Last year was a mixed bag for deer hunters in Wyoming. Whitetail hunters took 16,166 in 2012, the highest harvest in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, mule deer hunters only took 27,694 animals, the lowest it’s been in 10 years.
Overall, the state has about 63,000 whitetails and 374,000 mule deer. A dry spring and summer will probably translate to lean fawn recruitment in Central, South-Central and Southwest Wyoming.
The Black Hills is Wyoming’s premier whitetail country, but don’t expect a good hunting year this fall.
“The winter of 2010-2011 pretty much eliminated the fawns that year and was very tough on other age classes,” explained Jeff Obrecht, spokesperson for Wyoming Game and Fish. “Subsequent fawns crops have been mediocre, and epizootic hemorrhagic disease hit last year with significant losses in riparian areas.”
While mule deer numbers have been declining for several years, Obrecht believes the problem may have bottomed-out. Overwinter survival was good, so hunters should be seeing some nice bucks in the Jackson and Cody areas this fall.
This year the upper North Platte Valley (Wildlife Habitat Management Areas 78-81) offers hunting permits on a limited quota basis, meaning both resident and non-resident hunters must draw a license in order to hunt those areas. In the Salt River Valley, limited whitetail licenses will be available for the first time, due to the growing deer population.
If you’re after whitetails, the Black Hills is your best bet. Although EHD is claiming some deer on the eastern side of the Bighorn Mountains, the numerous drainages support thriving whitetail populations. If you’re looking to hunt muleys on public land, mature mule deer populations can be found from Jackson to Kemmerer. There may also be some mule deer hot spots on the east side of Yellowstone.