Antelope Hunting

 
Hunting / Hunting Guide / Antelope Hunting

A pronghorn is featured on the Game and Fish shield and for good reason: Wyoming is home to more of the unique big game animal than the rest of North America combined. 

Unlike deer and elk, there are no general pronghorn licenses – just a specific number of licenses in each hunt area to meet management goals.  But, even this season following the severe winter in western Wyoming, the traditional forecast response from veteran field colleagues still rings true: “If you drew a license you should have a good hunt.”

That includes the very sought-after public domain hunt areas of west-central and southwest Wyoming – even though that country was blasted by winter. “There were some calamities on train tracks and highways caused by the deep snow, but overall the pronghorn toughed out the winter better than expected,” said Mark Zornes, wildlife management coordinator or head terrestrial biologist for southwest Wyoming. “The unique beast continues to surprise me with its resiliency.”

No surprise about over-winter success in northeast Wyoming. “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 in Newcastle. “The hunting this year should be a bit better given the number of prime age bucks in the population and environmental conditions.”

Dan Thiele, wildlife management coordinator in Sheridan, is looking forward to the second year of an innovative license structure in hunt area 23. The area south of Gillette routinely has the state’s largest quota – 3,100 total tags this year.

“Last year we designated most of the area 23 quota as only ‘valid on private land’ and it worked really well to ease the overcrowding on the limited public land in the area,” Thiele said. “We expect positive results with the approach again this season.”

In an era of reduced pronghorn tags in the public domain of central and southwest Wyoming, Wyoming’s access program has helped fill some of the public access pronghorn hunting void. Hunter management areas or department-leased ranches between Medicine Bow and Laramie and walk-in areas in the Lusk to Mule Creek Junction area have offered new public hunting opportunity.

Another bright note for the 2017 pronghorn seasons are the prospects for excellent horn growth. “Better-than-average horn growth is expected with the abundant spring rains and extended green-up,” Thiele says. The exception is southwest Wyoming where the stress of the severe winter, when bucks acquire around half of their horn mass, has hampered growth.

So, it’s a good overall pronghorn outlook – and has been for at least 50 years. But if the report would prompt you to want to buy one of the few remaining licenses – make sure you have a place to hunt first. The licenses remaining are still available because they are in areas of very limited public access. 

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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