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Developing a hunting season starts a year in advance. Wildlife biologists and game wardens work together to consider many types of information and data—including information and thoughts from the public—to form what you see printed in the regulations. Here are the steps we go through each year:
 

  1. During hunting seasons biologists and game wardens check hunters in the field. They get a sense of what hunters are seeing, talk with landowners and outfitters and check harvested animals, recording information like age and sex of the harvest. 
 
  1. Beginning in the late summer, biologists and game wardens also conduct surveys of big game to count animals on the ground. Pronghorn surveys are generally done in August while deer and moose are surveyed beginning mid-November. Elk are generally surveyed in January. These data are analyzed, looking at trends in numbers and ratios of males and juveniles per 100 females. Population trends indicate whether a specific herd is increasing or decreasing. Age and sex ratios inform managers on the number of young produced that year (fawn to doe ratio) or the number of adult males available for harvest (buck to doe ratio).
 
  1. Game and Fish surveys license holders to estimate harvest for the previous hunting season. This allows managers to estimate harvest, hunter success and effort rates. Effort rate is the average number of days it took a hunter to harvest an animal. Combined with population counts, harvest information is used to estimate populations.  
 
  1. During the winter months, game wardens and biologists contact landowners, hunters and other stakeholders. We collect input on wildlife populations and potential season structure. In some areas, such as the Sheridan Region, an annual survey is mailed to landowners. 
 
  1. Game and Fish evaluates the information and data in relation to herd management objectives.  For example, if a population is declining, harvest survey data may show less harvest and hunter success and an increase in hunter effort.  If the data shows a population decreasing below the management objective, managers will propose reducing harvest, meaning less licenses. On the other hand, if data shows increasing populations above objectives, managers will propose more licenses. 
 
  1. Once proposals are developed, draft seasons are presented to the public for their input at season setting meetings across the state. After considering public input, final recommendations are developed by Department wildlife managers and then presented to  the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission at their April meeting for review and approval. 

When approved, licenses are issued.  Before you know it the hunting season is here again, and the process starts all over!
 

Tim Thomas and Dustin Shorma
Sheridan Wildlife Biologist and Dayton Game Warden

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