The antelope hunting last fall produced some of the poorest results in recent memory statewide. With a three-year drought as the main contributing factor the hunting was very tough for big bucks in the Cowboy State. As a result, the state has continued to cut and slash tag quotas in nearly every region of the state in a desperate effort to compensate for massive declines in antelope numbers. With nearly 10,000 fewer buck antelope tags up for grabs and a corresponding increase in nonresident applicants versus only three short years ago, the draw odds are going to be tougher than ever this year.
A slight ray of hope has emerged over the past 90 days however. A very mild winter has blessed the remaining antelope herds with good condition going into the spring and summer months. Add to that the fact that our spring has been somewhat mild, but cold with slightly above average moisture and we may be on track for not only a decent horn growth season but possibly even the beginning of a rebound in our antelope populations.
If prior history is any indication, Wyoming does tend to grow some very large bucks on the heels of a large die off like we have seen over the past three years. Given the current weather and improved habitat conditions, with a little help this summer could find us on the cusp of a decent year for good bucks for those who manage to draw a tag for the 2022 fall season.
With that said, I have chosen hunt areas this year which mostly revolve around the best regions for historic large horn growth and superior genetic composition. I have never picked areas so concentrated around specific regions before, but this is a year like no other, that I can remember anyhow. All five of these hunt areas reside in the northern Sweetwater region of Wyoming along the North side of Interstate-80. This region was the first to die off five years ago and is now the first to rebound accordingly.
1. Area 60-1, This area is large, public (65%) and has some serious big buck potential. Add to that a tag quota increase of 100% for this year and there is little doubt in my mind that some good bucks will be taken out here this year. This hunt will take 15 or 16 points to draw this year but could be worth the point burn if the weather holds out into the summer months.
2. Area 62-1, As a classic antelope unit and the little brother next door to my number one choice, the hunt in Area 62 should be solid. The Area 62 hunt has a very slim quota offering a very high-quality, low pressure antelope hunt with only 50 tags on quota. There are two separate hunts to choose from in this unit with the Type-1 being the best of the two but requiring about 14 points to draw while the Type-2 hunt is limited in geographic area, but only takes about 12 points to draw. This area resides in the famous county of Carbon in Wyoming which is the richest big buck county in the entire country. The genetics here cannot be denied.
3. Area 61-1, Another I-80 corridor hunt this hunt is sandwiched square in the middle between Areas 60 and 62. The quota in this area was also increased for the 2022 hunting season by 40% indicating an antelope herd that is in the rebound phase. This hunt will require about 12 points to draw but could be well worth the wait this year.
4. Area 92-1, Shifting gears a bit and drifting to the North, the antelope hunt is Area-92 is one of my favorite hunts in the entire state. If you are looking for a very fun and relaxing antelope hunt with plenty of bucks to shop through and tons of public land with very little access concerns, all while providing the outside chance at a big buck, this is the hunt for you. With a large area and a large quota, this hunt area offers a bit better odds with a chance at a buck tag with about 10 or 12 preference points. On a good year, this hunt can produce some very nice bucks for a savvy antelope hunter, but does tend to lack those in the giant category.
5. Area 96-1, The West Farson hunt is a very good area for those looking to take a good buck with limited hunting pressure and plenty of public land to hunt. The bucks here can be very spread out and nearly the entire unit is high quality antelope habitat. This hunt only has 100 tags available and a very gracious eight-week season. I like the potential here for a big buck coming off the very mild winter and soft spring landing that is occurring here.
Area 48-1, This hunt is in the heart of the famed Carbon County, and should only take about seven or eight points to draw. The unit is about 65% public with “Fair” public access, so you may have to work hard to crack the code on the access here, but if you do your research a good hunt with some serious upside potential could be had here for those who do the work.
Area 94-1, The Carter Lease antelope hunt can be very solid on the right year. Coming off a mild winter this could be just what the doctor ordered for this hunt. Access here can be a little bit tricky but not impossible. This hunt should be attainable for about five or six points this year. I really like what I see here from a statistical standpoint.
Area 110-1, The Greybull River hunt for antelope while not known for big bucks is a very solid choice for a fun and relaxing hunt with plenty of bucks and some very solid bowhunting potential. A good buck here is in the mid 70’s but there are lots and lots of them. These antelope can reside at very high elevations making for a very interesting above timberline antelope hunt which might be something very unique for some. This is a great hunt for a decent buck for only about five points.
I hope this helps you out and if you find yourself on the fence or holding a ton of points this might be a good year to hold out and buy a point. If this year does turn out better than expected for antelope hunting, next year should be even better. With all the tag quota reductions we have seen lately, those that do draw an antelope tag this year, theoretically will be over-paying for the opportunity. At least that is one way to look at it. Sometimes, better safe than sorry is the best plan particularly if you have 15 years vested in the system. Best of luck to all of you no matter what you decide.