Cheyenne: The anticipation for hunters has been building for months, but the time has come or is fast approaching as the seasons for big and small game are about to open up across Wyoming. Some trends, good and bad, seem to be true again in 2022. Mother Nature will play a role in the success of hunters and the survival of animals, but how much?
Whether you’re looking for pronghorn along the plains, deer or elk in the mountains, bighorn sheep high in the mountains, or birds along the plains and wetlands, check out the Game and Fish Department’s hunting forecast of Wyoming by 2022 from eight regions of the state. Forecasts for each region are based on data and field observations by department biologists.
Before you head out, be sure to review the 2022 hunting rules for seasonal changes.
Hunters who catch a deer or elk in any of the state’s chronic debilitating disease focus areas are encouraged to get tested. The information is incredibly valuable and will help Game and Fish’s long-term control and management efforts.
Hunters and recreationists are reminded to be aware of the spread of invasive plant species and to report trap locations to the County’s Weed and Pest District. If drought conditions persist, this could affect daily hunting patterns and may require hunters to expend additional effort locating animals.
As always, big game hunters are reminded that hunting areas indicated with an asterisk
they have limited access to public hunting and are largely made up of private land. In these areas, hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private land before applying for a license, or at least recognize that hunting on small, isolated patches of public land can be difficult and frustrating at times.
Laramie Region (includes Pine Bluffs)
Population trends and corresponding hunting opportunities vary substantially across the region. Grassland herds in the north and east, including hunting areas 38, 11, 34 and 103, have declined over the past five years, along with notable declines in fawn production. There are decent numbers of males left in these herds, but older animals will be harder to find. Sportsmen should expect to see fewer pronghorn in the Laramie Valley and Shirley Basin compared to previous years with reduced hunting opportunities. However, populations in Hunting Areas 47 and 48 are experiencing an increase. The pronghorn in Hunt Area 50 are doing well. The southwestern portion of the Platte Valley, specifically Hunt’s Area 51, saw a slight reduction in population, thus female and fawn licenses were reduced. Due to low summer precipitation across much of the region, similar to 2021, pronghorn are likely to concentrate near wet meadows and other water sources.
Populations in the Platte Valley and Shirley Mountain herds have been stable and have increased slightly over the past four years. The Mullen Fire, which consumed more than 176,000 acres in 2020, has greatly altered the landscape in the Snowy Range. The population within the Sheep Mountain herd has been in steady decline in recent years, however, the regeneration of important grass and shrub species indicated that burning will have long-term positive effects on fawn breeding and survival. Hunters should be prepared for downed timber on the US Forest Service road system. Male ratios remain high in the Platte Valley, allowing for increases within hunting areas that may create additional pressure. If moderate weather conditions continue into fall, hunters will most likely target deer in the higher altitude summer and transition ranges. Poor calf production coupled with a high prevalence of chronic wasting disease continues to suppress populations in Goshen Rim and Laramie Mountains herds. Hunters may have a hard time finding older deer and should be prepared to hunt more than normal if they are after a trophy deer. Submission of CWD samples is required in Game Areas 59, 60, and 64. Fish and Game monitoring stations and staff will be present throughout the season to assist with the required collection effort.
Stocks remain above targets with ample harvest opportunities throughout the region. The Mullen Fire is likely to contribute to herds that are already too objective by causing plant communities to revert to an early successional stage, which generally improves survival of young and adults. Hunters are encouraged to hunt south of Wyoming Highway 130 within the Snowy Range herd to take advantage of elk utilizing the burn scar where these vegetation improvements occurred. Several changes have been made to the hunting areas of the Snowy Range herd, as well as the Shirley Mountain herd, so hunters should familiarize themselves with the dates and limitations before heading into the field. Given the hunting pressure on public lands, sportsmen should be prepared to pursue elk in areas that are a considerable distance from well-traveled roads and trails. Look for additional access opportunities at game and fish hunter management areas and access areas, and be sure to obtain a permit form.
Hunting should be excellent throughout the Laramie region. Hunting Areas 18 and 21 are open for the 2022 season. Hunters typically experience greater than 90% success in herds from Douglas Creek, Encampment River, and Laramie Peak. The same is expected this year. The Mullen Fire burned within areas favored by bighorn sheep, so habitat is expected to improve within the Douglas Creek herd.
Excellent hunting opportunities are expected in the Snowy Range pack. Crop success on the Type 1 and Type 4 licenses continues to be exceptional, and the herd maintains high sire ratios and good calf production. Regrowth from the Mullen Fire is expected to improve elk habitat.
Average or below average rainfall throughout the region will result in marginal breeding survival for upland game birds, particularly sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants, and sage grouse. Sooty or blue grouse should be in better shape given falling precipitation events at higher elevations, as well as recovery of vegetation within the Mullen Fire. The department will continue to stock pheasants for the Springer special hunt as well as for the general season during November and a portion of December in areas enrolled in the Access Yes and Springer WHMA programs. The release sites will be available to the public by November 1, which is the opening date of the general pheasant season.
Drought conditions in southeastern Wyoming were as severe or worse than in 2021, particularly in eastern Albany, Platte, Goshen, and Laramie counties. However, further away from those areas there were significantly more precipitation events, so hunters can expect to see ungulates more spread out across the landscape. Average to poor juvenile survival is expected, which will affect what hunters see in the landscape for big game species.