Regional Offices > Laramie Region > Laramie Region News > 2020 Hunting Forecast for southeast Wyoming

2020 Hunting Forecast for southeast Wyoming

August 18, 2020
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Laramie -

In Wyoming, fall knocks gently before it sweeps through the state. It starts with the first sub-50 degree night, even though the days are scorchers. Next, a few yellowing leaves crown the clusters of green branches. One foggy morning gives way to another, and it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. With each autumnal gesture, a hunter grows more anxious and excited. And finally, it’s time to head afield. What's the hunting outlook for southeast Wyoming?

PRONGHORN

Pronghorn population trends and corresponding hunting opportunities vary substantially across the region. Grassland herds in the north and east, including Iron Mountain, Meadowdale, Hawk Springs and Dwyer have declined the past four years, along with notable decreases in fawn production. Game and Fish reduced licenses in hunt areas 11, 34 and 103. In addition, Hunt Area 38 Type 6 licenses will open Nov. 1, a month later than usual. Decent buck numbers remain in these herds, but older animals will be harder to find. 

“Hunters should expect pronghorn populations in the Laramie Valley to be similar to previous years with comparable hunting opportunities,” said Embere Hall, Laramie region wildlife management coordinator. 

The Medicine Bow and Elk Mountain herds, however, experienced above-average losses over the last two winters and subsequent poor to fair fawn production. Hunters may notice decreased numbers, especially in portions of herd units adjacent to the Interstate 80 corridor. 

“Prolonged winter conditions paired with poor spring and summer moisture means hunters likely will encounter bucks with fair horn growth, but trophy quality animals may be difficult to locate,” Hall said. “Due to low summer precipitation in much of the region pronghorn likely will be concentrated near wet meadows and other water sources.”

MULE DEER

Mule deer populations in the Sheep Mountain, Platte Valley and Shirley Mountain herds are stable to slightly increasing. The general season was lengthened by four days in the Sheep Mountain herd to align buck ratios with recreational management guidelines, and should provide hunters with additional harvest opportunities. Buck ratios remain high across the Platte Valley. 

“If moderate weather conditions continue into the fall, hunters will most likely locate deer in  higher-elevation summer and transition ranges,” Hall said.

Poor fawn production coupled with high chronic wasting disease (CWD) prevalence continue to suppress populations in the Goshen Rim and Laramie Mountains herds. Hunters may struggle to find older deer, and should be prepared to hunt harder than normal if they are looking for a trophy buck. 

“Game and Fish will be present throughout the season to collect samples for CWD testing. If you harvest an animal, especially from the Goshen Rim or Sheep Mountain herds, please submit a sample or contact the Department for assistance,” Hall said.

ELK

Elk populations remain above objective, with ample harvest opportunities throughout the region. Given hunting pressure on public land, hunters should be prepared to pursue elk in areas that are a fair distance from well-traveled roads and trails. 

“Look for additional access opportunities on hunter management areas and walk-in areas; be sure to secure a corresponding permission slip,” Hall said.

BIGHORN SHEEP

Bighorn sheep hunting should be excellent throughout the Laramie region. Hunt Areas 18 and 21 are open for the 2020 season following closure in 2019. Hunters typically experience over 90% success in the Douglas Creek, Encampment River and Laramie Peak herds. The same is expected in 2020.

MOOSE

Game and Fish anticipates excellent moose hunting opportunities in the Snowy Range herd. 

“Harvest success across both Type 1 and Type 4 licenses continues to be exceptional at 98, and the herd maintains both high bull ratios and good calf production,” Hall said.


STATEWIDE SAGE GROUSE

The 2020 greater sage grouse hunting seasons for Wyoming are similar to last year with the exception of a date shift to keep opening day anchored to the third Saturday in September. Hunt area 1 covers most of the state and is open September 19-30, 2020. A three-day season in northeast Wyoming has been set for September 19-21, 2020 in hunt area 4. 

Sage grouse numbers will likely remain similar or slightly lower to that observed in 2019, and hunters should expect similar success. 

“Populations appear to be in the midst of a downward swing within their population cycle,” said Leslie Schreiber, Game and Fish sage grouse/sagebrush biologist. The number of birds harvested each year is strongly related to hatching success and over-summer chick survival.

STATEWIDE MIGRATORY BIRD:

Wyoming’s healthy winter precipitation has been replaced by warm temperatures and dry to drought conditions over the summer. This may reduce brood success by breeding ducks and geese in all but the western region of the state. 

“Hunters can expect average local populations of ducks across Wyoming,” said Noelle Smith, Game and Fish migratory game bird and wetland habitat biologist. “Migration chronology and weather, as well as hunter efforts of scouting for birds and obtaining permission to hunt private land when necessary, will ultimately influence the success of migratory bird hunters throughout the state.”
Migrating ducks in Wyoming come from Canadian and United States prairies. Spring surveys in North Dakota found good to excellent wetland conditions, and overall, duck numbers were similar to last year.

Canada geese harvested in the state come from two populations. The Rocky Mountain Population can be found west of the Continental Divide, in the Wind River and Bighorn River basins and in western Carbon and Natrona counties.  Large geese found in eastern Wyoming belong to the Hi-Line Population. Goose numbers in recent years have been consistently high. Generally, Canada goose numbers during hunting season are driven by winter conditions and there should be plenty of geese present should the weather cooperate.

Mourning dove production was variable with central regions of the state seeing high numbers through the summer.  

“The majority of doves will migrate out of the state with the first cold snap, which usually occurs between late-August and mid-September,” Smith said. “Doves from northern areas do migrate through the state in mid-September and good hunting can still be found after the first few days of the season.”

Sandhill cranes that migrate through eastern Wyoming in hunt area 7 are primarily from the Mid-Continent Population, which has been relatively stable since the early 1980s and exceeds the established objective range of 349,000–472,000. Cranes that breed and stage in central and western Wyoming (Hunt Areas 1-6, and 8) are from the Rocky Mountain Population. The fall pre-migration survey in 2019 counted 21,290 cranes, slightly below the 2018 count but above the population objective of 17,000-21,000 cranes. 

“Cranes in hunt areas 4 and 6 tend to roost and feed in the same general locations every year.  Roost locations in Hunt Area 4 are Hidden Valley, Riverview Valley and the south side of Ocean Lake,” Smith said.  “Roost locations in Hunt Area 6 are located north of Worland, the Otto area, from Powell to Ralston and Ralston Reservoir.”  

For best success, scout for cranes prior to the season and obtain permission to access the fields.

- WGFD -


 
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