Central Wyoming Deer Hunting: Regions D, E and J
Central Wyoming’s Regions E, D and J represent incredibly diverse habitat types. In Region J, you have shortgrass prairie to the east and south of the Laramie Peak Range, then sagebrush basins to the west. Region D contains the Snowy Range and even more sagebrush, plus a few small canyons and more prairies. Region E contains the Wind River country as well as the vast basins east of Lander. These regions are rarely spoken of as traditional deer hunting hot spots but contain some excellent country.
In Region J, the public lands aren’t overly accessible, but you do have parts of the Medicine Bow National Forest south of Casper and along I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne. Units 59, 61, 62 and 63 have the least amount of publicly accessible land. There are just a few Walk-In Access and Hunter Management areas in the region that are open for deer hunting, most of it is either geared toward elk or antelope hunting. The Converse County Walk-In Areas are good option for publicly accessible private lands.
Deer densities range from 6 to 11 mule deer per square mile. Whitetails are present along the creek bottoms, but generally not in very large numbers. The top deer densities here are just south of Douglas. The mule deer are pretty lightly harvested, especially in the lower country, so there are great opportunities for mature bucks. The whitetails get beat up pretty heavily, so if you’re interested in a Wyoming whitetail hunt, head further north. Hunting pressure on the public lands can get pretty intense, but there’s enough room to spread out if you’re looking for some solace.
A better idea if you want some ground to yourself is unit 60, which contains the Medicine Bow National Forest Lands between Laramie and Cheyenne. It’s a limited draw unit, and can be drawn with no preference points, for now. In 2009 44% of the applicants drew with no points, in 2010 it was down to 20%. It would not surprise me to see unit 60 require a preference point to draw next year. Only 15 tags are available to nonresidents. This unit is still a great value, as success rates and trophy potential are quite high, and pressure is quite low.
Unit 60 is the only limited draw unit in the region, but the Region J general tag isn’t bad. And it doesn’t draw out, so you can either pick it up as a leftover or use it as a backup plan with a second choice. Most of the units open October 15th and close the 31st, but 60 opens on the 20th and closes November 5th.
Region D is similar in many ways to Region J in terms of the terrain, but there is a lot more public land and publicly accessible private land to hunt. The Region D general tag does draw out and there are no limited quota units within the region.
Two federally designated wilderness areas are off limits to unguided nonresidents in units 80 and 78. The 10,000 acre Encampment River Wilderness and 23,000 acre Platte River Wilderness aren’t particularly great options for deer hunting anyway, so leave them be. Wyoming Game and Fish only considers units 83 and 74 to have poor public access, but even those units have small amounts of land that can be hunted.
Mule deer densities range from 6 to 12 per square mile. Top densities are in the units along the North Platte River coming out of Colorado. Lower densities are closer to Laramie and the Medicine Bow River country. As with much of Wyoming, less than 15% of the available bucks are being harvested yearly, which sets up nicely for some good quality bucks throughout the Region. Hunting pressure is moderate with the exception of unit 78. Hunter densities frequently exceed 5 per square mile in that unit, and when you combine that with the Platte River Wilderness, nonresidents are forced into uncomfortable amounts of pressure in this portion of the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Several of the units open as early as October 1st, and a handful open October 15th. The units opening October 15th only have one week seasons, the others last two weeks. A special limited quota hunt for units 78, 79, 80 and 81 is open for the entire month of October. Only 25 tags are available total, just two for nonresidents. In 2010 it took 2 preference points to draw, but it’s an interesting option if you want 78 or other public land heavy units to yourself.
Region E is very different than Regions D and J. It extends from the prairies, sagebrush basins and canyons north of Rawlins all the way through the Wind Rivers to the southern border of Yellowstone National Park. Much of the mountainous country is designated wilderness. There is no shortage of public land in these units. The Region E general tag does draw out, and 0 point applicants have a 70% chance of drawing.
In general, this is not great deer country, though there are a few units worth mentioning. Mule deer densities do not exceed 6 per square mile in any part, and dips below one per square mile in units 90 and 98. There are some limited quota units here, but avoid the general units. Over 30% of the bucks are harvested annually from many of them, leaving very few older deer available.
It’s one thing if you don’t mind travelling to shoot younger deer, but another thing entirely when there are very few deer AND they are all yearlings or two-year olds. If you want to see a lot of deer and don’t mind hunting younger bucks, head to Region A. But when hunters outnumber deer, you need to find better hunting grounds.
While I’ve made some pretty broad statements about the general units, and am not very high on them, the limited units are quite nice. I think highly of units 34, 87, 89, 90 and 128 (also has a general hunt, but the late season limited hunt is what I’m referring to). Unfortunately these are tough draws. 87, 90 and the late 128 hunt all required 4 points to draw in 2010, and will likely take 5 next year. 89 takes three points and 34 takes two points.
34 is probably the top value amongst these hunts. It takes the fewest points, the success rate is competitive, the hunting pressure is low and the sex ratio is very good. The deer density isn’t great though at just under 4 mule deer per square mile, but there are so few tag issued, that some great, older bucks can be found. You’ll see a few more deer in unit 89, but not many.
I should also point out that unit 128 has wilderness both on the north and south, which limits you to hunting the Wind River Canyon country outside of Dubois. That’s actually a good thing with the limited tag, as the older bucks will be coming down from the high country by the time that November season starts. But if you’re contemplating hunting the general season, which runs from October 1st-22nd, you’ll just be frustrated.
So that’s pretty much it for Wyoming deer hunting. For general tags with no preference points, I’d hit some of the country around the Bighorns, especially along the West Side. For leftover tags, Central Wyoming’s Regions D, J and M are solid options. The traditional country in the southwest really isn’t worth the wait anymore in my opinion. But if you’re going to build the points, go for one of the stellar limited draw units that I mentioned, don’t bother building points for a Region K or G tag. There are very few options with 0 preference points, other than the region general tags, so you’ll need to start building points if you want a great, limited draw hunt in the future.