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2021 Hunting forecast for the Laramie Region

August 26, 2021
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Laramie - 2021 HUNTING FORECAST FOR THE LARAMIE REGION

Pronghorn

Pronghorn population trends and corresponding hunting opportunities vary substantially across the Laramie Region. Grassland herds in the north and east, including Iron Mountain (Hunt Area 38), Meadowdale (Hunt Area 11), Hawk Springs (Hunt Area 34) and Dwyer (Hunt Area 103) have declined over the past four years, along with notable decreases in fawn production. In addition there was a major snow storm that dropped over 30” of snow within portions of Platte, Goshen and Laramie Counties in the middle of March, which resulted in an increase in winter mortality. As a result the Department reduced licenses in Hunt Areas 11, 34, 38 and 103. In addition, within Hunt Area 38 a Type 2 licenses was added valid for any pronghorn south of Highway 34 from October 5 to December 31 with the goal of still providing opportunity for the eastern portion of the hunt area while relieving some pressure off the doe population.  Decent buck numbers remain in these herds, but older animals will be harder to find. Sportspersons should expect pronghorn populations in the Laramie Valley to be similar to previous years, with comparable hunting opportunities. The Medicine Bow herd is at objective so hunters shouldn’t expect to see this population increase beyond its current size. The Elk Mountain (Hunt Area 50) is performing quite well so hunters should expect to have plenty of opportunity to harvest a pronghorn. Hunters may notice decreased numbers especially in portions of herd units adjacent to the I-80 corridor. Prolonged winter conditions paired with poor spring and summer moisture mean hunters likely will encounter bucks with fair horn growth, but trophy quality animals may be difficult to locate. Due to low summer precipitation in much of the region pronghorn likely will be concentrated near wet meadows and other water sources.
 
Mule Deer
Populations in the Sheep Mountain, Platte Valley and Shirley Mountain herds have been slightly increasing the past three years.  The Mullen Fire, which consumed over 176,000 acres has greatly altered the landscape in the Snowy Range.  However, regeneration of important grass and shrub species indicated the burn will have long-term positive effects for fawn rearing and survival.  Hunters should be prepared for down timber on the forest service road system.  Within the Platte Valley Herd Unit, Hunt Area 83 was eliminated and the boundaries for Hunt Area 80 were expanded to simplify hunting season regulations. Buck ratios remain high across the Platte Valley, which allowed for an increase of 50 licenses in hunt area 81.  However, due to the Mullen Fire, licenses were decreased to account for the high number of carry over licenses from 2020 in Hunt Area 78. If moderate weather conditions continue into the fall, hunters will most likely locate deer in higher-elevation summer and transition ranges.
 
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. Department personnel will be present throughout the season to collect samples for CWD testing. If you harvest an animal, especially from the Sheep Mountain herd (Hunt Areas 61, 74-77), please submit a sample or contact the Department for assistance.
 
Elk
Elk populations remain above objective, with ample harvest opportunities throughout the region.  The Mullen Fire will likely contribute to the already over objective herds by improving calving areas by setting plant communities back to early successional stage, which typically improves calf and adult survival. Hunters are encouraged to hunt south of Highway 130 within the Snowy Range Herd Unit to take advantage of elk utilizing the burn scar where these vegetation improvements occurred.  There were several changes made to the Snowy Range Elk Herd hunt areas as well as the Shirley Mountain Herd Unit (Hunt Area 16) so hunters should become familiar with the dates and limitations prior to going to the field.  Given hunting pressure on public land, sportspersons 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, and be sure to secure a corresponding permission slip.
 
Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn sheep hunting should be excellent throughout the region. Hunt areas 18 and 21 are open again for the 2021 season following closure in 2019. Hunters typically experience >90% success in the Douglas Creek, Encampment River and Laramie Peak herds. The same is expected in 2021.  The Mullen Fire burned within areas that bighorn sheep particularly prefer so habitat conditions are expected to improve within the Douglas Creek Herd Unit.
 
Moose
We anticipate excellent moose hunting opportunities in the Snowy Range herd. Harvest success across both Type 1 and Type 4 licenses continues to be exceptional (98%), and the herd maintains both high bull ratios and good calf production.  The Mullen Fire is expected to improve moose habitat as well but to what extent still remains to be seen.
 
Drought Conditions
Drought conditions in southeast Wyoming were not as severe compared to other parts of the state, particularly within Platte, Goshen and Laramie counties.  However, as you move away from those areas there was significantly less precipitation events so hunters can expect to see ungulates concentrated in riparian areas and irrigated lands.  Average to poor juvenile survival is expected which will affect what hunters see on the landscape for big game species.
 
 
 

- WGFD -


 
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