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Wyoming Winter Devastation

Photo Credit: Brandon Mason

Another day, another snow storm. Unless you are pushing the envelope on 80 years on this rock then this winter will probably be the worst you’ve ever seen in Wyoming. The winter conditions in the Cowboy State and others have gone from bad to worse, and now possibly even to the level of catastrophic. 

A few short weeks ago we were sitting on levels not seen since the brutal winter of the mid-1980s. Now, some are saying we are knocking on the door and maybe even through the threshold of the great winter of 1949! One of the worst on record. Although we may not be at the snow levels seen in 1949, we have now passed the longest winter on record by some accounts. It seems to be more about how the snow has come and not as much about the actual snow levels that have many throughout the state very, very concerned for our wildlife populations. 

Although no official statement regarding actual numbers has been made by the Game and Fish Department, very credible, on the ground, sources have reported some devastating news for Wyoming big game hunters and enthusiasts. Some areas on the western and Southern ends of the state could possibly see winter kill ratios in the neighborhood of 80% for their deer and antelope herds! Needless to say, if this turns out to be true, it would be beyond devastating for an already struggling deer herd. 

The ever-famed Wyoming Range deer herd could drop below 20,000 deer, a far cry from a population that once sported over 80,000 deer. The antelope in the area are in even worse shape with a double whammy of winter kill and a rare pneumonia outbreak creating a vicious double-edged sword for the pronghorn herds in and around the Pinedale and Baggs regions. 

Last night in Pinedale, the Governor of Wyoming hosted an emergency public meeting to discuss the dire situation in Wyoming. A full house was in attendance as well as a full boat of heavy hitters from the state agencies and the University. Many in attendance even offered to completely forgo the hunt altogether in Wyoming for the next year or two if it might help the situation. 

Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik said the antelope across the state are struggling to survive as deep, hard packed snow has cut off their traditional migration routes and made their forage inaccessible. 

Snow plow drivers and road crews across the I-80 corridor are literally filling entire dump trucks with dead deer and antelope carcasses. Reports of dozens, if not hundreds of elk being hit by trains in Uinta county as they desperately struggle to find high ground, are filtering in  through my scuttlebutt sources. 

Near the conclusion of the above mentioned meeting, the Game and Fish Department did state that they will be open to making any changes they see necessary during the upcoming season and quota setting meetings to be conducted in the near future. 

This could mean drastic quota cuts and shortened seasons at the very best case, and the worst could be complete closures in some areas for the fall hunt. 

The long and short of the situation, if you planned on hunting in Wyoming this fall, don’t get your hopes up. At this point, only someone who is insane would burn more than 10 preference points in Wyoming for any fall hunt. 

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. West end of the state. Is that Region G?

  2. Well,, I guess there goes the 2024 hunt plan. More points it is!

  3. Is it an insane idea that we come together as conservationist, set up a go fund me site, collect funds and try and feed these animals, give what’s left of our herds some relief?

  4. Feeding is probably not a good idea at this point. I’ve heard that it can take up to two weeks for the digestive enzymes of Deer & Elk to adjust to new food source’s, in the meantime, they die with a belly full of food. As frustrating as it is sometimes there isn’t anything that can be done, here and now. As for next time how about removing grazing permits for both cattle & sheep on Public Land winter range areas after August first, to allow for some late season forage to grow, and leave at least some ground in good shape to be available to wildlife. And second do something about the most invasive & damaging species in the west, wild horses on public land winter range areas.

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