Sheridan Area Hunting Forecast
SHERIDAN — Drought conditions continue to persist for a second year in the region. The United States Drought Monitor reported July drought conditions in the majority of Sheridan County as severe or extreme. These conditions can result in low forage yield, elevated fire danger, increased dust, poor snowpack and a reduction in surface water.
“Even in drought conditions, harvest provides a meaningful management tool. Continued harvest pressure during times of poor range conditions decreases competition for limited resources.” said Cheyenne Stewart, Wyoming Game and Fish Sheridan Region wildlife management coordinator. “We would like to remind hunters that numerous range fires have already occurred, so extreme caution is advised this fall.”
Hunter densities on many accessible tracts of public land can be high, especially on opening day and weekends.
Hunters who plan hunts later in the season often see fewer hunters.
In the fall of 2020, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus or bluetongue virus was detected in deer, elk and pronghorn. While large-scale die-offs were not observed, field managers continue to monitor reports of sick animals to better understand population level impacts and perform disease diagnostics.
“Through our 2020 harvest survey we confirmed that in general, success rates in the Sheridan Region are higher for hunters with access to private land” Stewart said. “While overall hunter success should remain high, buck and bull quality may be down given the forage conditions resulting from two years of extremely dry spring conditions.”
Overall, license quotas for pronghorn have been reduced to account for observed and anticipated depressions in survival and recruitment rates due to the drought conditions. Some license reductions also aim to address increased pressure on limited public and publicly accessible property. In the Sheridan area, this includes quota reductions in Hunt Areas 16, 17, and 23 and license types 1, 2, 6, and 7.
Mule deer populations in the Powder River Basin appear to be fairly stable, although managers have observed lower fawn ratios and survival in recent years. Mule deer populations on the east slope of the Bighorn Mountains continue to be well below population objectives. In Sheridan Region, harvest success was slightly down in all herd units in 2020; a trend that could continue this year.
The 3-point antler point restriction in Hunt Area 25 will continue in 2021, which is one factor reducing harvest success. We plan for 2021 to be the second and final year of the antler point restriction. Harvest strategies are designed to provide buck hunting opportunity while maintaining conservative antlerless deer harvest to maximize herd growth and address localized areas of cropland depredation.
With multiple deer research projects underway in the region, hunters may observe doe mule deer wearing GPS radio-collars while afield. While each project has unique objectives, managers are learning about adult survival, causes of mortality, and general movement patterns while the studies are on-going.
White-tailed deer seasons are very liberal. Nearly all hunt areas offer November hunting seasons for any white-tailed deer and many doe/fawn seasons extend into December to allow maximum harvest to manage this population. Most white-tailed deer are found on private land.
Deer Hunt Areas 1-6, 19, 24, 25, 27-33, 163, and 169 are part of the 2021 Chronic Wasting Disease monitoring focus areas. If you harvest a deer in any of the deer focus areas, we greatly appreciate your help in getting it tested.
“Hunter assistance with these targeted efforts will allow us to estimate herd unit CWD prevalence. This piece of information is incredibly valuable and will help our long-term monitoring and management efforts” Stewart said.
Now is a great time to be an elk hunter with ample opportunity to harvest an elk, especially if you are willing to hunt antlerless elk.
Long seasons are in place to help achieve desired harvest levels. Limited quota any elk licenses continue to be difficult to draw but those lucky in drawing a permit have a reasonable chance at harvesting a mature bull.
Moose in the Bighorns continue to be productive and have consistently exceeded population management objectives in recent years. Based on increased moose observations, Hunt Areas 1 and 34 have new Type 4 (cow/calf) licenses available, with a quota of five in each area.
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