Antelope Hunting

 
Hunting / Hunting Guide / Antelope Hunting

Throughout Wyoming pronghorn hunters can expect a similar hunting season in 2019 to what was seen in 2018. With most pronghorn herds remaining stable from last year to this year, this should be another great pronghorn season in Wyoming.

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Casper
Throughout the Casper Region, antelope herds are continuing to do fairly well after reaching relatively low levels through 2013. Beginning in 2014, excellent fawn production and survival began to spur population recovery, which continued through 2017. While antelope populations are now doing well in most areas, it appears growth is now slowing or has stagnated, with generally below-average fawn production over the past year. Regardless, hunters will experience relatively high antelope densities near Casper due to several years of growth, and generally improved antelope numbers throughout the rest of the Region.

For 2019, antelope hunting seasons in the Casper Region were designed to continue to increase hunting opportunity in most hunt areas around Casper as populations have grown, while largely maintaining license issuance in eastern and northeast Wyoming where growth has recently slowed. In most areas near Casper, doe/fawn license numbers have been increased for 2019 in an effort to reduce antelope populations, while remaining relatively unchanged in Converse, Niobrara, Weston and Crook Counties. In addition, most areas now have strong buck ratios as herds have grown. After steadily increasing any-antelope (buck) license issuance throughout the Region since 2015, managers have again increased Type 1 license issuance in areas south and west of Casper while holding steady in eastern and northeastern Wyoming. Hunting success should continue to remain high in 2019 as the Department continues to manage pronghorn herds for high harvest success. As always, antelope hunters are reminded that hunt areas denoted with an asterisk (*) have limited public hunting access and are largely comprised of private lands. In these areas, hunters should get permission to hunt private land before applying for a license, or at least recognize that hunting small isolated parcels of public land can be difficult and frustrating at times.

Cody
Pronghorn hunters should expect similar pronghorn numbers and hunting in the Cooper Mountain and Carter Mountain herds. The Copper Mountain pronghorn herd (Hunt Areas 76, 79, 114 and 115) will provide additional hunting opportunity because the herd is experiencing increased agricultural damage, and is currently meeting it’s population management objective. The Carter Mountain pronghorn herd (Hunt Areas 78, 81 and 82) has increased in the past few years and will be providing additional hunting opportunity in this herd to maintain the herd at it’s population management objective. Hunters should expect better pronghorn hunting in these areas than what they experienced in the 2018 season.

Hunters should expect pronghorn hunting to be similar in the Fifteen Mile herd (Hunt Areas 77, 83 and 110) to the 2018 season. The Badger Basin pronghorn herd (Hunt Area 80) has experienced a decline in fawn production and population size, therefore, managers have decreased licenses within this area. Hunters should expect to see fewer pronghorn within this herd compared to the 2018 season.

In the winter of 2019/20 managers plan to place GPS collars on pronghorn within the Carter Mountain herd to determine animal movements, migration patterns and seasonal habitat use. This collaring project is a major collaboration between numerous partners and will provide better information to area pronghorn managers.

Green River
With a few minor exceptions, hunters will generally find more hunting opportunity for antelope in the Green River Region, and hunter success is expected to remain high. Pronghorn numbers increased a modest amount last summer, but the 2018-19 winter has been tougher than normal in many portions of the region. Most documented mortalities involved motor vehicle collisions from semi trucks and passenger vehicles and trains. Additionally, some pronghorn moved out of their normal wintering areas, crossed fences on snowdrifts, and were unable to return to their normal ranges following snowmelt. Hunt areas 94 and 100 experienced this more than others.

Most of our hunt areas, including Hunt Areas 53, 57, 58, 59, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 99, 100 and 112 will see similar or increased opportunity when compared to last year due to observed buck ratios, increased populations, and “relatively light” observed winter losses. Additionally, some increased opportunity will exist in a few areas for doe-fawn hunting, to address localized ongoing damage concerns.

The 2019 summer has been mild and wetter than normal throughout much of the region, and habitats responded very favorably to the increased precipitation. Many of the lower elevation habitats are beginning to dry and hunters are reminded to be careful with campfires and vehicle exhausts as fire danger increases and fuels dry. Increased moisture and mild conditions also resulted in increased pronghorn horn growth and some nice bucks exist throughout the region this year.

Jackson
In the Jackson Region, the northernmost subunit of the Sublette Antelope Herd includes Hunt Area 85 (Gros Ventre). Although hunter success is good, there are very limited hunting opportunities. Only 20 licenses will be offered for the 2019 season, similar to recent years. Although the winter was very tough on any antelope that chose to remain in Jackson Hole (few if any did this past winter), most antelope in Hunt Area 85 during the hunting season migrate from the Green River drainage and are therefore not affected by severe winter conditions in Jackson.

Lander
With decreased fawn production and over-winter survival in some herds, pronghorn populations in the Lander Region either decreased or have remained fairly stable. Of the Region’s six pronghorn herds with population objectives, two are at, two are below and two are above objective following the 2018 hunting season. Pronghorn classifications in 2018 revealed fawn productivity and yearling buck ratios were below those observed in 2017. Fawn ratios declined by 10/100 and yearling buck ratio declined by 4/100. These declines are largely attributed to an extraordinarily dry late-spring and summer in 2018. The pronghorn herds in the Rawlins area, including the Red Desert and the South Ferris, were particularly impacted by severe winter conditions and over-winter survival was low. Early observations by field personnel indicate pronghorn numbers in these herds are down as expected. Overall, throughout the Region, it is anticipated buck quality is likely to be similar to that in 2018. Mature buck ratios vary throughout the Region, but are still good and hunters drawing a license should expect good to excellent harvest success.

