Hunting harvest off to one of the slowest starts ever

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Git yer elk? Don’t feel bad if the answer to this age-old seasonal question is no. You are not alone.

Game and Fish officials were ready for this. After a harsh winter last year took a severe toll on mule deer populations, the harvest this year was expected to be down. In fact, in the Pinedale region where mulies were especially decimated, many hunters opted to give them a break by not even putting in for a tag when they normally would.

According to South Jackson wildlife biologist Gary Fralick, the 2017 big game hunt seasons have resulted in the fewest number of mule deer and elk checked during any one hunting season over the last 25 years. Fralick and assistants worked a total of 11 check stations. The number of deer checked usually ranges between 100 to 155. This year, just 49 deer were checked.

Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas shares a laugh with an elk hunter in the northern Wyoming Range in early November. (WGFD)

However, despite elk herd numbers holding their own through last winter, elk harvest checks were the lowest ever as well. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fralick recalls checking 200-300 total elk during the hunting season. This year just 55 elk were checked. Over the last five years, approximately 55-75 elk were recorded through the Greys River Check Station alone. This year only 22 elk were recorded through the Greys River check station through the first five days of the hunting season. A total of at least 1,247 hunters/members of the public were contacted.

The story is similar in Sublette County. Pinedale region game wardens and biologists report some of the slowest early season big game hunting they can recall. According to Fralick, who has management responsibility over the northern Wyoming Range, the early 2017 big game hunt seasons have resulted in the fewest number of mule deer and elk checked during any one hunting season over the last 25 years.

North Pinedale game warden Bubba Haley estimates the overall deer harvest to be about half of what it has been in recent years.

Big Piney game warden Adam Hymas and Fralick both report that it hasn’t been all doom and gloom with several nice bucks being taken again. Also, with recent snows the late season elk harvest is picking up.

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