CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department have released their “2020 Fall Hunting Forecast.” For the Casper Region, elk hunters may be most in luck.
“Elk numbers remain at or above objective levels in all herds,” Game and Fish says. “Elk seasons therefore continue to be extremely liberal in terms of season length and license issuance. In recent years, elk harvest has approached or exceeded record levels in many of the region’s herds.”
Casper Region Wildlife Management Coordinator Justin Binfet says that bull elk hunting opportunities are strong in the region.
“The region continues to provide excellent bull elk hunting opportunities, with many areas continuing to boast high harvest success on any-elk licenses and good mature bull antler quality,” he said in the hunting forecast.
Hunters with a license for anterless elk have experienced success in the Casper Region, according to Game and Fish.
“Antlerless elk hunter success continues to be good in most of the region, although high hunter densities on public lands often result in reduced hunter success in the early fall,” the department said. “In areas with interspersed public and private lands, antlerless elk hunters tend to require more days afield to harvest their elk as large cow/calf groups readily displace off of public land.”
“The 2020 seasons will continue to emphasize female elk harvest throughout the region, while providing good mature bull hunting in most areas. Those hunters willing to expend the effort should continue to enjoy remarkable numbers of elk and good success if the weather cooperates.”
White-tailed deer populations are healthy in the Casper Region, but Game and Fish notes that “the vast majority of white-tails occupy private lands, with the Black Hills being an exception where high densities can be found on U.S. Forest Service land.”
Antelope herds are “near or below the population management objective” with the exception of one herd which remains above Game and Fish’s objective.
“Over the past decade, antelope populations declined following a severe winter and subsequent drought, then rebounded through about 2017, but have since stabilized,” Binfet said. “Fawn production has generally been below what is needed for population growth in recent years. In addition, some portions of the region have experienced higher-than-normal winter losses of antelope over the past two years, particularly near Sundance and Newcastle and in some areas south of Casper.”
Despite antelope populations struggling in some areas of the region, Game and Fish says “hunters should experience high success as antelope license issuance is augmented based on population trends, and buck ratios remain strong.”
“Overall, hunters will experience moderate to high antelope densities in areas around Casper, but fairly modest densities in the rest of the region,” the department adds.
Binfet added: “Fortunately, hunters should expect to see better than average horn growth on mature bucks in most areas despite the extraordinary drought conditions occurring in most of the region this year. Antelope entered last winter in very good condition due to excellent forage production in 2019, and then experienced relatively mild spring weather this year — conditions which are ideal for good horn growth.”
Antelope hunters in areas west of Casper may be asked to have the horns of the antelope they harvest measured and have the teeth pulled to determine ages “as part of a research project to evaluate optimal buck ratios to balance hunting opportunity with maximum horn growth potential,” Game and Fish adds.
The forecast for mule deer hunting in the region is mixed, according to the department. Many areas in the Casper Region are “supporting more mule deer than in much of the past 10 years.”
“Other areas continue to harbor lower than desired mule deer densities, especially in the Laramie Range (hunt areas 65 and 66),” Game and Fish add. “Buck ratios remain high in most mule deer herds, and hunter success should be good for those hunters hunting on private lands and in limited quota areas.”
“Those hunting public land in general license areas may experience low to moderate success in the face of higher hunting pressure and below-objective mule deer numbers.”
Game and Fish said that those who are able to hunt on private land between Lusk and Newcastle in the Cheyenne River area “should again see relatively good numbers of large antlered bucks as in the past couple of years.”
Binfet added: “Hunters lucky enough to draw a license in limited quota conservatively managed areas should see very high buck ratios with modest trophy potential. In these high altitude, desert areas most prime-age mature bucks don’t get exceptionally large compared to some portions of the state. However, these herds are managed for strong numbers of older aged bucks and still produce some very nice deer every year.”
Game and Fish add that they are asking hunters to help with chronic wasting disease management this fall. Hunters can provide assistance toward these efforts by providing lymph node samples from deer, elk or moose for CWD testing.
“These samples are important to determine and monitor CWD prevalence for the health of the herd,” said Game and Fish Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Edberg. “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. Please read all you can about CWD, how you can help and the requirements for hunters on our website”
Game and Fish add that new hunters who haven’t completed a required hunter safety course are able to participate in the department’s 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,” the department says. “Forms are available on the Game and Fish website.“
Game and Fish add:
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.”
Hunting regulations are available on the Game and Fish website. Public access information is available through Access Yes, including walk-in hunting areas and hunter management areas.
Those with questions about regulations or licensing can call (307) 777-4600. Wyoming Game and Fish Department
This article originally appeared on Oil City News. Used with permission.