SHERIDAN — While the heavy precipitation Sheridan County endured throughout the summer caused plenty of damage, it could have laid the foundation for a particularly fertile fall hunting season, according the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish’s 2019 Fall Hunting Forecast.
The report — which describes the health and prevalence of game populations in hunting regions throughout the state — suggests that big-game species in the Sheridan region and state wide have thrived thanks to the dense, blooming vegetation that the rains produced.
The anticipated impact of those favorable environmental conditions, the forecast indicates, could increase the demand for local big-game hunting while also increasing the big-game hunting opportunities the region can offer. Generally, the combination of a mild winter and a lush summer has helped more game survive into the fall season and enter the season bigger and healthier.
Christina Schmidt, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department public information specialist in the Sheridan office, said conditions have benefitted many of the big-game species in the immediate Sheridan area and hunters have taken notice.
She explained that the number of “leftover” hunting licenses her office sees for antelope and deer have gradually dwindled from hundreds each season to only a handful.
“In the past we had more (deer and antelope) licenses available than people were picking up,” Schmidt said. “That’s not the case anymore.”
Several of the hunting areas in the Sheridan-area present hunters with a complex grid of private and public lands that can hinder their ability to track game without permission from private landowners.
Except for a few largely-private sectors, though, Schmidt said the complicated layout of some local hunting sectors have not deterred hunters the way they did in past seasons.
The conditions have also benefitted local elk populations, which has led the local WGFD Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas to recommend increasing the number of elk licenses the region makes make available this season in a report analyzing Northern Bighorn Elk Herds. Because some of those herds roam private lands that are rarely hunted, they have become too prevalent in some areas.
The report suggests that some species will struggle in the Sheridan Region at large this season — mule deer in particular, due to linger damage caused by a harsh winter two years ago — but Schmidt pointed out that the WGFD’s Sheridan Region is vast, and the broad trends the report identifies may not apply to all of it.
“I think the report is generally pretty good for the game immediately around Sheridan,” Schmidt said.
Whether the report’s forecasts prove to be accurate, though, will ultimately be evaluated by the local hunters who participate in the coming fall season.