Deer numbers could challenge hunters
November 4, 2021
According to Game Warden Chris Teter, hunting season this year will bring a mixture of opportunities and rewards across the local area, with elk most prevalent on private land, an excellent production season for turkeys but a disease-caused die-off among deer.
The Wyoming Game & Fish Department is also now actively monitoring the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer throughout the state.
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) has caused a "fairly significant" die-off among deer over the last couple of months, Teter says.
"White-tailed deer numbers are down about 25% area-wide from last year and the long-term average," he says. "The biggest declines have been in the northern part of Crook County."
Though the buck-to-doe ratio is still about average, Teter expects hunters tosee around 30% fewer bucks compared to last year, while mule deer numbers are also down around 30% from last year.
"We haven't conducted our surveys on them yet, but most of the bucks out there are two year old deer," he says.
"Since the deer population has been in decline over the last three years and fawn-to-doe ratios have been lower the past two years, a more conservative hunting season structure was implemented for 2021."
Teter notes that there are no human health concerns with EHD.
As usual, Teter says, elk hunting in the Black Hills is proving to be a mixed bag.
"Hunters with access to private lands have been doing well and a respectable number of archery hunters had success on the National Forest in Hunt Area 116," he says.
License quotas for Hunt Area 1 remain the same this year
"In Hunt Area 117, there continue to be some opportunities for antlerless elk harvest on select private lands," Teter says.
Expect hunting to be great for turkeys this year, says Teter, as they had a great year of production.
No changes have been made to lion season this fall, but Teter would like to remind hunters that all harvests from Hunt Area 1 need to be reported within 24 hours.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Crook County is within the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's area of focus for chronic wasting disease this year, which means the department needs the assistance of hunters for sampling.
"This disease has now been identified in most deer hunt areas across Wyoming and the focus for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has shifted from detection to monitoring," says Teter.
"In order to obtain valid estimates of prevalence, large sample sizes from focused areas are needed. The Black Hills will be an area of emphasis this fall."
Biologists will be present at the check station on Highway 24 near Devils Tower on weekends in November to collect samples, he says. Hunter can also submit their own samples for testing.
For more information, visit wgfd.wyo.gov/cwd.
"Additionally, follow all carcass transport and disposal regulations to help limit the spread of CWD, both within Wyoming and other states," Teter says.