For the past 14 months, the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce has debated some of the most contentious issues in wildlife management for the Cowboy State. Everything from license allocations to landowner licenses and habitat improvements have been at the table for this group. Throughout the entire process, members of the taskforce noted how many of these issues are intertwined with one another often remarking “when you pull one string with a change, the whole ball unravels.”
To try and encompass all the different impacts of a recommendation for license changes within deer, elk, and pronghorn in the state, the Taskforce put together a plan they referred to as the “Comprehensive Proposal.” Within the proposal were 6 independent pieces presented as a package to the Taskforce which they voted and made recommendations on in the August Wildlife Taskforce meeting.
They are as follows:
- Establish high demand and standard demand hunt designations in Wyoming for deer, elk and pronghorn.
- Create 90% resident, 10% non-resident allocation split for high demand hunts, 85% resident, 15% non-resident allocation split for standard demand hunts.
- Create a waiting period of 3-years for someone who holds a high demand hunting license for that species
- Give residents preference to draw licenses first in the leftover drawing before the non-residents draw a license in the leftover draw.
- Weighted bonus point system for resident pronghorn, deer, and elk
- Create an outfitter draw requiring non-residents to apply with an outfitter or with a landowner sponsor for 50% of the license non-resident allocation
Most of these six items were originally put out for public comment in June, however the Taskforce members recognized the package was large and complex, so the comment period was extended for two months.
In that timeframe, there were over 2,000 comments in support, against, and for status quo on all of these six items. Additionally, the Taskforce discussed preliminary results at the July 7th meeting based on what they were seeing from comments.
By the time the August 8th meeting rolled around, the Taskforce had spent months on these issues and gathered significant public comment – especially related to the 90/10 allocation, outfitter draw, and weighted bonus points.
The co-chairs, Rusty Bell and Josh Coursey, directed the Taskforce to take the package apart piece by piece based on the comments they all had received. The first recommendation was moving the resident preference in the leftover draw (proposition 4) forward to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. From here, the Commission will draft logistics and discuss implementing a resident preference in the leftover draw.
Secondly, proposition 1 and 3 were advanced for further discussion on how to make a waiting period work for resident deer, elk, and pronghorn draws. The modeling presented to the Taskforce showed that a waiting period is the most effective tactic in improving the drawing odds for residents in a random drawing system. However, to make a waiting period for hard-to-draw areas, the Taskforce wanted to create a threshold for hunts to enter waiting periods. That way easy-to-draw hunts, like some whitetail buck licenses that often have leftovers, would not be included in the waiting period.
The last, and most continuous propositions received very little discussion from the Taskforce. The weighted bonus points system recommendation (proposition 5) was rejected with only one member of the Taskforce supporting it in voting. Then, both the 90/10 and outfitter draw (propositions 2 and 6) were voted for rejection. Again, there was little to no discussion held at this meeting. After the previous conversations that had taken place at the other meetings and from the amount of feedback the Taskforce received, the Taskforce seemed to have its mind made up. Again, only one member of the Taskforce voted in favor of keeping propositions 2 and 6.
At the end of the day, what does this mean for Wyoming hunters? First, the Wildlife Taskforce looked deeply into these controversial issues, sifted through thousands of comments, and came up with a decision to maintain status quo on three of the six items presented in the Comprehensive Package. Resident preference in leftovers will move forward as a recommendation to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department from here. Also, the waiting period and high-demand hunt language is going to be drafted and available for public comment in the near future.
If you are interested in staying involved with the Taskforce’s decision regarding resident only waiting periods for high-demand deer, elk, and pronghorn licenses, be sure to check the Taskforce web page and submit public comment ahead of the September meeting.
There are many more topics for the Taskforce to cover in their final three meetings, including solutions to hunter access issues, landowner licenses, and license fees, so stay tuned for more!