Game Bird and Small Game Hunting


One thing the deep snow out west, and good spring moisture across the rest of the state has done is nurture good nesting conditions. 

For those interested in small game hunting, Wyoming’s cottontail population probably hit its peak in 2016 and 2017, after being at the highest level in several decades. It is still a fun hunt for those looking for options this fall.

For birds, it’s a little early to predict much, but we know Western Wyoming’s nasty winter had little if any negative impact on sage grouse. That’s because the iconic game bird can digest sagebrush so efficiently it often gains weight over winter and it has the ability to fly to areas of lower snow depths and burrow into the snow for protection from predators and severe weather. 

One thing the deep snow out west, and good spring moisture across the rest of the state has done is nurture good nesting conditions. With that, there’s optimism for good production of all upland game birds – sage, sharptailed, ruffed and blue grouse, chukar and Hungarian partridge and ring-necked pheasants.   

The fall flight of ducks and geese is predicted to be similar to last year. But regardless of production, the main factor for a successful waterfowl season in Wyoming is weather to dislodge the birds out of the Yellowstone River valley of Montana. Nate Huck, Game and Fish migratory bird biologist, says nesting mourning doves have increased in Wyoming over the last decade – but that doesn’t mean the birds will be here when the season opens Sept. 1. Late August cold snaps often vault our resident native doves southward. But some years, parts of the Cowboy State will receive noteworthy flights of migrating doves from Montana and points north. Just depends on the weather. Hunters are reminded that the exotic Eurasian collared dove can be hunted year-round in Wyoming, just like pigeons.

The Game and Fish’s two pheasant farms are expecting another year of good production and hope to release around 30,000 birds this season for hunters of all ages. Release sites are expected to be similar to last year, but locations will not be officially determined until late September. Hunters should check the Game and Fish website or give us call for the 2017 list of pheasant release sites.   

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