With fall just around the corner and the velvet antlers getting ever harder, the pieces are beginning to fall into place giving us a better outlook on what this hunting season may in fact hold for those of us who intend to head afield in the Cowboy State.
Coming off a very mild winter, wet spring and damp warm summer, things tend to be looking up for the big game herds in Wyoming for this fall’s hunt. The elk herds in Wyoming continue to fare very well in most regions, while the mule deer herds continue to struggle as expected. Wyoming’s antelope herds look to be somewhat of a mixed bag for this fall as drought conditions have finally eased statewide in comparison to the past few years.
Elk hunters in Wyoming should see very solid results this fall on good to large bulls. With a very robust elk herd on the map, Wyoming continues to deliver a very solid elk hunting experience for those lucky enough to have a tag in their pocket for the fall season. Elk numbers in Wyoming should be as good as ever this fall with trophy quality about as good as it gets. The bulls in the higher elevations should be of very good quality with plenty of bulls to choose from this year as our elk herds have continued to expand in most areas of the state. The elk hunting in the more arid portions of the state should be solid with herd numbers near the Game and Fish objective levels. The good moisture levels seen this spring and summer should have the bull quality at a much higher level than the past few years have seen with some elk herds possibly even moving back into some of the more traditional ranges after being displaced by the drastic drought conditions of the past few years. Overall, I would put the elk hunting forecast level in Wyoming at a very solid “A-” for the 2022 hunting season.
As good as the elk forecast is, the mule deer outlook is so often the other side of the coin and this year should be no different. With mule deer numbers in a drastic decline statewide, the deer in Wyoming and the entire West for that matter continue to struggle. With numbers down drastically, the moisture levels and habitat improvements should actually have buck quality and antler growth on the upside for this fall, particularly when compared to the past few years. The largest bright spot should be the high-country bucks on the western side of the state who have stood to benefit the most from a mild winter and wet summer. Last year was a very solid season for high-country buck deer and this year should be even better, as the drastic winters of 2016 and 2017 are now, finally, five years behind us. The deer in the more arid portions of the state continue to struggle with numbers and quality. Although, I do expect this year to be better than last for bucks in the lower elevations, these hunts will still lack in quality and abundance again this year. In a nutshell, deer hunting in the Regions of G, H and K should be much improved, along with hunt areas 141 and 130. The remaining general regions and hunt areas should be about the same as last year. As a summary, I would grade the mule deer hunting in Wyoming this fall to be a very shaky “C-” at this point in time.
The antelope scenario in Wyoming is one of a mixed bag. Some areas have continued to rebound nicely over the past few years and with improved drought conditions this should put this trend on the fast track. These areas are in the regions in and around Rawlins, Evanston and Pinedale, which are comprised mostly of the antelope hunt areas in the 50s, 60s and 90s. These regions should see more antelope and more big antelope than the past few years have provided. I fully expect some very good bucks to be taken here this fall. The antelope regions around Casper, Cody and Gillette will continue to struggle with low numbers of antelope as well as a lack in buck quality. Although some big bucks can and probably will still come out of these hunt units this year, their frequency will be significantly less than years past. These antelope hunt units will be in the teens, 40s, 70s and 80s. In conclusion, I would say that an antelope hunt in Wyoming this fall should produce results in the vicinity of about a solid “C+” with all factors considered.
Best of luck to all of you with a Wyoming big game tag in your pocket. Wyoming is a fantastic state to hunt in and this fall will be no different. The pure size of the buck or bull is just one facet of the hunt to consider. The largest measurement of the hunt is the overall experience and the adventure and Wyoming is guaranteed not to disappoint.