Tips for a safe and enjoyable hunt  on Big Horn Basin public lands

Posted 9/2/21

Public land in the Big Horn Basin provides opportunities for some of the best hunting in the state. Many people hunting this fall will take advantage of the more than 3 million acres of public land …

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Tips for a safe and enjoyable hunt  on Big Horn Basin public lands

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Public land in the Big Horn Basin provides opportunities for some of the best hunting in the state. Many people hunting this fall will take advantage of the more than 3 million acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management Cody and Worland field offices. 

“Whether you are a seasoned hunter or preparing to embark on your first hunting expedition, please be well-prepared for a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Sarah Beckwith, BLM spokeswoman.

   

Land ownership — know your boundaries

On topographic maps, Wyoming appears to be a jumble of land ownership. 

“The best way to prevent conflicts with private landowners is to know where public land ends and private land begins,” Beckwith said. 

Similarly, landowners should also be sure of these boundaries before contacting hunters. Avoid hunting close to property lines as animals may cross onto private property before they can be recovered. 

Public land that is landlocked by private land is only accessible if there are easements in place across the private land. If in doubt about easements or the exact location of property boundaries, err on the side of caution. Also, open or closed, always leave gates as you find them.

GPS software that shows land ownership and hunt area boundaries should be used in conjunction with the latest versions of BLM topographic and Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunt area maps. Both ownership and hunt area boundaries can change. Maps are available at all BLM field offices.

“In addition to land ownership, be aware of any travel restrictions that may be in place on public land where you hunt,” Beckwith said.

She encouraged hunters to check with their local BLM office before heading into the field to be sure they are familiar with road designations in the areas where they plan to hunt. 

    

Game retrieval and off-highway vehicle use

Driving off roads to retrieve game is only permissible within 300 feet of a road and only when no resource damage will occur. Resource damage includes degrading soil, damaging vegetation or archaeological sites, or creating ruts when driving on wet soils. Driving off roads and trails in wilderness study areas is prohibited. It is not always possible to retrieve downed game with a vehicle so bring a game cart, pack frame, capable friend or horse to help.

“Otherwise, please stay on roads or existing two-tracks and abide by all posted signs,” Beckwith said.

In addition, she said to avoid traveling in wet or muddy areas which can cause considerable resource damage by tearing up road beds and creating the potential for dangerous situations for both driver and passengers. 

The BLM participates in the State Off-Road Vehicle Registration program. All-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, as defined by state statute, must have a current state registration sticker. To purchase an ORV Permit, call the Wyoming Permit Selling Agency at 877-WYO-Park (877-996-7275) or visit wyoparks.wyo.gov/index.php/home-trails for more information.

   

Camping on public lands

Hunt camp is an integral part of the hunting experience for many and premium camping locations on public land may be in demand during the peak of hunting season, Beckwith said.

“Please do not leave your camper or tent to ‘reserve’ your favorite spot — property may not be left unattended for more than 72 hours,” she said.

Vehicles are restricted to remain within 300 feet of roads while camping on public lands. And to ensure the fair use of campsites as well as to discourage people from residing full-time on public land, camping is limited to 14 days in any 30-day period. 

It’s also important to be “bear aware” wherever you hunt or camp. Store food in a bear-safe manner overnight and while you are away from camp. 

“Black bears, skunks and raccoons can be found almost everywhere in the state and will gladly help themselves to your food if given the opportunity,” Beckwith said.

For more tips on camping and hunting in bear country, including in grizzly bear habitat, visit www.bebearaware.org/. 

   

Fire restrictions and recent fires 

Although cooler temperatures and precipitation are on their way, fire potential still exists. Check www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/wyoming/fire for current fire restrictions or call your local field office. 

“Wherever you camp this fall, there will be plenty of cured vegetation that can easily burn until significant snowfall arrives,” Beckwith said. “Ensure your campfire is ‘dead’ out before going hunting and turning in for the night.”

Each fall, firefighters respond to several escaped campfires throughout Wyoming — don’t let yours be one of them, she said. 

In addition, all off-highway vehicles are required to have a Society of Automotive Engineers approved spark arrestor.

If hunting in an area affected by a recent wildfire, stay on roads or existing two-tracks and abide by all posted signs. Stabilization and rehabilitation efforts are underway in many burned areas. Special hazards exist in these areas. Look out for unstable dead trees, especially in windy conditions, and watch for rolling debris, including loose rocks and logs.

   

Protect your public lands

If you suspect violations of public land use regulations, do not risk escalating the situation by personally contacting the violator. A safer way to resolve the situation is to write down the license plate information if possible and contact appropriate law enforcement. You may also call 1-800-442-2767. The BLM offers a $250 reward for information leading to the conviction of any person damaging your public lands through OHV violations, vandalism or any other criminal activity in the state of Wyoming. Report wildlife violations to WGFD at their “STOP POACHING” hotline: 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847).

Beckwith said BLM staff members are happy to assist with trip planning. In Cody, the BLM office is at 1002 Blackburn Street and can be reached at 307-578-5900. The Worland office is located at 101 South 23rd Street and can be reached by calling 307-347-5100.

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