Mule deer hunting near Cody expected to be ‘not as good’

Wildlife managers working to help local herds rebound

Posted 9/6/19

For deer hunters near Cody, the 2019 hunting seasons will look a little different.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department made changes to the seasons in both the Upper Shoshone mule deer herd (Hunt …

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Mule deer hunting near Cody expected to be ‘not as good’

Wildlife managers working to help local herds rebound

Posted

For deer hunters near Cody, the 2019 hunting seasons will look a little different.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department made changes to the seasons in both the Upper Shoshone mule deer herd (Hunt Areas 110-115) and the Clarks Fork mule deer herd (Hunt Areas 105, 106 and 109).

“The most substantial changes are in the ending dates of the general seasons for deer in the North Fork, South Fork and Sunlight areas ...,” said Tony Mong, wildlife biologist for the Cody area.

That includes Hunt Areas 105, 106, 110, 111, 112, 113 and 114.

“Hunters should be aware of those changes and refer to 2019 hunting season regulations for detailed information,” Mong said.

Both herds have undergone severe population declines due to tough winters and poor fawn production and recruitment over the last five years. Game and Fish began implementing changes to the seasons last year by reducing doe harvest opportunity to maximize the ability of the herd to rebound and implementing four-point antler restrictions to reduce buck harvest.

The 2019 changes are intended to further decrease buck harvest to address future hunt quality and number of bucks. “Essentially, we are trying to shorten the time frame in which hunt quality and the number of bucks in this herd will be impacted while the population rebounds,” Mong said.

For the 2019 hunting season in the Clarks Fork herd, Game and Fish reduced the general season by seven days in Hunt Areas 105 and 106 and cut the Type 1 limited quota licenses by half. 

“The reduction in days and licenses should reduce buck harvest and protect the low number of migrating bucks in that herd,” Mong said. “We also decreased the potential of harvesting migrating doe deer in Hunt Area 105 after they potentially mix with resident deer by shortening the November general doe season and making it valid on private land only.”

In the Upper Shoshone mule deer herd, Game and Fish shortened the general season by seven days, but added a conservative limited quota late season opportunity to both the North Fork (Hunt Areas 110-111) and South Fork (Hunt Areas 112-114) areas.

“Reducing days in November protects bucks when they are most vulnerable on migration routes and as they are going into the rut. Making this change will give us the best chance to limit the overall harvest of bucks in this herd,” Mong said.

The general season now runs from Oct. 15–Nov. 3 for Hunt Areas 110-114.

During the season setting process, hunters requested that some hunting in November remain, and as a result, managers included two new limited quota hunts (one in the South Fork, and one in the North Fork) that run from Nov. 1–15. These hunts greatly decrease the hunting and harvest pressure on these depressed populations, but still provide some opportunity for hunters later in November. Hunters who have drawn this license will likely have a quality hunt even though populations are low due to lower hunter pressure during that time frame. Additionally, managers have decreased antlerless harvest within this herd, and have focused remaining antlerless harvest to private land areas with damage issues and growing resident deer populations, reducing pressure on migratory deer.

Overall, the Game and Fish says that mule deer hunters in both the Upper Shoshone and Clarks Fork areas should expect their hunting to be “fair,” but “likely not as good as it was in 2018.”

The 2019 changes take into consideration biological data, harvest data, historical hunting season structures and diverse feedback received through extensive public outreach efforts, the department says. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved the changes at its April meeting in Riverton.

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