Wyoming DNR Deer Hunting Forecast September, 2019

Wyoming Deer Population, Management News and Information Archive

Wyoming DNR Deer Hunting Forecast - Wyoming Game and Fish Department


Casper
Throughout the Casper Region, mule deer populations have rebounded some over the past four years following long term gradual decline since the 1990s.  As with antelope herds in the Casper Region, most mule deer populations have experienced good to excellent fawn production in recent years.  Although mule deer numbers remain below objective in some herds in the Region, they have grown significantly over the past four years.  This is especially notable in the Black Hills where mule deer numbers have exceeded the established management goal.  While additional years of good fawn production and survival will be necessary to build some populations to objective levels and meet public desires in the remainder of the Region, the outlook for mule deer in the near future throughout the Casper Region is brighter than it has been for a long time.  
 
Throughout most of the Casper Region, deer hunters in general license areas should continue to see more mule deer bucks this fall as recruitment of young bucks has remained strong.  Because fawn production and survival improved dramatically beginning in 2014, there is now a strong cohort of 3-year old mature bucks in many areas, with relatively high ratios of yearling and 2-year old bucks.  These strong cohorts of younger-age class deer will only result in improved hunting for the next couple of years throughout much of the Region.  However, hunting seasons in these areas will remain conservative with short season lengths, with only harvest of antlered deer being permitted to continue to allow for maximum population growth.  The exception being in the Black Hills, where mule deer numbers have exceeded management goals for the most part, and mule deer are hunted in November with white-tailed deer.  In Hunt Area 66, the antler point restriction was removed for 2017 after being in place for the past four years.  In this area, conservative buck harvest coupled with good fawn production and surival the past four years has resulted in substantially increased buck ratios and overall buck numbers.  Mule deer hunters in the Douglas and Lusk areas will continue to experience improved hunting and trophy availability on private lands, but should continue to expect low harvest success on public lands given limited availability resulting in hunter crowding.  Doe/fawn license issuance for mule deer has long been eliminated throughout most of the Region outside of the Black Hills.   
 
The limited quota deer hunt areas in the Casper Region continue to have conservative license issuance as these areas are managed for high mature buck ratios and harvest success.  These areas will continue to provide good opportunities for harvesting mature mule deer bucks.  Of note, biologists and wardens report mule deer hunting in Area 10, which is largely comprised of Thunder Basin National Grasslands in northeast Wyoming, is continuing to improve as buck numbers and quality are increasing.     
 
In the Black Hills, where the state’s largest concentration of white-tailed deer occur on public lands, the population has increased substantially over the past 4 years.  Local managers hoping to reduce this white-tailed deer herd from current levels have thus maintained relatively high Region A and Type 8 license issuance.  Continued high white-tailed deer densities should provide for relatively good hunting quality and harvest success for Black Hills deer hunters on both public and private lands.  However, hunters are again reminded that doe/fawn harvest is restricted to private lands in the Black Hills, and that hunter densities on National Forest lands will remain high.
 
Outside of the Black Hills, white-tailed deer numbers have also began to increase following several years of being depressed.  Increased fawn production and survival have led to modest population growth throughout the Lusk, Douglas and Casper areas.  Hunters are reminded that, outside of the Black Hills, white-tailed deer primarily occupy private lands along creek bottoms and irrigated meadows, and that hunters should obtain permission to hunt private land before planning a white-tailed deer hunt in these areas. 
 
Cody
Mule deer hunting in the southern Bighorn Basin should be better in 2017 compared to last year.  Although mule deer numbers still remain below target levels, we are seeing improving habitat conditions along with good fawn production in most hunt areas.  Because of improving deer numbers, some hunt areas will have more licenses available for both buck and anterless deer hunting. Limited quota areas such as Hunt Areas 37, 119 and 125 should see good hunting, while areas such as 116, 118, 120 and most general license areas will likely be better than past years.
 
White-tailed deer numbers have improved in many areas of the Bighorn Basin so hunting opportunity and success is improving. Increases in Type 3 and 8 licenses in many areas have been made to increase opportunity where possible. Because of public input during the Owl Creek/Meeteetse mule deer initiative and concern over expanding white-tailed deer numbers, more white-tailed deer hunting opportunity has been offered in Hunt Areas 116-120 in the past few years.
 
For the northern portion of the Bighorn Mountains, while buck numbers have been on the rise, the overall population still has not increased to numbers observed in the mid-2000s. Buck hunting should be fair to good, and antlerless deer hunting opportunity will be similar to last year in the Paintrock herd (Hunt Areas 41, 46, and 47).  Some anterless deer hunting with a general license is being allowed in Hunt Areas 41 and 47 after the buck season to address damage issues.
 
