SUBLETTE COUNTY, Wyo. — Maybe don’t call it a “comeback” just yet but there is reason for optimism when it comes to the Sublette deer herd. Devastated by the winter of 2016-17, the population appears to be on the rebound and holding steady.
Pinedale Wildlife Biologist Dean Clause, along with area game wardens, completed the annual post-hunt season deer survey for the Sublette mule deer herd around Pinedale. The number of fawns observed is always a good indicator of where the population is headed and this year’s number of 67 fawns counted for every 100 does is slightly above the 10-year average for the herd. In addition, the overall proportion of bucks seen was again encouraging at 37 bucks:100 does, which equals the 10-year average.
Managers do not attempt to make a population estimate based on the total number of deer counted during the survey as it is just a sizeable sample, but the overall number of deer seen and counted does tend to provide a picture of the population trend. The overall sample size of deer classified this year was lower than the 10-year average again. That is attributed to the significant losses during the 2016-17 winter.
“It appears the Sublette deer herd is just holding its own after the hard winter of 2016-17,” Clause said. “It doesn’t seem to be bouncing back significantly.”
Clause also noted that the remaining winter will determine the trajectory of the herd, and in his experience, the severity of conditions during the month of February can play an especially critical role.
Wildlife managers will likely continue to propose conservative hunting seasons for 2020. The 2020 deer hunting season proposals will likely remain similar to the past several years with the exception of the proposal to end the three-point or better restriction on all bucks harvested.
Antler point restrictions can temporarily increase total buck to doe ratios but do not increase the number or ratio of adult bucks in the population, and when used over a long period can actually reduce the number of adult bucks by placing all harvest pressure on that cohort. Antler point restrictions have been in place in Pinedale and Jackson region deer hunt areas for the recommended three consecutive years.
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