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Editorial

Game and Fish


Fall Hunting Forecast Good for Casper Region



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09/01/2009 - CASPER - The start of most rifle hunting seasons is just a couple weeks away and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department wants to let hunters know that hunting should be good in east central and northeast Wyoming this year.

Above average snowfall last winter combined with timely spring and summer rains resulted in excellent growth of grass, forbs and shrubs. "While one good year does not erase all the impacts of over a decade of drought, forage production this year looks as good as it has in many years," says Daryl Lutz, Casper Region wildlife management coordinator.

Pronghorn antelope hunting should be good to excellent throughout the Casper Region in 2009. Pronghorn numbers in the northeastern portion of the region around the Black Hills remain at relatively low levels; while throughout the grasslands and the Lusk area numbers are much stronger and hunters can expect high success. This is especially true in the Lusk area where walk-in access through the department's PL/PW access program has been hugely successful. The western portion of the region around Casper is a mixed bag. Pronghorn numbers to the south and east remain at average levels; however, the areas to the west and northwest of Casper hunters will enjoy expanding populations with very strong numbers of trophy class bucks in the Rattlesnakes, especially in area 72.

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Mule deer numbers are relatively stable throughout the Casper Region and there have been no dramatic changes in population size. "In fact, because of the moisture received the last two springs, habitat conditions have improved some so we may see some improvement in fawn productivity and increased deer numbers," Lutz said.

Buck numbers are probably the strongest in the Rattlesnake Hills and the predominately private land areas throughout the Casper Region. The Bates Hole area continues to provide a good general-license hunting experience. The Black Hills, most noted for white-tailed deer, hosts limited mule deer hunting opportunity on the national forest with better expectations of success and buck quality on private lands in the lower elevations.

Hunters hoping to harvest a white-tailed deer should consider hunting public lands on the Black Hills National Forest. This area continues to provide solid numbers of white-tailed deer. However, do be aware that weather conditions and snow depth have affected hunting access in the Black Hills the past couple years. Outside of the Black Hills, white-tailed deer are largely found on private lands along the creeks and rivers. "So while hunters can expect a good hunting opportunity, they need to secure permission in these areas," Lutz said.

Elk numbers in the Casper Region continue to provide outstanding hunting opportunities. All elk areas in the Casper Region remain limited quota and season limitations, including opening dates and season lengths, are nearly identical to last year's. Elk hunters should continue to enjoy remarkable numbers of elk and good hunting success, especially if the weather cooperates.

Bighorn sheep hunting in the Casper Region is somewhat limited to a relatively small portion of the Laramie Range and the Elk Mountain area south of Newcastle (new sheep area 20). Hunters typically enjoy high success in the Laramie Range, but it requires quite a little bit of time and effort. "We don't yet know what to expect in sheep area 20 as this is the first year this area has been open. Of course, we do know there are good numbers of rams in the area and we expect the one hunter to be successful," Lutz said.

Based on harvest and count data, turkeys in the Casper Region continue to do very well. Turkey hunting this fall is on a general license throughout the region and should continue to be quite favorable. In Area 9, which is all of Natrona County, hunters can get two licenses if there are any type 3 licenses available after the initial drawing.

Sage grouse numbers in the Casper Region continue to hold relatively steady based on lek counts last spring. There is the possibility the spring's wet, cool weather could have impacted chick production. Nevertheless, grouse numbers should remain relatively high and hunters shouldn't have much trouble finding birds. Portions of the Casper Region in Natrona, Converse, Niobrara, Weston, and Crook counties remain closed to sage grouse hunting. Check regulations for details.

Blue grouse in the Casper Region may have been affected by the wet, cool spring this year which may resulted in smaller and fewer broods. As a result, their numbers will likely be down and hunting might be a bit tougher this year. Chukar and Hungarian partridge levels in the Casper Region continue to be near normal levels, so hunting should be fair for these species.

Hunters wanting more information about hunting in the Casper Region can call the Casper Game and Fish office at (307) 473-3400.

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