Wyoming: Snowy Spring Could Mean Fewer Pronghorn Hunts

Wyoming: Snowy Spring Could Mean Fewer Pronghorn Hunts

Written by on April 19, 2021

After winter droughts and sudden spring storms, Wyoming Game and Fish hopes to temporarily lessen hunting to allow pronghorn numbers to bounce back.

Wyoming remains the home to more pronghorn than any western state. Last year, pronghorn hunters reported an 88% harvest success rate, and wardens and biologists strive to maintain a high-quality hunting experience for pronghorn hunters.

The department is proposing to reduce antelope license quotas for the 2021 hunting season to stabilize pronghorn populations.

Pronghorn Bucks in Snow

Courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish

There are two “counterintuitive” reasons for the restriction: a lack of precipitation throughout the year and the overwhelming amount received this spring.

Winter 2020-21 did not do enough to bring most of Wyoming out of a persistent drought, which will continue into the summer. Meanwhile, much of Wyoming has been buried in snow during the recent winter storms.

Pronghorn rely heavily on spring precipitation, but it’s a tricky balance. The amount and timing of water and snow determine how plants grow, determining the amount of food available for the antelope.

Game and Fish spring surveys revealed elevated levels of winter mortality for pronghorn. This is a direct result of the record-breaking spring storms that dumped more than 10 feet of snow in some regions.

These numbers could quickly recover – pronghorn need to be given a chance to do so.

Fluctuations of the number of pronghorn licenses Game and Fish offers every year is not uncommon. In 2019, Game and Fish increased quota by 3,400 licenses; in 2020, the number was reduced by 6,675.

For the 2021 season, managers recommend a considerable reduction: 3,650 any-antelope licenses and 5,775 doe/fawn licenses.

Any license reductions should be short-term, according to wildlife managers who believe the conservative proposals they have for each herd will stabilize pronghorn populations and allow them to recover.

Numbers for pronghorn hunting licenses won’t be finalized until late April. The deadline to submit or modify hunting applications for antelope is June 1 for residents and nonresidents.

For hunters and landowners, the proposed license reductions mean fewer opportunities for hunters in 2021 in terms of license availability.

“With the reductions, hunters will need to study the proposals and make informed decisions on where to apply,” said Jennifer Doering, license section manager. “If you’ve already applied for an antelope license, make sure you check that the season dates and the quota once finalized at the end of April.”

The matter will likely be discussed during the next meeting of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, held this week in Jackson.

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