The Greybull River deer herd (Hunt Areas 124 and 165) and the Shoshone River deer herd (Areas 121, 122 and 123) should have similar hunting conditions compared to 2016 with the normal 10-day general seasons and Type 6 and 8 licenses restricted to private or agricultural lands. The Shoshone River deer herd still has doe/fawn licenses available despite fewer damage complaints.
 
Game and Fish predict slightly more difficult hunting for bucks in the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River herd in 2017.  A fair proportion of older age class adult bucks in the population should be available for harvest in 2017 since good buck ratios (29:100) were observed post season in 2016.  The severe winter of 2016-2017 likely will cause high fawn mortality that will affect future buck hunting in the next several years.  In the Clarks Fork herd, opportunities to harvest a mature buck deer in Areas 105 and 106 should still be good in both the late general season and the November limited quota season. Again, there will be higher than normal fawn mortality due to the severe winter that could reduce bucks in the future. 
 
Green River
As with pronghorn, hunters will find varying opportunities for mule deer in the Green River Region due to a combination of factors, primarily winter related.  Winter losses were very high in the Uinta and Wyoming Range Herd units (hunt areas 132-135 and 168 for the GR Region), and hunters will see significantly fewer deer on the mountain in these areas.  Fawn losses were very high in the Wyoming Range Herd based on radio collared fawns, and adult losses have been significantly higher than normal.  Fetal rates remained normal in pregnant does, but development of those fetuses and average date of birth was delayed this summer.  It is expected fawn mortality will likely be higher than normal due to this.  Deer losses were also very high in the Uinta Herd, as well due to winter conditions. 
 
Deer hunters will see fewer impacts in the eastern portion of the Green River Region due to much milder winter conditions and fewer winter losses.  Areas affected less by winter severity include our two limited quota areas, 101 and 102, and the two general license areas in the Baggs Mule Deer herd (areas 82 and 100).  Winter losses were light to normal in these populations. 
 
All general license areas in the Green River Region will have an antler point restriction for the 201 Hunting Season.  Hunters are encouraged to carefully review their regulations, since some antler point restrictions are 3 or more points on either antler, while other areas have a 4 point restriction.  Use of a 4 or more points antler point restriction will be employed in the Baggs Herd unit (Hunt Areas 82 and 100) because of a significant reduction in buck ratios, and in Area 131 due to very low deer numbers.  Areas 132, 133, 134, and 168 continue to have a 3 or more points antler point restriction based on public desire for maintaining this restriction in Uinta County, and Area 135 has been added this year to that list.  Antler point restrictions will have limited effect in 2017 in the Uinta and Wyoming Range Herd due to loss of last year’s fawn crop. 

Jackson
The Wyoming Range Deer Herd (Hunt Areas 134, 135, and 143-145)  is designated as a special management strategy herd which focuses on providing high quality hunting opportunities, mature  age class deer, and high buck:doe ratios (30-45:100).  Post season surveys in December 2016 indicated that fawn survival through summer was low with only 58 fawns:100 does. This follows the poor fawn recruitment of 61:100 seen in 2015.  Buck ratios continue to remain at some of the highest levels documented in Wyoming. This year observed buck:doe ratios were 36 bucks:100 does. By 2016, deer numbers had increased after three years of high over winter survival among all age/sex classes.  The extremely severe winter of 2016-2017, however, caused unprecendented mortality in all age classes, but particularly fawns and older deer. Hunters should anticipate seeing substantially fewer deer during the 2017 hunting season.
 
The southern portion of the herd unit will offer eight days of antlered deer hunting in Hunt Area 134 and 6 days of antlered deer hunting in Hunt Area 135.  Both areas  have  an antler point regulation that 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 will run from September 15-October 6 for Hunt Areas 143-145. A three-point or better regulation will be in place for these areas in 2017 as well.  In Hunt Area 145, a total of 50 limited quota Type 3 licenses valid for any white-tailed deer will be in place from September 15 to November 15, and unused Type 3 licenses valid for antlerless white-tailed deer will continue from November 16 to  January 31. 
 
Due to the severity of the 2016-2017 winter and associated deer losses, the nonresident quota was reduced 200 licenses in Region G, , resulting in a total of 400 nonresident licenses. 
 
The northern portion of the Sublette Deer Herd includes Hunt Areas 146, 150-152, 155, and 156 in the Jackson Region. Similar to the Wyoming Range,  high deer mortality caused by severe winter conditions in 2016-2017 will mean fewer deer for hunters to encounter during the 2017 hunting season.  Seasons in the Jackson area will run from September 15-October 6.
 