Laramie
The majority of pronghorn herds in the Laramie region are either increasing or stable, with 90% at or above population management objectives. This is a positive trend compared to the substantial decrease in pronghorn numbers that the region experienced from 2010-2013.

Region-wide, the average fawn ratio was 57 fawns: 100 does, an increase over the 2017 estimate. Fawn ratios were low, however, across portions of herds in the eastern side of the region, notably in the Dwyer, Meadowdale and Hawk Springs Herd Units. While the reasons for the decline are unclear, anecdotal observations suggest that hail events in June, lack of timely rain events and some degree of coyote predation may be potential drivers. The estimated average buck ratio across the region was 49 bucks: 100 does, consistent with 2017 estimate (50 bucks: 100 does), and well above the 2016 ratio (41:100). Snowpack during the 2018-19 winter was average to slightly above average, and was bolstered by a severe spring storm. Regional personnel started to see evidence of localized winter mortality in mid-March. While we anticipate that harsh conditions reduced adult survival, these losses may be partially mitigated by increased water on the landscape, productive spring green up and, perhaps, increases in fawn production. We also expect that increased moisture may lead to strong horn growth.

Several thousand acres in the Shirley Basin Herd Unit and surrounding areas are either enrolled in large-scale wind development projects, or are candidates for enrollment in the next few years. To better understand the effects of wind-energy development on pronghorn populations, 101 does were fitted with GPS collars in 2018. As of August 2019, 44 animals died (44%), suggesting a relatively high mortality rate. Preliminary movement data demonstrate substantial variation in habitat use across winters. These patterns may be attributable to differences in winter severity. Additional data will help managers to evaluate the merits of this hypothesis. Collars will remain on animals until 2024.

Based on this information, managers made relatively few changes to pronghorn seasons in 2019. Hunters should expect hunting to be similar to the 2018 season.

Pinedale
In the Pinedale Region, the northern portion of the Sublette antelope herd includes hunt areas 87-91. Population estimates for this herd are below desired levels generally due to harsh winters in 2010-2011 and again during 2016-2017. The 2018 fawn ratio was 55:100, below the previous 5-year average (2013-2017) of 65:100, while the total buck:100 doe ratio of 57:100 was near the previous 5-year average of 56:100. This pronghorn population grew slightly during mild winter conditions from 2014-2016, experienced above average mortality during the 2016-2017 winter, exhibited increased survival during the mild 2017-2018 winter, but above average temperatures and the very dry conditions during the summer of 2018 moderated population recovery. Mortalities resulting from the 2018-2019 winter are unknown at this time, but have the potential to be above average given high snow loads in the winter ranges of this herd. For the 2019 hunting season, there are no changes in the Pinedale Region. Although it remains difficult to draw an antelope license, those that do draw should experience high success rates.

Sheridan
Antelope hunting opportunity in the Sheridan Region will be similar to 2018. Most herds remain near management objectives and many hunt areas have high buck ratios. Winter conditions were generally mild with the exception of below-normal February temperatures and persistent snow cover in the eastern portion of the region. Therefore, overwinter survival was favorable and hunters will see an increased number of licenses for both “any antelope” and “doe/fawn antelope” licenses in some hunt areas. Pronghorn should be in excellent body condition due to abundant precipitation and extended spring green-up. Buck horn growth should be better than average.

The majority of antelope hunting in the Sheridan Region is on private land. Access to private lands and landlocked public lands continues to be difficult in portions of some hunt areas where access fees are high and little or no hunting is allowed. Those hunters who are able to secure access to private land will have high success. Hunter densities on many accessible tracts of public land can be high, especially on opening day and weekends. Hunters who plan hunts later in the season often see fewer hunters.

In past years, hundreds of doe/fawn and any antelope licenses have gone unsold in the Sheridan Region. This is not the case anymore. Demand for hunting opportunity has increased and most hunt areas now sell out in the draw. Hunt areas with licenses remaining have very limited public hunting access and some license types are limited to private land. Hunters desiring to hunt private land are strongly encouraged to secure permission prior to purchasing a license. Hunters are also advised that the days of picking up a license when they arrive at their hunting destination are for the most part gone. So plan ahead.

Is that a buck or a doe?

The ability to distinguish between buck and doe antelope is critical to hunters holding licenses valid for only does and fawns.

1. Horns - Should be prominent with a prong or point between the base and tip and extend beyond the ears for adult males. Yearling bucks have shorter horns, typically at ear-length. Does often grow horns, which occasionally grow to the length of the ears.

2. Cheek patch – Both yearling and adult bucks have a black cheek patch below the ear at the angle of the jaw. Even among fawns, which usually lack visible horns, the black cheek patches distinguish males from females. Females lack the black cheek patch.

Frequently Asked Question

Do hunters really need to stop at check stations even if they are empty handed?

Kim Olsen
Baggs Game Warden
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