in Crook County,” Teter says.
“We tend to have that migration through here starting the first week of October, generally speaking, but as far as any resident cranes we really don’t have any significant numbers around here.”
However, Game & Fish is interested in any signs that the cranes are extending their territory in this region.
“There is a biologist in Casper who is particularly interested in any sightings of cranes so, if people see cranes that are hanging around in the summer months, I’d be very interested in hearing about that,” Teter says.
A small bighorn sheep hunt area is located just to the south of the county and will be open to just three license holders this year.
“That area is along the state line south of Newcastle and I think they raised that limit on licenses a bit this year just to take advantage of some fairly respectable numbers of mature rams,” Teter says.
“Those sheep are doing pretty well now on there. We hunt that concurrently with South Dakota, so we manage that as kind of an interstate herd and take a lot of input – and also them from us – on how to manage that.”
Always a popular season in Crook County, lion hunting opened on September 1.
“A friendly reminder on that one that this will be the second year in hunt area 1 for lions that hunters are required to report any harvest in that area within 24 hours, which is different than all the other hunt areas in the state,” Teter says. “It’s a 72-hour limit on other areas.”
Hunt area 1, he explains, is comprised primarily of public land in Crook County. With interest high in lion hunting, lion mortality can tip over its designated limit with too long a delay on a hunter’s report.
“There are three hunt areas. Hunt area 1 has two different limits: 20 lions for residents and four lions for nonresidents,” says Teter.
“Hunt area 30 has a limit of 12 overall, for both residents and nonresidents, and then hunt area 2 has a limit of 25.”