JACKSON, Wyo. — Days are still warm, but nighttime lows are starting to indicate fall might be around the corner.
In Wyoming, fall knocks gently before it sweeps through the state. It starts with the first sub-40-degree night, even though the days are scorchers. Next, a few yellowing leaves crown the clusters of green branches. Before you know it, it’s time to head afield. The Wyoming 2020 hunting season is here.
“Wyoming has a tremendous hunting season upcoming, and I want to extend a thank you to hunters for their support to conserve our state’s wildlife,” said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director. “Take time to savor the Wyoming outdoors and your hunting trips. Use the regulations as your guide and best of luck in your harvests.”
This fall, Game and Fish is again asking hunters to help with chronic wasting disease management. Hunters can help by providing a lymph node sample from your deer, elk or moose, for chronic wasting disease testing especially if hunting in a CWD priority monitoring area.
“These samples are important to determine and monitor CWD prevalence for the health of the herd,” said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of wildlife. “Follow all carcass transport and disposal regulations to help limit the spread of CWD, both within Wyoming and other states. Hunters are a key part of CWD management.”
New hunters who haven’t been able to take a required hunter safety course can participate in the hunter mentor program. The program gives new hunters or those who have been unable to attend a hunter education course the opportunity to hunt under the close guidance of an experienced mentor.
Hunters finalizing plans can use the Game and Fish Hunt Planner for maps and previous year’s harvest statistics. Maps are available for offline use, making the hunt boundary and land status lines clear for even the most remote hunt areas. As always, big game hunters are reminded that hunt areas denoted with an asterisk (*) have limited public hunting access and are largely comprised of private lands.
The region harbors a small migratory segment of the Sublette antelope herd in hunt area 85. Due to the rather small number of antelope few licenses are offered. Due to the distribution of antelope and public access opportunities, most antelope hunting occurs in the Gros Ventre River drainage. Population estimates for the entire Sublette antelope herd are currently below desired levels, but hunters lucky enough to draw a license in hunt area 85 will have a great hunt and should experience high success rates.
Portions of the Sublette and Wyoming Range mule deer herds are managed in the Jackson Region, including hunt areas 150-152, 155-156 and 144-146.
“Both herds include large populations with special management strategies designed to provide high quality hunting opportunities for older age-class bucks,” said Doug McWhirter, Jackson region wildlife management coordinator. “While recent harsh winters have complicated herd recovery, hunters willing to put in the time and effort should be rewarded with an opportunity to harvest a trophy-class mule deer buck from abundant public lands.”
Antler point restrictions are lifted so hunters will have more flexibility this year. The region also includes the Targhee mule deer herd unt area 149) and hunt area 148 of the Dubois mule deer herd, both of which contain very low deer densities and see limited hunter numbers and harvest.
Small populations of white-tailed deer may be found near riparian habitats throughout the region, and all deer hunt areas offer the opportunity for hunters to harvest white-tails during the general season. In 2020, five hunt areas were combined (hunt areas 148-152) to offer limited-quota Type 3 any white-tailed deer license holders more places to hunt during the Sept. 15-Nov. 30 season.
The region manages four elk herds — Jackson, Fall Creek, Afton and Targhee — that currently contain approximately 17,000 elk. These areas provide a wide range of hunting opportunities, from early season rifle hunts for branch-antlered bulls in the Teton Wilderness to late antlerless elk seasons on private lands in several areas to address elk damage to stored crops and co-mingling with livestock.
All or parts of the Jackson, Sublette and Targhee moose herds are found in the region. All are managed under a special management strategy to provide recreational opportunities while maintaining a harvest of older age-class bulls.
“While moose numbers continue to remain below desired levels, hunters lucky enough to draw a license should experience high success and have a good chance of harvesting an older age class bull,” McWhirter said.
The Jackson (hunt area 7) and Targhee (hunt area 6) bighorn sheep herds are found in the region. Sheep numbers in Area 7 are currently at management objectives, and hunter success and the average age of harvested rams is expected to be high in 2020, as they were in 2019. Sheep in the Targhee herd exist along the crest of the Tetons and hunting access is across difficult and rugged terrain.
Mountain goat numbers in Hunt Area 2 are at desired levels, and hunter success is usually high — upwards of 90% and made up primarily of older age-class billies.
This will be the second year a Type A license is offered in hunt area 4.
“This hunt area and license type was created to reduce mountain goat numbers in the Teton Range and minimize the expansion of mountain goats into important bighorn sheep habitats of the Targhee herd,” McWhirter said. “Unlike mountain goat Type 1 and Type 2 licenses, Type A licenses are not once-in-a-lifetime, and hunters could potentially draw a license and hunt a mountain goat every year.”
Due to the very difficult terrain, the low number of goats that reside outside of Grand Teton National Park, and the intent of this license, hunters should anticipate expending considerable effort for a chance to harvest a mountain goat in the Tetons.
Bison numbers are currently near the management objective of 500. Recently, mild weather and aversion to hunting pressure on the National Elk Refuge (NER) have resulted in delayed or little to no movement of bison from Grand Teton National Park into the open hunt area on the NER. That makes achieving harvest objectives difficult and can be frustrating for hunters. Some bull hunting occurs on U.S. Forest Service lands, but bison availability there is intermittent and low.
Hunters interested in upland game birds can find some of the best blue (dusky) and ruffed grouse habitats of the state, and seasons run from September through December. Due to the very small and isolated population of sage grouse, no hunting seasons are offered. Small game hunters can pursue cottontails and snowshoe hares until the end of March, though populations can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. Late season hunters need to be mindful of winter range closures in some areas that begin in December.
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