By Sarah Pridgeon
Now summer is drawing to a chilly close, the next season on the calendar is upon us: it’s hunting time. Wyoming Game & Fish believes this will be a good year for hunters of every species on the license list in the northeast.
Known as the premier locale for white-tailed deer in Wyoming, things are looking promising for this year’s season in the Black Hills, says Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist. Several years of high fawn recruitment and over-winter survival both contribute to an optimistic prediction.
However, Game Warden Chris Teter warns that a recent disease outbreak may have an impact on deer hunting within Crook County.
“The good news is that we started out the summer with lots and lots of deer, but we’ve been experiencing a bit of a die-off due to epizootic hemorrhagic disease,” says Teter.
“We’ve lost a pretty fair number of white-tail deer and I think at least some antelope. At this point, I don’t think it’s anything that hunters should be overly concerned with as far as opportunity for the fall; we just need a good, hard freeze to kill the midges that transfer the disease.”
Sandrini also points out that trophy-sized white-tails, especially on public land in the Black Hills, can be a long shot. However, if you’re thinking of heading to the Laramie Range, hunt areas 59 and 64 have the highest buck ratios in many years thanks to three years of above-average fawn production.
“We’ve extended the season to the end of October to give hunters a chance to hunt pre-rut bucks that are more active,” says Martin Hicks, wildlife biologist.
Hunt area 129 has a lengthy season for elk, from September 1 to November 30. However, be aware that this general hunt area was created to give landowners flexibility to address the growing number of elk on private land in an area not actually managed for an elk herd.
“But, while elk are still very scattered across the region, public land is limited and hunters should understand it’s not a ‘destination hunt’,” says Dan Thiele, wildlife management coordinator.
Elk numbers in Crook County remain relatively high, says Teter.
“Access continues to be the difficult part of hunting elk around here – those elk tend to find places where pressure is light, so oftentimes on public land hunting can be a bit of a challenge just because of how smart those critters are,” he explains.
Wyoming Game & Fish does run a program that helps hunters connect with landowners to find private land for their hunt, Teter says, and it’s now available in this area.
“This is the first year that we’ve done that in Crook or Weston County. The majority of that work has been done in Weston County this past month and they’ve been pretty successful in reducing some elk numbers on fields where they’ve experienced damage in the past,” he says.
“It’s been pretty successful so far for landowners and hunters, I think.”
The program is still available, though the primary emphasis was on the early elk season.
“As we move into deer season, if anyone in our area would like to have some assistance with trying to manage hunters, particularly doe hunters, on their private land, we have a young man by the name of Nate Holst who is running that,” Teter says.
Holst will work with landowners to get hunters in on their property and provide any help necessary. Contact Holst at 307-399-3335.
Crook, Weston and Sheridan Counties all hold promise for antelope hunters this season. Over-winter success was good in northeast Wyoming for this year.
“The winter in the northeast corner of the state was actually quite mild, especially when compared to west of the Continental Divide,” says Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist. “The hunting this year should be a bit better given the number of prime age bucks in the population and environmental conditions.”
Crook County hunters are likely to see a standard year in terms of success, says Teter.
“Our antelope are doing pretty well, particularly in the north part of Crook County. As you move south, east of Sundance, I noticed that fawn numbers were not where we would like to see them but there are still good numbers of antelope all over and hunting success should be pretty good on antelope too,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Sheridan, Thiele reports that this will be the second year for an innovative license structure in hunt area 23. The area south of Gillette usually has the largest quota in the state; this year, the total tag number is 3100.
Turkey hunting is also likely to be as successful as usual in Crook County, says Teter.
“We had an average year for poult production on turkeys, so they’re just holding their own as far as numbers,” he says.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a really high population, but it certainly isn’t low, so there is certainly plenty of opportunity for turkey hunters too.”