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HUNTING ACCESS IN WYOMING

The nation’s 10th largest (and least populated) state, Wyoming offers vast expanses of territory to roam. Nearly half (48%) is federal public land and Wyoming (state) owned lands total another 5.6%. With a little research and basic understanding of Wyoming’s access laws, you can plan your trip armed with good information about accessible lands to hunt. Land status maps (1:100,000 scale) available from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) display the major patterns of land ownership. These maps can be ordered online from the BLM (refer to: www.blm.gov/wy/) or they can be purchased in person at the BLM State Office in Cheyenne and at BLM district offices. National Forest maps can be purchased at U.S. Forest Service (USFS) district offices, or can be ordered online through the individual forest web links at: www.fs.fed.us/recreation. Land status and topographic map layers are also commercially available from private vendors for download onto portable GPS units.

Public Land Access

The two major categories of federal public lands in Wyoming are:
• BLM - 27,860 square miles; and
• USFS - 14,460 square miles.
In addition, state lands total approximately 5,500 square miles and lands administered by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) total approximately 800 square miles.

BLM land status maps display BLM lands in yellow, USFS lands in light green, National Park Service lands in purple, state lands in blue and private lands in white. USFS maps use similar color coding, but check the map legend for ownership color coding. The largest contiguous areas of public land are in central and western Wyoming. The eastern third is dominated by private lands; however, smaller tracts of state and federal public lands are also found there.

BLM and USFS lands provide open access for public recreation including hunting. State lands are also open for hunting except on cultivated cropland (refer to: lands.state.wy.us). In order to legally access public or state lands, the person must travel onto those lands either:

• Via a public road;
• By floating on a navigable water; or
• By walking from bordering public or state lands that are legally accessible; or
• Entering from bordering private land that you have permission to cross or hunt on.

Crossing private land to reach public or state land requires the landowner’s permission. Crossing or entering private lands without landowner permission could result in a violation of Wyoming’s game and fish or criminal trespass statutes. In some portions of Wyoming, public and private lands occur as a “checkerboard” pattern with only the section corners touching. Stepping across a checkerboard section corner to reach another federal or state parcel is not legal except with the permission of the private landowner whose property meets the federal or state lands at the corners.

The amount of accessible public land within each big game hunt area ranges from very minimal to nearly 100% and should be researched thoroughly if you intend to hunt on public land. Remember, many other hunters may also be planning on hunting the same public or state land, so take that into consideration. License types in areas with difficult access are identified with an asterisk (*) in the Department’s license application information. The Wyoming BLM also provides maps showing land ownership within big game hunt areas (refer to: www.blm.gov/wy/). State law requires nonresidents hunting big or trophy game within a designated wilderness area to be accompanied by a licensed guide or outfitter, or a resident guide (refer to Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation brochures for additional details). Wilderness areas are delineated in portions of several national forests in Wyoming. Before applying for a nonresident big game or trophy game hunting license, consult current USFS maps and WGFD big game hunt area maps.

Permission of the landowner is required to hunt on private lands in Wyoming. By statute, the hunter’s license must bear the signature of the landowner, lessee, or agent of the owner on whose private property he is hunting or the legitimate proof as evidence that permission to hunt has been granted. Some landowners charge a fee to hunt on their property or to cross their private land to access other public land.

Additional Access Opportunities

National Parks - National Parks are closed to hunting except portions of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). In GTNP, only elk hunt areas 75 and 79 are open to elk hunting with a valid elk license and Park permit (refer to Chapter 7 Elk Hunting Seasons). The National Park Service (NPS) also administers the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, both of which are open to public hunting. Prior to hunting NPS administered lands, please review current hunting regulations for any specific restrictions that may apply.

National Wildlife Refuges - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) administers 7 national wildlife refuge units totaling approximately 128 square miles in Wyoming. Some refuges or portions thereof are open to hunting. Contact the appropriate refuge manager to determine access status and other restrictions that may apply (refer to: www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie). The National Elk Refuge (elk hunt area 77) is open to elk hunting to hunters who have a valid elk license and a National Elk Refuge permit (refer to Chapter 7 Elk Hunting Seasons) and to holders of wild bison hunting licenses (refer to Chapter 15 Wild Bison Recreational Hunting Seasons). Both Seedskadee and Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuges are open to hunting during established hunting seasons.

Bureau of Reclamation - The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) administers over 150 square miles of land in Wyoming, predominantly associated with reservoirs and irrigation projects. Recreation facilities on BOR lands are often managed by other governmental units such as the State of Wyoming, counties, or other federal agencies. BOR lands are not technically public lands, but are withdrawn from the public domain for special project purposes. By policy, Wyoming BOR lands are open to hunting unless specifically closed. Closed lands such as within Wyoming State Parks are usually posted with signs. Areas within or near facilities are also considered closed for safety reasons.

State Trust Land - The Board of Land Commissioners (Office of State Lands and Investments) extends to the public the privilege of hunting and fishing on legally accessible state lands, unless otherwise closed by direction of the Board. Anyone crossing private land to reach state land must have the permission of the private landowner. This privilege does not extend to lands classified and used as cultivated cropland. Off-road vehicle use, overnight camping, and open fires are prohibited on state lands. This privilege is for the public to fish in any streams, lakes or ponds and to hunt, pursue and harvest game animals, and game birds in accordance with applicable state and federal hunting and fishing laws and regulations. Activities that would damage state lands, roads, improvements, or lessee property interests are also prohibited (refer to: lands.state.wy.us).

