The effect of this summer’s drought has spread to more than irrigators and cattle growers.
It’s now hit Wyoming’s wildlife, mostly the pronghorn populations.
Fawn pronghorn in the Lander region are small and the adults and fawns are in worse condition than normal. The usual groceries they find to fatten before winter just aren’t there, said Jason Hunter, Lander regional wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Pronghorn aren’t in their normal places in the Casper region. When watering holes disappear, they gather at the remaining ones and hunters might have to search a bit more than in other years, said Brian Olsen, wildlife supervisor for the Casper region.
Because water is limited, hunters should try and stay away from the few watering holes still available, Hunter said. Extra activities near water can keep animals away, further stressing their bodies.
Wildlife officials are still encouraging hunting.
“We feel the number of licenses is appropriate given what we are looking at,” Hunter said. “If we have a severe winter there’s no way all these animals will make it.”
Biologists worry about the drought’s influence on future years, especially if it continues. With less winter forage, more pronghorn will die and fewer fawns will be born in the spring, he said.
Elk, on the other hand, are pretty resilient, Olsen said. Most elk hunting areas should be plentiful.
Below are a few hunting season highlights from each Game and Fish region. For more detailed information about a specific area, contact a regional office or go to wgfd.wyo.gov.
n Sheridan region: White-tail deer and pronghorn are the news this year near the Bighorn Mountains. Hunters have an unlimited number of reduced-price doe and fawn licenses in deer Hunt Areas 24, 27, 29, 30 and 33 on the eastern foothills of the Bighorns. Wildlife officials want to shrink numbers in the Sheridan area for the health of the land and the herd, according to a Game and Fish news release. Expect high pronghorn numbers.
n Lander region: Elk and deer hunting may be different in some areas in the Seminoe and Farris mountains because of summer wildfires, said Jason Hunter, Lander regional wildlife supervisor for Game and Fish. Focus on area 108 for elk. Officials have 450 leftover late-season licenses, but they want hunters to wait until December to see if the elk have moved into the area.
n Casper region: Pronghorn won’t be where hunters normally find them this year in areas 71, 72 and 73 near Casper. The drought has shifted them around. Some pronghorn have died from a virus called E.H.D. Wildlife officials ask hunters to report any dead pronghorn they find to Game and Fish, said Justin Binfet, Casper region wildlife management coordinator.
n Cody region: Expect more mule deer doe and fawn tags near Powell, Greybull, Hyattville, Burlington and Lovell because of damage on agricultural lands. Pronghorn doe and fawn tags are offered throughout the southern Bighorn Basin for similar reasons, according to a release from the Cody office.
n Green River region: Look for liberal elk seasons and conservative mule deer seasons. Mule deer seasons are short and some areas have point restrictions, said Steve DeCecco, Green River regional wildlife supervisor. Elk seasons are long and offer plenty of cow and calf licenses in areas with large populations.
n Laramie region: Officials shortened the mule deer season in the Snowy Range and created a three-point-or-better regulation. Biologists have seen good antler growth because of last year’s mild winter, said Al Langston, public information officer for the Game and Fish Department. Elk hunting should be good.
n Jackson region: Hunters won’t see major changes here, though the drought could have shifted big game and bird locations, said Mark Gocke, public information officer for Game and Fish.
n Pinedale region: Expect liberal seasons in the Piney elk herd, Gocke said. Pronghorn hunting should be good, though fewer permits were offered.