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Mule deer numbers decline in Wyoming

Wyoming Mule Deer

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Mule deer herds are on the decline across the Upper Shoshone and Clark’s Fork herds in Wyoming. Low fawn recruitment, consecutive harsh winters and predation are the likely reasons behind the steady drop and, unfortunately, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) biologists have “no immediate hope of a rebound,” the Powell Tribune reports. Recently, a group of “hardcore hunters” met this month with WGFD biologists to discuss the swift decline and the possibility of changing current hunting restrictions, which could result in shorter seasons.

“We felt that we were at the point that we needed to do something for these deer herds,” said Cody Region wildlife biologist Tony Mong, who acknowledged that something needed to be done for fawn mortality in general.

According to the Powell Tribune, the benchmark for healthy herds is 66 fawns per 100 deer; the fawn ratio has dropped to under 50 in the Upper Shoshone and Clark’s Fork herds, signaling a major problem.

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“The fawn ratio is the most variable and important component of mule deer management,” said Mong.

However, the post-hunt population estimates are also dropping off with buck ratios averaging 20 bucks to 100 does and the average age class waning. While winter weather is not something biologists or wildlife officials can change, they’re looking at other factors that could be impacting the health of mule deer herds in this region, such as the number of predators within the area. Others suggested reducing the number of nonresident tags though limiting those tags could impact state economy, according to the Powell Tribune.

Any proposed changes to hunting quotas or season will be released in March and discussed at the annual hunt regulation meeting. Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.

15 Comments

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Al C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-07-2019 08:58:29 pm

CPW tag reduction meetings following 2017 snowmageden event. Contact Gunnison basin CPW biologist.

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-07-2019 04:07:32 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

@Scott R. I wasn't referencing any research, I was just referring to CPW general management strategy. Al C may know....

SCOTT R. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-07-2019 02:56:23 pm
Reno, NV
goHUNT INSIDER

A/C or Nick C. ---
Where are the articles that show this CO research? I would like to read more. Thanks.

SCOTT R. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-07-2019 02:52:37 pm
Reno, NV
goHUNT INSIDER

Wes P- That was an awesome article thanks for posting that!

SCOTT R. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-07-2019 02:49:32 pm
Reno, NV
goHUNT INSIDER

Wes P- That was an awesome article thanks for posting that!

Al C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-05-2019 09:08:48 pm

Yea, I am talking about CO. CPW research on fawn survival since the big 08 die off. Even during mild winters between 08 and 2017 fawn survival is down. So don’t just say “see CO” say “see CO research”.

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-05-2019 03:00:01 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

Caveat...no mule deer herd in the west is really "healthy"

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-05-2019 02:57:47 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

Kill the general season. Go all limited. Manage tag allocations annually based on herd health. Get rid of antler restrictions. Leads to healthy herds and big bucks.
See Colorado...

Al C. - posted 2 weeks ago on 03-02-2019 05:22:56 am

Funny how nobody is willing to take on fawn recruitment but everyone is worried about their precious wall trophies. The doe will get bred by a two point, four point or bigger but the percentage of fawns that don’t make it to yearlings keeps increasing. How is that helping your mature buck dreams??

Erik B. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-01-2019 03:59:58 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Point restriction does nothing but hurt herd genetics, you could have a 2x2 that is 7 years old breeding passing on his genes. While hunters aren't aging the animals correctly, as result 4x4's with good genetic makeup get shot at age 2-3. As far as I'm concerned a sacrifice for the sake of preserving mule deer throughout the west needs to happen immediately, especially in Idaho and Wyoming. Keep the special draws (trophy units), but general areas should be managed as well. In Region G of Wyoming residents should be allowed to harvest 1 buck every 2 years thus decreasing the actual annual harvest, it would be as such 1 tag is good for 2 years equaling 1 buck taken. This would decrease the harvest and also make hunters be selective in the animal that is harvested. This same concept could be applied to general OTC tags in Idaho, 1 tag good for 2 years equals 1 buck.

Ed L. - posted 3 weeks ago on 02-28-2019 06:44:52 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Hunted the region in 2018. Hunted hard for 10 days with two other buddies. Saw one legal buck. Beautiful country, hopefully the antler restriction and some mild winters can bring back the population.

Wes P. - posted 3 weeks ago on 02-28-2019 06:37:12 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Dj R, You need to read this on Antler Restriction
https://wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/pdf/mdwg/mdwg-6_point_restrictions.pdf

Gary H. - posted 3 weeks ago on 02-28-2019 06:20:59 am
goHUNT INSIDER

I agree with stopping the sale of Doe tags. It seems to me to be a common sense decision! It would be a great place to start for sure.

Al C. - posted 3 weeks ago on 02-27-2019 07:02:26 pm

DJ your comments will have little change on fawn recruitment. Interesting that you feel this is a mature buck issue and therefore a hunter issue. We have low fawn recruitment in our area and it is also occurring during mild winters. I believe it involves a more lethal predator than humans, but I can only hope the research becomes more definitive before it is too late. Of course it is easier to regulate hunters then other predators.

Dj R. - posted 3 weeks ago on 02-27-2019 02:16:30 pm

First thing is put a point restriction of 4 points or better, second quit selling doe tags, third quit giving land owners (who do not let people hunt) crop deprivation, and forth make the season 8 days. I have lived in the big horn basin for many years and have only seen but a hand full af mature bucks. I now currently live in sublette county and see lots of mature bucks, due to doing just a few of the things I just said. The only other option i see is limited quota or no deer season.