Mar 26, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterArea residents will have a chance to weigh in on proposed hunting seasons this week during a meeting with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Wednesday in Riverton.
Officials will present hunt season dates and restrictions during the 6 p.m. meeting at the Riverton Branch Library, 1330 W. Park Ave.
The state agency also will host meetings at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Jeffrey City firehall and at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Game and Fish office in Lander.
Jason Hunter, a regional wildlife supervisor with the Game and Fish Lander office, said his agency will use this week's meetings to respond to public comments gathered at a December meeting.
The public gathering in December 2012 was only the second time Game and Fish's Lander office has held a meeting to get public input before starting to design upcoming hunting seasons. Hunter said the initiative has been successful.
According to Hunter, Game and Fish historically only held meetings at the end of March to discuss proposed seasons. Gathering input earlier allows the public's voice to be better heard, he said, and attendance at the public meetings has doubled.
"It's been a real help to us," he added.
Hunter said his agency has tried to accommodate the public's recommendations when it comes to hunting dates and restrictions; he said officials during this weeks' meeting will explain reasons behind decisions that may not align with the public's stated desires. For example, Hunter said, some deer hunt areas near Riverton have too many animals, but others have too few. His agency sets quotas in each area in order to reach population management objectives.
Quotas this year
The proposed seasons would lower quotas for mule deer around Riverton but raise the number of white tailed deer allowed for hunting according to Hunter.
"We have heard from some folks out there they haven't seen as many deer," Hunter said. "We're lowering the quotas a little bit."
The lower quotas do not indicate there are too few animals, however.
"There's still plenty of deer," Hunter said.
In areas within the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation where the state Game and Fish has jurisdiction, Hunter said the deer quotas will increase. But quotas for antelope hunt areas across the county will be generally lower this year. Elk hunt areas 67 and 68 near Dubois will not see a change to their quotas, Hunter said.
Hunter said Game and Fish instituted a restriction for 2012's season based on public comment that deer harvested near Lander must have three or more points on one of its antlers. The goal was to improve the quality of bucks by allowing younger ones time to mature.
He said Game and Fish proposes to continue the restriction for 2013's hunt, as such rules typically improve a herd after a second year.Hunter said three-point-or-better restrictions have detrimental effects on the deer populations if they continue for more than two or three seasons, so he anticipates the restriction will likely end after this season or next.
His agency will work to keep the antelope population near Lander at about 50 percent of the management objective because the habitat quality is poor, Hunter said, and the recent drought only aggravated the problem.
Another topic of public concern is the elk hunt in areas 25 and 27 near the county seat.
Area 25 is east of U.S. Highway 287, north of the Sweetwater River, west of Wyoming Highway 135 and south of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Area 27 lies between Willow Creek and the Sweetwater River west of U.S. Highway 287.
In the past, elk hunters were allowed to take an antlerless animal from either area with the same permit. Hunter said because area 27 is all public land it was easier to access than 25, which is largely private land. Game and Fish made a recent change requiring hunters to obtain a tag for an anterless elk for one or the other area.
"We're trying to get more harvest out of 25 where the elk reside," Hunter said. "Some people like that, some people don't."
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