Wyoming's Harvest Off Slightly
Big game harvest success in Wyoming, with the exception of bighorn sheep, dipped slightly in 2001, but still surpassed most other Rocky Mountain states and continues to be a testament of very good hunting, reports the Game and Fish Department.

According to statistics recently compiled from hunter surverys, elk success was down from 44% in 2000 to 40% last season. Deer hunters loaded a carcass 62% of the time, compared to 63% in 2000. Antelope success dropped from 92 to 87%, and moose from 89 to 88%.

Bighorn sheep success jumped 7% to 77% last hunting season.

"Considering drought and less than optimum hunting conditions with warm, dry weather and lack of snow, these are still results Wyoming can be proud of," said Harry Harju, G&F assistant wildlife division chief.

Wyoming's 10-year harvest success averages: antelope 105% (multiple licenses can be held), deer 59%, elk 39%, moose 89% and bighorn sheep 69%.

In 2001, elk hunters averaged 19 days afield for each elk harvested, up two days from last year, but two days less than in 1999. Despite the dip, harvest success was also better than 1999's 36%.

"If we'd ever get a snowy fall again, I think we could see elk success hit 50% in Wyoming," Harju said.

Last season, 22,772 elk were brought home by Wyoming hunters; 1,045 less than 2000.

Last year 21% of Colorado hunters bagged an elk and 64% of South Dakota hunters. 2000 statistics were the latest available in Montana at 20%, Utah 27% and Idaho 31% (limited draw areas).

Deer hunters made a valiant try at making success climb for the fifth year in a row, by just missing the 63% tallied in 2000. "When you consider most of our seasons are still 'bucks only,' and fewer yearling bucks due to a drop in fawn recruitment in 2000, this was pretty good hunting," he said.

Wyoming's 62% deer hunting success compares to 42% in Colorado, South Dakota 51% and Nebraska 55%. In 2000, Montana boasted 68% and 38% in Utah.

The avid hunter and 30-year G&F veteran says psychology has played a role in the deer harvest comeback. "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."

Antelope success dropped for the second consecutive year, falling to 87% from 91.5% in 2000. The total number of licenses was cut in 2001 by 25%. "You can tell antelope densities are down when the average time it takes hunters to harvest an antelope is over 2.5 days," Harju said.

He says psychology might also be playing a part in the antelope drop. "When they hear the population is down, some hunters get more selective in what they shoot and are less inclined to shoot a doe," Harju said. He said the drop in doe/fawn licenses also gave fewer hunters the opportunity to shoot extra animals, which depressed success.

Of the neighboring states with antelope statistics available for 2001, Colorado reported 61% success, Nebraska 69% and South Dakota 70%.

The overall 2001 moose harvest success of 88% is consistent with the high harvest success of past years (89% in 2000). "With hot weather early in the season causing a big black animal like a moose to seek the shade of dense timber, I'm surprised the success didn't drop more," Harju said.

In 2001, Montana supported 82% success and Colorado 87%.

Bighorn sheep success rose to 77% from 70% last year. "We manage sheep very conservatively so we expect good success," he said. This year's success may have slightly been bolstered by Area 9 not being factored into the results. Area 9, which usually has about 50% harvest success, was closed in 2001due to wildfires.

Montana, which has some general license bighorn sheep areas, tallied 56% and Colorado 56%.

At this juncture, Harju has a mixed forecast about the 2002 season. "With some good early snow, 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 2001 Big Game Harvest Report will be available in August from the G&F for $10.

Victoria Clingman, the G&F's wildlife statistician, says the 2001 harvest survey is an accurate and timely report thanks to assistance of hunters across the continent. "The percent of hunters responding by Internet has been doubling every year and was up to 30% for this survey," she said. "That trend is great, because it's saving money."

She said the surveys are often accompanied by a wide-range of hunting comments. "This year a common theme was how the September 11 national tragedy impacted their hunts," Clingman said.

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. All resident applications must arrive at the Cheyenne office by 5 p.m. on May 31.

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