The winter snowpack ended up just shy of historic average levels. With only a few spring snowstorms and some very mild spring temperatures, our spring has been just what the doctor ordered for our wildlife. We had a very warm early spring, which then turned into a very mild, but wet late spring and possibly even into summer. The grass, wildflowers and new growth are about as good as it gets this year. We haven’t seen single spring growth like this in years, including after the tough winter of 2010.
The herds look good so far. I expect the elk to do very well in Wyoming this year. The antler growth should be exceptional, and coming off our first wolf hunting season ever, the calf crop should be one of the best in years, if I had to guess. On a recent trip over the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming, we glassed up over 500 cow elk almost all with a newborn spring calf in tow. With deep green grass and mild spring weather the calves looked to be in great shape.
The antelope herds in Wyoming should begin to bounce back this year coming off what turned out to be one of the worst antelope seasons in recent memory. I expect the herd numbers to be down slightly this year, but the quality should be fair to good. The antelope begin their horn growth in December, so even though we had a mild winter the winter range conditions and winter feed where pretty rough this year. I’m not sure the antelope will top off enough to make a significant difference during the spring and summer months. I have seen some pretty good bucks on my travels around the state already, so I may stand corrected come September. I can only hope so.
As for the deer, the struggle continues. I have not seen a mortality report for the state yet, but I suspect we did lose some deer last winter during our cold snap in January, where we did hit over twenty below zero in the western part of the state. With little feed on the winter range for the deer even though the winter was relatively mild, it was probably pretty tough on the deer. With the decent snow pack and wet spring, I do expect the horn growth to be very good this year. Possibly better than we have seen in years. So as far as mule deer go, I would say quantity will be down but quality will be up significantly versus last fall.
Either way, our habitat is beginning to improve region wide. A couple more winters and springs like this one and our wildlife herds will be much better off than in years past. Cross your fingers and good luck in the rest of the draws.