Fall Hunting Forecast

August 30, 2018
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Sheridan -
Pronghorn (antelope)
Most antelope herds remain above management objectives and all areas have high buck ratios. Despite lower fawn production, most populations are able to sustain a similar harvest to 2017. In fact, hunters will see an increased number of licenses for both “any antelope” and “doe/fawn antelope” licenses across the Region.
The majority of antelope hunting in the Sheridan Region is on private land. Access to private lands and landlocked public lands continues to be difficult in portions of some hunt areas where fees for hunting access are high and little or no hunting is allowed. Leasing of hunting rights to outfitters continues to limit access for hunters wanting to hunt without a professional guide or outfitter. Hunters able to gain access to private land will have high success. Hunter densities on many accessible tracts of public land can be high, especially on opening day and weekends. Hunters that plan hunts later in the season often see fewer hunters.
Hunt areas in herd units with robust populations will have large numbers of licenses available in an attempt to slow or reverse population growth. In past years, hundreds of limited quota doe/fawn and limited quota any antelope licenses have gone unsold in the Sheridan Region during the initial draw. The large number of unsold licenses has given potential hunters the impression there might be easy access to private lands where landowners want to reduce antelope numbers, but that is not necessarily the case. Hunters desiring to hunt private land are strongly encouraged to secure permission prior to purchasing a license. Hunters should also note that demand for licenses has increased and the days of picking up a license when they arrive to their hunting destination are for the most part gone. So plan ahead.
Doe/fawn seasons beginning Sept. 1 on private land are in place for Hunt Area 102 and a portion of Hunt Area 22 to address recurrent damage situations. These seasons provide hunters who secure access the opportunity to fill doe/fawn tags before hunting pressure increases with the opening of the regular hunting season.

Deer
Mule deer populations in the Sheridan Region are well below the population management objectives in all four herds. Harvest strategies are designed to provide quality buck hunting opportunity while maintaining conservative antlerless deer harvest to maximize growth potential while addressing localized areas of cropland depredation. Postseason fawn ratios have been stagnant the last few years which has resulted in minimal herd growth. In 2017, fawn ratios were only adequate to maintain the population at its current level. This is likely the result of the winter of 2016-2017 which had record cold and snow in portions of the region during December and January. Not only did the severe winter result in some fawn loss, it is believed to have dampened 2018 fawn production.
Access to hunt mule deer, particularly buck mule deer, has become severely limited as much of the private land and access to landlocked public land has been leased by outfitters. Even though mule deer populations may be lower than desired, overall buck to doe ratios are quite high because of the relatively few bucks being taken on private land. Hunter densities on many accessible tracts of public land can be high, especially on opening day and weekends. Hunters that plan hunts later in the season often see fewer hunters.
To address concerns regarding mule deer populations and hunter access to private and public lands, mule deer seasons have been designed to provide needed flexibility. Seasons will allow harvest of does and fawns on private land where there are damage concerns. In the Black Hills where deer numbers have noticably increased, Type 8 doe/fawn white-tail licenses have been converted to Type 7 doe/fawn licenses limited to private land to allow landowners flexibility in managing increasing mule deer and white-tailed deer populations. Some hunt areas near Gillette have slight increases in limited quota licenses, primarily for doe/fawn hunting. Hunters should note license “type” changes in hunt areas 19, 23/26 and 24 where Type 6 licenses have been changed to Type 7 licenses to reflect those licenses being limited to private land. Nonresident hunters will see a slight increase in the number of Region C licenses whereas the Region Y quota is unchanged from 2017.
White-tailed deer in the Sheridan Region experienced disease die-offs in 2006, 2007, 2011 and again in 2013. Because of the die-offs, liberal seasons, and some harsh winters the number of white-tailed deer is lower in parts of the region compared to a few years ago. However, in some places there continues to be high densities of white-tailed deer and populations have the ability to rebound quickly.
White-tailed deer seasons will again provide ample opportunity to put vension in the freezer, especially if one can secure access to private lands. Nearly all hunt areas offer November hunting seasons for white-tailed deer and many doe/fawn seasons extend into December to allow maximum harvest to manage this population. Some ranches cater more toward outfitted white-tailed deer hunts which makes it difficult to find places to hunt white-tailed deer, especially bucks. Hunters are reminded that late season hunting is very popular, so contacting landowners early increases one’s chances to secure access.
The Hunt Areas 23, 26 Type 3 and Hunt Area 24 Type 3 license quotas were increased in 2017 so no changes have been made this year. Due to recurrent damage situations, doe/fawn white-tailed deer seasons begin on Sept. 1 in Hunt Areas 24, 27, 29, 30 and 33. In Hunt Area 24 near Sheridan an “unlimited” number of Type 8 doe/fawn licenses will be available, which means hunters and landowners will not have to worry about available licenses selling out. Hunters can again purchase an unlimited number of Type 8 doe/fawn licenses after the draw in certain hunt areas to address damage situations.

