Dry spring affects 2006 hunting forecast
by Wyoming Game & Fish
August 27, 2006
After having a reprieve from the drought last year, dry conditions are back vexing Wyoming and impacting 2006 hunting prospects.
Antelope Hunters probably will not be seeing as many antelope on Wyoming's plains as first thought in the spring - nor as much horn mass adorning the bucks' heads. That's due to the severely dry conditions vexing Wyoming this spring and summer, says Bill Rudd, assistant Wildlife Division chief for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Rudd explains the drought, due to reducing the nutritional content of antelope browse, impacted the number of fawns surviving through the summer as well as likely reducing the mass and length of the animal's unique horns. "Fewer fawns will not really impact this fall's hunting," Rudd said. "But hunters should expect to overall see smaller horns."
Mule Deer This season's drought will have a similar effect on lower elevation mule deer as it has on antelope, in addition to impeding the amount of fat adults will store for the winter, the conditions, predicts Rudd. But mountain deer should have weathered the summer better. Rudd expects hunting to be at least as good as last year.
Elk Elk are more "drought proof" than antelope and elk and hunting should not be impacted - except if the dry conditions persist hunting will be complicated by a noisy forest, warns Scott Smith, wildlife management coordinator or head biologist for the Game and Fish's Pinedale/Jackson region. "Snow is a great equalizer for elk hunters," Smith says. "But without it, elk hunters should be prepared to hunt harder." Overall, elk populations continue to be healthy in most parts of the state. Weather and hunter desire (and often luck) are always the determining factors for a successful season.
Bighorn Sheep Likewise with bighorns, the animals are expected to be using some different habitats this season and hence license holders may have to hunt a little harder.
Moose - Moose hunters should particularly be prepared for tough hunting if the hot temperatures persist into the season, Smith says. "Moose will likely be timbered up in September," he adds. Extreme southwest Wyoming, the Snowy Range in southeast Wyoming and the Bighorn Mountains stand out as the best Equality State areas.
Game Birds - Anecdotal reports combined with general habitat decline due to drought, point to diminished chukar and Hungarian partridge hunting this fall.
Sage grouse hunters can expect a good number of carry over adult birds from last year's excellent hatch - but shouldn't expect to encounter many young-of-the-year birds, reports Tom Christiansen, the Game and Fish's sage grouse coordinator. The absence of spring moisture led to the reduction of forbs, or leafy low-growing plants, which are a critical food for sage grouse chicks as well as being key to insect production. Without adequate forbs and insects to provide vital protein and minerals for developing chicks, survival was low, he said.
From all indications (including, unfortunately, the number killed on roads) this should be another excellent year of cottontail hunting. Hunters are advised to wear rubber gloves when cleaning the animals due to tularemia being diagnosed near Newcastle and being suspected in some other areas.