Wildlife Habitat Management Areas - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department administers 38 Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMAs) totaling over a half million acres throughout the state (refer to: wgfd.wyo.gov). Nearly all are open to public hunting. Seasonal closures and vehicle travel restrictions are posted with signs. In addition, the WGFD maintains 119 public access areas. Most were established to provide fishing access; however, several were acquired to provide hunting access (referto: wgfd.wyo.gov).

WGFD Private Lands/Public Wildlife (PLPW) Access Program - The Private Lands/Public Wildlife (PLPW) Access Program was created in 1998 to enhance and maintain public hunting and fishing access on private and landlocked public and state lands in Wyoming. Hunting access is provided by enrolling lands in one of 3 subprograms:the Walk-In Area Program (WIA); Hunter Management Area Program (HMA); and Hunter/Landowner Assistance Program (refer to: wgfd.wyo.gov).

Lands enrolled in the PLPW Access Program can vary from year to year and current year landowner enrollment information is not published until summer. Although the majority of properties are enrolled for multiple years, be aware that a property enrolled in your area of interest the previous year could potentially drop out of the program at any time.

Walk-In Access Program - Private lands and, in some instances, state lands enrolled as a WIA are open to hunting for the species and time periods specified in the Department’s online Walk-In Atlas. A permission slip is not required to access these lands for hunting or fishing purposes; however, the species, time periods and other rules applicable to each specific WIA will vary (refer to: wgfd.wyo.gov).

Hunter Management Area Program - Lands enrolled in the HMA program are predominantly open for big game hunting. A permission slip is required for each HMA and can be obtained through the Department’s website. Permission slips are either unlimited, first come-first served, or issued through a limited quota drawing prior to the hunting season. Each HMA has its own set of rules provided with the permission slip (refer to: wgfd.wyo.gov).

Hunter/Landowner Assistance Program - Some landowners who are not enrolled in a WIA or HMA seek hunters via this program. The Hunter Assistance Program enables these landowners to post their contact information online so hunters can contact them directly for permission to hunt. The landowners may require conformance with additional rules or fees (refer to: wgfd.wyo.gov). Additional lists of landowners who allow hunting may be available from WGFD regional offices upon request.

Access Opportunities within Wyoming for Hunting

(Must be legally accessible by public road, or through bordering public lands or waters)

Agency/Lands BLM Map Color Area Available Additional Permit Requirement Restrictions
Buereau of Land Management Yellow 27,860 mi None1,2 Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply - see BLM Rules3
US Forest Service (Includes national forests, national grasslands, and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area) Light Green (Bankhead- Jones Lands are pink) 14,460 mi None1,2 Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply – see USFS Rules.4 Guide requirement for nonresidents hunting in designated wilderness areas – see WGFD Regulations.
WY State Lands Blue Approx. 5,500 mi None1,2 No public use of cultivated crops. Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply. No camping and No open fires – see State Land Board Rules.5
USFWS National Wildlife Refuges Dark Green All or portions of some refuges – refer to specific refuge rules. None except on the National Elk Refuge2 Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply – See individual refuge rules.
WGFD Habitat Management Areas (WHMAs) & Access Areas Not Shown >800 mi (38 WHMAs; 119 Access Areas) None1,2 Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply. Seasonal closures apply on some WHMAs and are posted by signs. Some access areas are not open to hunting (signs posted).
Bureau of Reclamation Stippled pink or tan >150 mi None1 BOR lands are open unless specifically closed. Areas within and near facilities are considered closed whether posted or not.
National Parks Purple All national parks are closed except elk hunting is allowed in the portions of Grand Teton National Park in elk hunt areas 75 & 79. Park Permit Required in addition to an Area 75 or 79 elk license2 Restrictions including designated parking areas and closed areas are outlined in the Park Permit rules
Other Park Service Administered Lands Purple John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway (24,000 acres) Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (68,000 acres) None1,2 Off-road vehicle travel restrictions apply. Specific area closures as posted by signs.
Private White   Requires landowner permission to hunt2 Permission of the landowner is required to hunt on private lands in Wyoming. By statute, the hunter’s license must bear the signature of the landowner, lessee, or agent of the owner on whose private property he is hunting or the legitimate proof as evidence that permission to hunt has been granted. Some landowners charge a fee to hunt or cross their property
WGFD Walk-In Areas (WIA) Not shown Varies from year to year – 696,000 acres in 2012 None1,2 Open for species and time periods shown in the online Walk-In Atlas. Additional rules may apply to each property.
WGFD Hunter Management Areas (HMA) Not shown Varies from year to year – 1.3 million acres in 2012 Permission slip required for each HMA2 Open for species and time periods specified on permission slip. Other rules provided with each HMA permission slip.
Hunter Assistance Program Not shown Varies from year to year None2 Landowner permission required. Contact information posted online. Landowner will specify species, open areas and other rules.

1 A pheasant special management permit is required when hunting within walk-in areas, on WGFD-owned lands or BOR lands that are stocked with pheasants. If hunting pheasant in areas 8 or 9, duringthe Springer or Glendo Special Permit Season, a Springer or Glendo permit is also required. Refer to WGFD regulations.

2 An elk special management permit is required when hunting in elk hunt areas 70, 71, 75, 77-98 in western Wyoming. Refer to WGFD regulations.

3 http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/information/docs.Par.7510.File.dat/wynf-0025.pdf

4 http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/ohv/ohv_maps.shtml

5 http://lands.state.wy.us/index.php/field-services/recreation/rules-regulations

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