In addition to mule deer hunting opportunities, “any white-tailed deer” seasons will again be offered, as white-tailed deer numbers along many of the major river corridors appear to be stable to increasing.  In Hunt Area 145, a total of 50 Limited quota Type 3 licenses valid for any white-tailed deer will be in place from September 15 to November 15, followed by a November 16 to January 31 season for antlerless white-tailed deer for unused Area 145 Type 3 licenses.
 
The Targhee Herd (Hunt Area 149) is a small population on the west side of the Teton Range that is managed to provide recreational hunting opportunities.  Population growth of this herd is limited by winter range and habitat loss from residential developments.  Most crucial winter ranges are situated in Idaho and options to allow this population to grow are limited. In 2016, hunters reported a 35% success rate.  Hunting seasons in 2017 include a general license season for antlered deer from September 15 through October 6.  A Type 8, limited quota license will be offered again in 2017, valid for doe or fawn white-tailed deer.  Fifty licenses will be available. A new, Type 3 license will be offered in 2017, valid for any white-tailed deer. Fifteen Type 3  licenses will be available in 2017 and both the Type 3 and the Type 8 seasons  will run from September 15 to November 30.
 
Lander
 
Similar to pronghorn, mule deer populations had markedly declined over the last several years due to poor fawn productivity until increased fawn production (and likely survival) were realized starting in 2015.  As many as 92/100 fawns were observed in the Ferris Herd Hunt Area 87 and an average 67/100 fawns were observed in the Lander Region.  Of the five herds within the Lander Region with population size objectives, all remain below objective, though three are near, after the 2016 hunting season.  Concurrent with increased fawn survival, generally throughout the region buck to doe ratios increased.  That is not the case in the Sweetwater Herd unit (Hunt Areas 96 and 97) where the buck ratio declined to 19/100.  Once again, hunters observed more deer in 2016 than in previous years.  Similar observations should be realized in 2017 if winter survival is near average.  Hunters will have opportunity for additional buck harvest (mostly young bucks) as mule deer numbers have increased.  Despite increased fawn production some mule deer populations in the Lander Region continue to struggle and is likely attributable to relatively low fawn survival.  A case in point is the Sweetwater Herd Unit where the past two years fawn ratios have been 90/100 and 72/100, yet this population remains stable. As a result seasons are similarly conservative in 2017.  Hunters will continue to experience shorter seasons and markedly reduced doe/fawn licenses. 
 
Continued any white-tailed deer seasons are in place in the Dubois, Lander, Riverton, and Jeffrey City areas.  Extended seasons in the South Wind River Herd unit (Hunt Areas 92, 94, and 160) for white-tailed deer offers more hunting opportunity.  However, throughout much of the region white-tailed deer numbers remain relatively low due to an apparent epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) epizootic three years ago and have yet to recover.  As a result, license issuance for white-tailed deer specific licenses remains similar to that in 2016. 
 
Laramie
Hunters should expect to see improved deer hunting throughout the Laramie Region compared to last year. Mule deer populations have been increasing for the past few years, and buck ratios in many hunt areas are the highest they’ve been in over a decade, averaging in the mid 40’s per 100 does.  Mule deer herds across the region experienced good to average over-winter survival rates. Additionally, increased precipitation this spring and late summer has improved habitat and will contribute to good body condition, increased fawn ratios, and increased antler growth in bucks. The increased fat reserves from the better habitat conditions should improve mule deer survival over the coming winter. 
 
White-tailed deer hunting in southeast Wyoming should be good, especially for hunters with access to private land.  White-tailed deer populations have been increasing over the past few years.
 
Hunters are encouraged to review the 2017 deer hunting regulations.  Hunt Areas 74,75,76,and 77 have removed the 3-point or better regulation and are now any buck, and has gone from a seven day season to a ten day season. Hunt Areas 59 and 64 have increased the season length by one week for an October 15 – 31 season. Hunt Area 70 has also changed from a 3 point or better to an any buck season, and has added an additional day to the season to allow hunters to hunt the entire weekend
 
Pinedale
Portions of two mule deer herds are managed in the Pinedale Region: Sublette, and Wyoming Range.  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 ).  For the Sublette Herd, this population decreased below the post-hunt population objective in 2004 following significant winter losses when fawn mortality was estimated at 75% and adult mortality at 20%.  This herd unit has remained below desired population objective levels since that time.  Despite improved spring moisture and improved shrub productivity from 2009 to 2011, deer losses were extreme during the 2010-2011 winter, with an estimated 70% fawn loss.  Dry conditions during 2012 and 2013 resulted in poor production on winter habitats followed by improved moisture and forage production in 2014 and 2015.  Good fawn survival during the past three winters has resulted in population growth, but losses during the 2016-2017 winter will create a setback for population recovery efforts.
 
