WGFD Releases 2021 Hunting Forecast for Laramie Region
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has recently released its hunting forecast for the Laramie Region.
Grassland herds in the north and east, including Iron Mountain (Hunt Area 38), Meadowdale (Hunt Area 11), Hawk Springs (Hunt Area 34), and Dwyer (Hunt Area 103) have declined over the past four years.
There was also a major snowstorm that dropped over 30” of snow within portions of Platte, Goshen, and Laramie Counties in the middle of March, which resulted in an increase in winter mortality. As a result, the Department reduced licenses in Hunt Areas 11, 34, 38, and 103.
Within Hunt Area 38 a Type 2 license was added valid for any pronghorn south of Highway 34 from October 5 to December 31 with the goal of still providing an opportunity for the eastern portion of the hunt area while relieving some pressure off the doe population. There is a decent number of bucks in these herds, but older animals will be harder to find.
The Medicine Bow herd is at objective so hunters shouldn’t expect to see this population increase beyond its current size. Along with this, the Elk Mountain (Hunt Area 50) is performing quite well so hunters should expect to have plenty of opportunities to harvest a pronghorn.
Due to low summer precipitation in much of the region pronghorn likely will be concentrated near wet meadows and other water sources.
Populations in the Sheep Mountain, Platte Valley, and Shirley Mountain herds have been slightly increasing over the past three years. Though the Mullen Fire has greatly altered the landscape in the Snowy Range, regeneration of important grass and shrub species indicated the burn will have long-term positive effects for fawn rearing and survival. Hunters should be prepared for down timber on the forest service road system.
Within the Platte Valley Herd Unit, Hunt Area 83 was eliminated and the boundaries for Hunt Area 80 were expanded to simplify hunting season regulations. Buck ratios remain high across the Platte Valley, but due to the Mullen Fire, licenses were decreased to account for the high number of carry-over licenses from 2020 in Hunt Area 78. I
f moderate weather conditions continue into the fall, hunters will most likely locate deer in higher-elevation summer and transition ranges.
Poor fawn production coupled with high Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) prevalence continues to suppress populations in the Goshen Rim and the Laramie Mountains herds.
Elk populations remain above objective, so there will be ample harvest opportunities throughout the region. The Mullen Fire will likely contribute to the already over-objective herds by improving calving areas by setting plant communities back to the early successional stage.
Hunters are encouraged to hunt south of Highway 130 within the Snowy Range Herd Unit in order to take advantage of elk utilizing the burn scar where these vegetation improvements occurred.
There were changes made to the Snowy Range Elk Herd hunt areas as well as the Shirley Mountain Herd Unit (Hunt Area 16) so hunters should become familiar with the dates and limitations prior to going to the field.
Bighorn sheep hunting should be excellent throughout the region.
Hunt areas 18 and 21 are open again for the 2021 season following closure in 2019. Hunters typically experience >90% success in the Douglas Creek, Encampment River, and Laramie Peak herds, and the same is expected in 2021.
It is supposed to be an excellent moose hunting opportunity in the Snowy Range herd. Harvest success across both Type 1 and Type 4 licenses continues to be exceptional (98%), and the herd maintains both high bull ratios and good calf production. The Mullen Fire is expected to improve moose habitat as well but to what extent still remains to be seen.
Drought conditions in southeast Wyoming were not as severe compared to other parts of the state, particularly within Platte, Goshen, and Laramie counties.
However, as you move away from those areas there were significantly fewer precipitation events, hunters can expect to see ungulates concentrated in riparian areas and irrigated lands.