There’s little question that the mule deer hunting in Wyoming has been in quite a slump over the past decade or so. This year will probably be no different, unfortunately. Starting with a double tough winter run in 2016 followed up by on and off again drought years, the deer in Wyoming continue to drag along the bottom of a very difficult trend line. Last year showed some promise as the winter was relatively mild, however a very hot and very dry late summer and fall season put our deer in yet another difficult situation. The lower country deer mostly in the limited quota units suffered the worst, as the high-country deer in the general regions on the west side of the state have begun to show some promise of a rebound.
This past winter was very mild for most of our deer herds. The spring has been cold and long with the deer wintering out in good shape nearly statewide, but they have been delayed in arriving on their customary summering grounds. The high country is sitting on about 85% of normal snowpack, a bit below average but that snow has yet to begin melting at all and in most cases is still increasing in volume even this late into the spring. This could affect some of the high-country deer a bit as they arrive to a very large snow load and some difficult weather up at the higher elevations. The bucks should still manage to do very well but the does and soon to be new fawns could encounter some rough spring weather conditions and a delayed “green-up” which has an adverse impact on their nutritional needs.
The long and short of the story is; the high-country deer should continue to rebound with good fawn survival and recruitment as the bucks born after the bad winter in 2016 finally hit peak maturity of five years old. The lower country deer will continue to struggle with herd size and age class, and possibly antler quality due to the delayed spring weather. Based on these factors, the following are my top five deer area picks for the 2021 hunting season.
5) Region-H – For big buck potential and relative ease of draw Region-H should see a decent bounce in both buck numbers and buck quality. The deer here did have a bit rougher winter than those in Region-G, however, this country can and will hold some very good bucks in the far reaches and remote country this region holds dear. The hunting will not be easy here but given the normal snowpack and wet spring we are having, the bucks here should be in very good shape with top-line groceries on the ground for horn growth throughout the summer. This hunt should take about four or possibly five points to draw this year.
4) Region-G – As the crown jewel of western Wyoming big buck producers this general hunt region should be about as good as Wyoming has to offer up at this point in time for big buck hunters. With the post catastrophic winter buck fawns now knocking on the door of peak maturity age there should be more older class bucks in here this year than we have seen in the past five years. Coming off of a very mild winter and now into a wet, cool spring these bucks should have what it takes to grow the bone we all dream of. The bucks here have been two weeks late to arrive on their summering grounds but with a normal snowpack and potentially wet, cool summer on the horizon we are cautiously optimistic that this region will produce some very good bucks for the upcoming 2021 hunting season. Unfortunately, due to excessively high demand, this hunt could take nearly 10 preference points to draw this year. I fully expect this region to require eight or possibly even nine points to secure a tag.
3) 141-1 | The 141 hunt is essentially a limited quota deer hunt nestled inside of Wyoming’s famed general Region H. Coming in as my third choice this year, I think this hunt will excel for all the same reasons mentioned above for the two general regions next door. A mild winter, normal snowpack, and wet, cool spring will put the habitat in this area in very good shape for this summer. If we can manage to stumble onto one of our cool, wet summers this area should do very, very well for antler growth potential. With a later October season and limited hunting pressure this hunt should be of higher quality than it has been over the past five or six years. This hunt should be very, very solid for a 10-preference point spend in my opinion.