|After a dip in 1999, Wyoming elk harvest rebounded in 2000, and deer hunting success climbed again to approach levels the Equality State's been known for over the years.
Overall elk hunting success, resident and nonresident combined, bounced up to 44 percent in 2000 after falling to 36 percent in 1999, according to statistics recently compiled by the Game and Fish Department. The time it took to a harvest reflected the improved hunting dropping to less than 17 days per elk last season from 21 days an elk on average in 1999.
"Although we didn't have the greatest elk hunting weather in 2000, the flashes of weather we got, combined with liberal seasons, enabled more hunters to find an elk in 2000," said Harry Harju, G&F assistant Wildlife Division chief. "If we'd ever get a snowy fall again, I think you'd see elk success well surpass 50 percent in Wyoming."
Last season, 23,727 elk were brought home by Wyoming hunters.
Overall elk hunting success of neighboring mountain states: Montana 20 percent, Utah 27 percent, Idaho 31 percent (limited draw areas) and Colorado 24 percent.
Deer harvest success climbed again for the fourth year in a row to 63 percent in 2000, which is a reflection of both biology and psychology, according to Harju. "The state was fairly flush with yearling and 2-year-old deer from strong fawn recruitment in 1998 and '99."
Wyoming's 63 percent deer hunting success compares to 68 percent in Montana, 38 percent in Utah and 45 percent in Colorado.
"Yes, there are more mule deer, but knowing that and hearing encouraging reports from friends is causing deer hunters, particularly residents, to go afield with greater optimism and confidence," he said. "With that mindset, residents are hunting harder, and hence harvesting more deer."
Even though only eight out of every 100 antelope hunters didn't find their animal, the overall success was down 1.5 percent to drop for the second consecutive year. "The drops have been so small that it really doesn't signify anything or point to a trend," Harju said.
Of the neighboring states with antelope stats available, Colorado reported 61 percent success, Utah 81 percent, Idaho 69 percent, Nebraska 66 percent and South Dakota 80 percent.
The overall 2000 moose harvest success of 89 percent is consistent with the high harvest success of past years. "Hunters tell us they want high moose harvest success so we're fairly restrictive on how many licenses we issue," Harju said.
Utah also manages moose very conservatively, reporting 98 percent harvest success in 1999. In 2000, Montana supported 82 percent success and Colorado 86 percent.
Bighorn sheep success rose slightly to 70 percent last year. Montana, which has some general license bighorn sheep areas, tallied 46 percent in 2000, Idaho 42 percent and Colorado 56 percent.
At this juncture, Harju has a mixed forecast about the 2001 season. "If we'd ever have a snowy fall, we could have a banner elk season," he predicts. "But another poor year of deer and fawn recruitment, which is very possible due to drought, will set back hunting in upcoming years. Parts of Wyoming need a lot of moisture and right now."
Wyoming harvest statistics are compiled from surveys mailed to hunters. The 2000 Big Game Harvest Report will be available in July from the G&F for $10.
Victoria Clingman, the G&F's wildlife statistician, says the 2000 harvest survey is an accurate and timely report thanks to assistance of hunters across the continent. "Our response rate is the highest of any state that has volunteer reporting," she said. "That makes the harvest survey a reliable document."
Resident hunters that would like to know the success rate in a hunt area before applying for elk, deer and antelope, can call the G&F at (800) 842-1934, but all resident applications must arrive at the Cheyenne office by 5 p.m. May 31.
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