The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released the 2020 Sheridan Region Fall hunting forecast.
After numerous years of favorable precipitation, the region is experiencing a drought. The United States Drought Monitor reported early-August conditions that ranged from moderate drought in Campbell County to areas of extreme drought in Sheridan and Johnson counties.
“Hunters will help manage herds by achieving harvest objectives to balance herds with less productive habitat prior to the upcoming winter,” Dan Thiele, Sheridan Region wildlife management coordinator said. “Hunters should also note there have already been numerous range fires so extreme caution is advised this fall when taking to the field.”
Hunter densities on many accessible tracts of public land can be high, especially on opening day and weekends. Hunters who plan hunts later in the season often see fewer hunters.
Antelope hunting will be similar to 2019 with most herds near management objectives and most hunt areas supporting high buck ratios.
“Fawn ratios were down slightly in 2019 so herd growth was less than normal,” Thiele said.
Winter was generally mild with herds entering the coldest months in excellent condition following last year’s rainfall. However, some areas experienced disease-related mortality this spring. Even so, most hunt areas have maintained license quotas.
A notable change is in hunt areas 1-6 and 17 where the archery season opening date was standardized to Aug. 15 to match other areas. Hunters should again experience high hunter success, especially when private land access is arranged.
“Those looking for that trophy buck may find fewer to choose from given the extremely dry spring impacting forage conditions,” Thiele said.
Mule deer populations remain well below the population management objectives in all four herds.
“Harvest strategies are designed to provide quality buck hunting opportunities while maintaining conservative antlerless deer harvest to maximize herd growth while addressing localized areas of cropland depredation,” Thiele said.
Higher 2019 postseason fawn ratios, combined with a relatively mild winter, projects slightly higher deer numbers and more yearling bucks this fall. Overall, buck-to-doe ratios are quite high.
White-tailed deer seasons are very liberal with ample opportunity to put venison in the freezer, especially if one secures access to private lands. Nearly all hunt areas offer November hunting seasons and many doe/fawn seasons extend into December to allow maximum harvest to manage this population.
“Securing access to private land increases a hunter’s chance of being successful since most white-tailed deer are found on private land,” Thiele said. “Hunters are reminded that late season hunting is very popular with increasing interest in doe/fawn hunting, so contacting landowners early increases one’s chance to secure access.”
Now is a great time to be an elk hunter — even more for antlerless elk. Long seasons are in place to help achieve desired harvest. Limited-quota any elk licenses continue to be difficult to draw but those lucky in drawing a permit have a reasonable chance at harvesting a mature bull. Several areas have leftover antlerless and cow/calf permits but these tend to be private land areas where access to hunt is limited.
Fall and spring wild turkey seasons in hunt areas 1 and 3 will again offer general license opportunity with Type 3 licenses also available in Hunt Area 3. Type 3 licenses provide additional opportunity for hunters, particularly for those that get access to private land where most turkeys are found.
Nesting success is key to good fall populations of upland game birds. Favorable spring weather combined with high grasshopper numbers may give upland bird hunters improved hunting over last year. Pheasant hunters will benefit from the Game and Fish’s Sheridan Bird Farm releasing birds on some walk-in areas and other public lands.