Hunters: 2022 Wyoming hunt forecast available

(Fremont County, WY) – The anticipation for hunters has been building for months, but the time has come or is rapidly approaching as seasons for big and small game are about to open across Wyoming. Some trends — good and bad — figure to hold true once again in 2022. Mother Nature will play a role in hunter success and animal survival, but how much? 

Whether you are after pronghorn along the plains, deer or elk in the mountains, bighorn sheep high in the mountains or birds along the flatlands and wetlands, check out the 2022 Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunting forecast from eight regions around the state. The forecasts from each region are based on data and observations from the field by department biologists. 

A few reminders:

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Before heading out be sure to review the 2022 hunting regulations for any season changes.

Hunters who harvest a deer or elk in any of the state’s chronic wasting disease focus areas are encouraged to get it tested. The information is incredibly valuable and will help Game and Fish’s long-term monitoring and management efforts.

Hunters and recreationists are reminded to be mindful of the spread of invasive plant species and to report locations of cheatgrass to the county Weed and Pest District. If drought conditions persist, this could affect daily patterns of big game and may require hunters to devote additional effort to locating animals. 

As always, big game hunters are reminded that hunt areas denoted with an asterisk (*) have limited public hunting access and are largely comprised of private lands. In these areas, hunters should get permission to hunt private land before applying for a license, or at least recognize that hunting small isolated parcels of public land can be difficult and frustrating at times.

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LANDER REGION

Pronghorn

With continued decreased pronghorn fawn production, populations dropped again throughout the region. Throughout the region it is anticipated buck quality to be similar to 2021. Hunters who drew a license should expect good to excellent harvest success.

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Deer

Mule deer populations declined in 2019 and 2020 due to harsh winter conditions; whereas in 2021 mild winter conditions should have resulted in increased survival and arrested or slowed population decline. Still, with two age classes missing from those harsh winters, mule deer numbers remain below management objectives. Antler-point restrictions continue for the third year in hunt areas near Lander and Rawlins. Elsewhere, hunters will have opportunities for similar harvest success — mostly with young bucks. Continued any white-tailed deer seasons are in place in the Dubois, Lander, Riverton and Jeffrey City areas. Hunters should expect similar opportunities and success as last year. 

Elk

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Elk populations are doing well across the region and all herd units are near objectives. Calf production remains on par with previous years and should result in continued, robust numbers. Observed bull numbers remain strong. If favorable weather conditions are realized during the fall, hunters should experience excellent harvest opportunities.

Moose

Moose are at or below desired levels and the hunting season framework includes conservative quotas. However, more moose were counted in Hunt Areas 2 and 30 the past three years, and it appears this population is stable. Winter counts in the Dubois country yielded fewer moose and remained at historically low levels. Hunters fortunate enough to draw a license can expect good harvest success in the region.

Bighorn sheep

Lamb production in the Whiskey Mountain herd was higher than in previous years, but still low at 36/100 and continues to be a concern. Lamb productivity has been depressed in the herd for more than 20 years and while it has impacted population growth, there are still rams available for harvest. Those who draw a tag in these areas should expect to see fewer rams than in the past but should experience reasonable success depending on their expectations. The Ferris/Seminoe herd, Hunt Areas 17 and 26, will be open for the 10th consecutive year with 10 licenses issued.  

Upland game

Relatively dry spring and summer conditions will likely impact sage, blue and ruffed grouse, pheasants, chukars and Hungarian partridge. Hunters will likely spend more time searching for birds. Early field observations of sage grouse are revealing few hens with broods as expected.

Pheasant hunting at the Sand Mesa and Ocean Lake Wildlife Habitat Management Areas continues to be popular with hunters from throughout the state. New for 2022 is the one-day youth hunt at Sand Mesa and Ocean Lake on Saturday, Nov. 19. In past years the youth day only occurred at Sand Mesa. Game and Fish will add and move release sites on Sand Mesa to help spread hunters out. 

Game and Fish is considering other changes in 2023 to address hunter crowding, which is causing hunter safety concerns and conflict. Changes that may be considered include limiting hunter numbers on select days, continued evaluation of pheasant release site locations and number of sites. Game and Fish will be talking to pheasant hunters this fall and presenting any proposed changes during the 2023 season setting process for public review and comment.  

Small game

Cottontails, snowshoe hares and red squirrels appear to be similar to 2021 within the region and opportunities for harvest should be good.

Drought conditions

The majority of the region does not seem to be suffering from the extreme drought conditions observed in other areas of Wyoming. However, cheatgrass is turning to seed and making the area look more like a wheatfield in many places. Jeffrey City fared a little better in June, but was still below average in terms of precipitation. Many wetlands, wet meadows, ponds and lakes are dry. The Dubois area received normal to slightly above-normal growing season precipitation and conditions are good across most of the area. The Rawlins portion of the region continues to be affected by drought, though there have been a few spotty rain events that have provided much-needed moisture. West and north of Rawlins in the Red Desert, drought conditions are continuing with much lower than average growing season precipitation, which has contributed to decreased forage production and water availability. These drought conditions are considered long-term and are affecting the health and quality of rangelands and wildlife habitats in the area.

The full forecast for across the state can be viewed here.

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