Post season surveys in December 2016 indicated that fawn survival through summer was low with only 61 fawns:100 does.  This follows the relatively poor fawn recruitment of 65:100 seen in 2015.  Observed buck:doe ratios were within the desired range at 41 bucks:100 does.  By 2016 deer numbers had increased after three years of high over winter survival among all age/sex classes, but the extremely severe winter of 2016-2017,  caused significant mortality in all age classes, but particularly fawns and older deer. As a result, hunters should anticipate seeing substantially fewer deer during the 2017 hunting season. 
 
The goal of the 2017 hunting season for the Sublette mule deer herd (Hunt Areas 130, 131, 138-142, 146, 150-156, and 162) is to minimize buck harvest to maintain postseason buck:doe ratios above 30:100, while still allowing hunting opportunity.     The nonresident quota in Region H dropped from 800 licenses in 2016 to 600 licenses in 2017, while General License seasons  will  run from September 15 through October 6. A limited quota, Type 3 any white-tailed deer license will be again be offered in Hunt Areas 138-140, and 142-143 from October 1 to November 30.
 
The Wyoming Range Deer Herd (Hunt Areas 134, 135, and 143-145)  is also designated as a special management strategy herd focused on providing high quality hunting opportunities, mature  age class deer, and high buck:doe ratios (30-45:100).  Post season surveys in December 2016 indicated that fawn survival through summer was low with only 58 fawns:100 does.  This follows the poor fawn recruitment of 61:100 seen in 2015.  Observed buck:doe ratios were within the desired range at 36 bucks:100 does. By 2016, deer numbers had increased after three years of high over winter survival among all age/sex classes.  However, the extremely severe winter of 2016-2017 has caused unprecendented mortality in all age classes, but particularly fawns and older deer. As a result, hunters should anticipate seeing substantially fewer deer during the 2017 hunting season.
 
In the southern portion of the herd unit will offer eight days of antlered deer hunting in Hunt Area 134 and 6 days of antlered deer hunting in Hunt Area 135.  Both areas  have  an antler point regulation that 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 will run from September 15-October 6 for Hunt Areas 143-145. A three-point or better regulation will be in place for these areas in 2017 as well.  In Hunt Area 145, a total of 50 limited quota Type 3 licenses valid for any white-tailed deer will be in place from September 15 to November 15, and unused Type 3 licenses valid for antlerless white-tailed deer will continue from November 16 to  January 31.
 
Due to the severity of the 2016-2017 winter and associated deer losses, the Region G nonresident quota was reduced  by 200, resulting in a total of 400 nonresident licenses.
 
Sheridan
Mule deer populations in the Sheridan Region are well below the population management objectives in all four herds.  However good fawn production in 2014 and 2015 resulted in growing populations.  Fawn production in the Sheridan Region during 2016 was lower in three of four herds. These same herds  had between 66 to 74 fawns per 100 does while in  the Powder River mule deer herd only 62 fawns per 100 does were observed. The winter of 2016-2017 had record cold and snow in portions of the region during December and January resulting in some fawn loss.  However, conditions improved during February and March melting off snow covered areas giving deer a break.
 
Continued concern about mule deer populations is evident from responses to landowner and hunter harvest surveys conducted following the 2016 hunting season.  Many landowners stated that mule deer populations were below desired levels and they wanted the same or more conservative seasons.  Observations by Department personnel during harvest field checks and classification surveys confirm that mule deer populations are still lower than desired in several parts of the Sheridan Region.
 
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.  Several ranches that used to take nonresident hunters willing to pay access/trespass fees and that allowed some hunting by residents, no longer are available.  Conversations by field personnel with some landowners indicate that hunting opportunities will again be limited in 2017.   Even though mule deer populations may be lower than desired, overall buck to doe ratios in Sheridan Region Herds 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 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 situations where there are damage concerns.  Attempts will be made to match the number of hunters with access to private lands, while keeping hunter numbers and harvest at more reasonable levels on accessible public lands.   The region C and region Y nonresident quotas were maintained at the same level as in 2016.
 
White-tailed deer in the Sheridan Region experienced disease die-offs in 2006, 2007, 2011 and again in 2013.  Because of the die-offs, very 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.
 
We have again set liberal white-tailed deer seasons with the hope of continuing to apply pressure on the population. The Hunt Areas 23, 26 Type 3 license quota was increased 50 licenses and the Hunt Area 24 Type 3 license quota was increased 100 licenses.  Due to recurrent damage situations, doe/fawn white-tailed deer seasons will again begin on September 1 in Hunt Areas 24, 27, 29, 30 and 33.    Doe/fawn white-tailed deer seasons will end on December 15th.  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.
 
Some ranches are catering more toward outfitted white-tailed deer hunts which makes it more difficult for residents to find places to hunt white-tailed deer, especially bucks.   



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