Fall Hunting Forecast

August 21, 2018
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Fall hunting seasons are just around the corner,,,are you ready?

Pinedale - The mornings are getting chilly here in western Wyoming and it’s that time of year when we start turning our attention toward the fall hunting seasons. Each year, local Game and Fish managers produce a fall hunt season forecast. Here, we will touch on some of the highlights for the pronghorn, deer and elk seasons as they are generally the most popular with hunters in the Pinedale Region.
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 as a result of the effects of the 2016-2017 winter. Although the population grew during mild winter conditions from 2014-2016, mortality associated with the 2016-2017 winter was high, and hunting licenses were reduced accordingly. The 2018 hunting seasons will be conservative to promote building numbers similar to 2017. Although drawing odds were difficult for a 2018 antelope license, those that did draw should experience high success rates and improved opportunities for quality bucks.
Portions of two mule deer herds are managed in the Pinedale Region: the Sublette and Wyoming Range Herds. Both are large populations with special management strategies designed to provide high quality hunting opportunities, older age class deer and high buck:100 doe ratios (30-45: 100). Both herds suffered significant losses during the severe winter of 2016-2017. Dry conditions during 2012 and 2013 resulted in poor forage production on winter habitats followed by improved moisture and production in 2014 and 2015. Good fawn survival during recent winters resulted in population growth, but the losses incurred during the 2016-2017 winter were a major setback to population recovery efforts.
The goal of the 2018 hunting season for the Sublette mule deer herd (Hunt Areas 130, 131, 138-142, 146, 150-156, 162) is to minimize buck harvest to maintain postseason buck:doe ratios above 30:100, while providing limited hunting opportunity. Seasons will run from September 15 through October 6 for antlered deer only, with three points or better.
The Wyoming Range Deer Herd (Hunt Areas 134, 135,143-145) suffered similar losses during the winter of 2016-2017 with documented losses of all radio-collared fawns and 35% of radio-collared adult does, equating to an over-winter loss of approximately 40% of the entire deer herd. The impact of the 2016-2017 winter was further seen in December 2017 post hunt season surveys, which indicated that fawn production and survival was low with only 54 fawns:100 does. This follows the poor fawn recruitment of 60:100 and 58:100 seen in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
On the positive side however, the winter of 2017-2018 was very mild and even though the 2017 fawn crop was not large, most of those fawns should survive and jump-start recovery of this deer herd. Another recent development was the completion of a comprehensive deer abundance survey on all winter ranges of the Wyoming Range deer herd in mid-February 2018. These surveys, which required two helicopters and 133 hours of flight time to complete, produced a total of 25,317 deer actually observed and a postseason 2017 estimate of 30,500 deer. This survey bolstered confidence that current methods of estimating deer numbers accurately track the population and will facilitate monitoring the recovery of this deer herd.
The southern portion of the herd unit will offer 10 days of antlered deer hunting in Hunt Areas 134 and 135. In Area 134 and 135, an antler point regulation will allow hunters to take antlered mule deer with three points or more on either antler, or any white-tailed deer. General license hunting opportunity for antlered mule deer (3 points or more on either antler) will run from September 15 - October 6 for Hunt Areas 143-145.
There are four elk herds managed in the Pinedale region. Liberal seasons have been in place for several years and are designed to move populations toward objective levels. Elk attendance was down on all but two of the 12 feedgrounds in the Pinedale Region as a result of the very mild conditions experienced this past winter. Similarly, the mild conditions resulted in an increase in the number of elk on native winter ranges away from feedgrounds where they are generally more difficult to observe and count.
Elk harvest in 2017 was down considerably in most all Pinedale Region elk herds and elk numbers will likely remain either at or above objective levels, prompting similar hunting seasons in 2018 as to those in 2017.

- WGFD -

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