Elk
The Sheridan Region contains part or all of four elk herd units. Elk seasons are designed to provide ample opportunity to harvest elk in areas where populations are over management objectives, while more conservative seasons are set for those areas where numbers are near desired levels. Limited access to private lands has been the primary factor contributing to herds exceeding management objectives. Hunters who gain access to hunt or cross private lands are expected to have high success. Mature bulls are available in all hunt areas and hunters have a reasonable chance of harvesting a “trophy” bull.
Along the Bighorn Mountains, elk find refuge on private lands. In Hunt Area 37, several hundred elk avoid hunters by moving to private lands. The Type 6 cow/calf hunting season has been restructured for 2018. The season will again open off the Bighorn National Forest Sept. 1 with the entire hunt area open on Oct. 1. The season will be extended through Dec. 31 with an increased quota to make up for elimination of the Type 7 season. As in past years, successful late season hunting will occur on private lands, but hunting access is very limited.
In Hunt Areas 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, and 38, most antlerless and cow/calf elk hunting seasons will run until December 31 to provide opportunity to harvest elk as they move to winter ranges. In Hunt Area 33 near Kaycee, the Type 6 cow or calf season will open later to spread out hunting pressure and target elk moving into the area to winter. In Hunt Area 34, the Type 6 season will open earlier in a portion of the hunt area to address damage issues on private land. In Hunt Area 38, the Type 4 season will be open Oct. 1 to 10 for the entire hunt area and then after a short closure, reopen on Oct. 15, also for the entire area. The Type 6 cow or calf season will be open from Nov. 16 to Dec. 31 on private land to address damage issues.
Hunt Area 2 is also known as the Fortification Elk Herd. Hunting seasons are designed to balance license numbers with landowner tolerance for both elk and hunters. Currently the elk population is over the management objective and there are more elk than most landowners desire. A Dec. 1 to 10 Type 7 season is designed to increase antlerless elk harvest to reduce the population. Prospective hunters are advised to secure private land access before purchasing these licenses.
Hunt Area 113 in the Rochelle Hills is closed in 2018 as this area alternates hunting seasons every other year. In Hunt Area 123, the Type 1 hunting season will be closed but hunters will again be able to hunt antlerless elk with Type 4 and Type 6 licenses. Hunters should note the seasons will be shorter with a Nov. 12 closing date. Licenses in this hunt area are highly sought after but hunters need to be aware that access to hunt is on or through private land in most of the hunt area.
Hunt Area 129 is again open for general license and cow/calf hunting. The general season is open for any elk during a portion of the season and antlerless elk during the remainder. The Type 6 reduced price cow/calf season is open from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 with 300 licenses, an increase of 50 licenses from 2017. Elk are in small, scattered herds throughout this hunt area mostly on private land. Area 129 is not considered a “destination hunt” for most hunters, but rather offers more of an opportunity for hunters living nearby to harvest elk when they become available.

Moose
The Sheridan Region will have moose seasons in Hunt Areas 1 and 34 of the Bighorn Moose Herd during 2018. Hunting opportunity has been reduced in recent years with only five Type 1 licenses in each hunt area last year. The Hunt Area 34 Type 1 season increased to 10 licenses after the winter survey showed higher numbers of moose. There are no Type 4 antlerless moose licenses available in Hunt Areas 1 and 34 this year because of an ongoing research project. Hunt Area 42, on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, is part of the Bighorn Moose Herd and will be open with five Type 1 any moose licenses. Governor’s moose licenses will not be eligible for use in the Bighorn Mountains in 2018 because no hunt area has more than 10 licenses.
Cow moose visibly accompanied by calves are excluded from harvest in all areas. However, it is very unusual for a person with a Type 1 any moose license to harvest a cow moose. Hunting seasons over the past several years have successfully reduced the population to address concerns about heavy use of willows. Hunters fortunate to draw a license have an excellent opportunity to harvest a moose and it is expected some large, mature bulls will be taken. Access to hunt is excellent as most moose are found on the Bighorn National Forest.

Upland Game Birds – Small Game
Upland game bird hunters found tougher hunting in 2017 for nearly all species. Blue grouse hunters had more difficulty finding birds in the Bighorn Mountains. Sharp-tailed grouse and gray partridge populations were also lower than recent years. Nesting success is key to good fall populations of upland game birds and last year’s wet, cool spring was hard on nesting success and brood survival. An improved nesting season should improve hunting for scatter gunners this fall. A three day sage grouse hunting season in Hunt Area 4 runs Sept. 15 to 17.
Pheasants from the Department’s Sheridan Bird Farm will again be released on some Walk-In Areas and other public lands in the Sheridan Region. A third annual youth only hunt day will be held Nov. 17 on the Bud Love Wildlife Habitat Management Area near Buffalo. The youth hunt provides an excellent opportunity for hunters under the age of 14 to experience upland bird hunting.

Turkey
Fall 2018 and spring 2019 wild turkey general license seasons are set for Hunt Areas 1 and 3. Campbell, Johnson and Sheridan counties comprise Hunt Area 3. For the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, Type 3 licenses will again be available in Area 3. Hunters will be able to obtain the Type 3 license as a second or third turkey license. Type 3 licenses provide additional opportunity for hunters that have access to private land where most turkeys are found. The Hunt Area 3 fall wild turkey season will again open Sept. 1 allowing all hunters an additional month of hunting. In Hunt Area 1, the September season will be open for archery hunting only.
Turkey populations appear to be at a high level in the Sheridan Region. Some damage complaints have been received and some landowners have expressed a willingness to take hunters. However, access to hunt turkeys is more difficult as many ranches have turned to outfitted hunts. Almost all wild turkeys in the Sheridan Region are found on private land, so getting access to hunt is one key to success.

- WGFD -



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