The seven-member Wyoming Game and Fish Commission set the 2017 hunting seasons this week. The seasons for big game, bison, birds and small game reflect a response to the harsh winter conditions in western Wyoming, but also include added licenses where populations are increasing, especially in eastern Wyoming.
The season setting votes came after 39 public meetings held by Game and Fish wildlife managers. The final seasons include an overall, statewide increase in antelope (up 4,290), mule deer (up 25), white-tailed deer (up 1,005), elk (up 725), and bighorn sheep (up 8) licenses. Statewide there was a reduction in moose (down 75) and bison (down 175) licenses. The number of mountain goat licenses available stayed the same.
More specifically there were reduced deer and antelope licenses issued around Jackson, Pinedale and Green River due to winter conditions. Recent surveys showed mule deer fawn mortality of at least 80 percent in the Sublette and Wyoming Range herds.
“Hunting in Wyoming remains incredible. Even though we had to take action to help some mule deer herds recover from an extraordinarily tough winter, the commission is able to create even more big game hunting opportunities because statewide deer, antelope and elk populations are healthier this year,” said Commission President Keith Culver, who added that he very much appreciated everyone who came out to make public comments and be part of the process. “It is clear by the engagement that people care about wildlife and about hunting. That is appreciated by all commissioners. We also thank the wildlife managers who did so much work to ensure we had strong proposals based on good data.”
The commission also approved a change to issue big game hunting licenses that are leftover after the draw, through another draw. This would be a change from having those issued on a first-come-first-served basis.
The commission received updates on brucellosis and chronic wasting disease. They also approved budget changes to take on the cost of running five programs that were previously funded by the Legislature through the state’s general fund.
The Commission will meet next July 18-20 in Afton.