Wyoming Pronghorn – Disease & Winter Mortality: Worth Applying? – Todd Helms
“This year, we are going to be at the lowest license issuance since I started tracking it in 1998,” Binfet said. “And it probably goes way beyond that.”
Wyoming is a notoriously harsh place to call home; drought ridden summers followed by extreme winters can make survival almost impossible for even the hardiest critters, like pronghorn. When you factor in disease outbreaks such as the most recent one south of Pindedale, which has claimed 200 pronghorn and counting, it simply stands to reason that tag numbers will be cut and hunting opportunities will be decreased, and rightly so.
This is the time of year when I’m helping folks make decisions on Wyoming applications, heck everyone one in our office does, but what I’ve been telling folks this year hasn’t been popular when it comes to “antelope”. Even my own dad was a bit incredulous about my application advice for speed goats in 2023.
In short, buy points if you’re a non-resident. Most areas of the state are going to see more tag reductions and that means higher drawing odds and this year the trophy quality is more than likely not going to be worth the point spend in the best areas. Guy just finished up his Wyoming pronghorn analysis and it looks bleak. Taking his advice and going with what I’ve been observing, now is the time to bank points and wait for conditions to improve and antelope numbers to rebound. Remember, pronghorn do the bulk of their horn growing during the winter and when winters are harsh, like this one, they put more energy into survival than horn growth.
If you’re a resident, like me, staying the course with your regular “local” application choice may be the best option as going for broke on a low-odds “Blue-Chip” unit is probably best put on the back burner until things get better. This may also be a good year to give pronghorn a break. . . yup, you heard me right, maybe not applying at all is what’s best for the animals. Especially for those of us who live in highly affected areas like the I-80 corridor or western Wyoming. As in all years there are areas where the pronghorn have wintered out just fine and avoided disease as well. If you find yourself in one of those areas then trusting the Wyoming Game & Fish biological assessments and tag allocations is sound wisdom but if you’re not seeing the animals you normally see or feel that locally, the tag allocation may be too high, then perhaps it’s time to do your part and give them a break.
I love to hunt pronghorn, both bucks and does. My family looks forward to the camaraderie of those hunts each fall and pronghorn is the first meat to disappear from our freezers each year. Making the hard choice and cutting back on our consumption of pronghorn this year may have to be a reality for my family but if that’s what I feel like the animals need then that is exactly what my family will do.
However, we slice it pronghorn hunting in Wyoming, and the surrounding states, this coming fall, is most likely not going to be stellar: banking points for non-residents and closely examining the local situation for residents is going to be the right call for the quality of the hunting and more importantly the health and quality of Wyoming’s pronghorn herds.
Favor, what’s your opinion on area 69 for Antelope near Casper? Is it worth the chance . Not sure how the winter or disease was there. Thank you
Email sent Tom