Bighorn Sheep Lead Results in Recently Compiled Survey

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Wyoming bighorn sheep hunting success continued to rise in 2004, and harvest success for deer and antelope also registered modest increases, reports the Game and Fish Department based on statistics recently compiled from hunter surveys.

Statewide bighorn sheep hunting success jumped to 85 percent from 76 percent in 2003 and has risen annually since 1999. "I believe we’re seeing the result of mild winters and management changes including ‘any ram’ seasons compared to three-quarter curl regulations in many areas," said John Emmerich, G&F assistant Wildlife Division chief.

He added the "any ram" areas are probably also responsible for allowing more rams to reach trophy class.

Statewide mule deer success rose from 49 percent in 2003 to 52 percent last year. Antelope success inched up from 89 percent to 91 percent. "Mule deer and antelope also have benefited from mild winters," Emmerich said. "Good fawn production last year, with good prospects this year, should contribute to improved hunting in upcoming years, too."

An exception to the statewide improvement for antelope is the Big Horn Basin where drought has continued and antelope production has not recovered, he said.

Elk and moose success was "basically static" for 2004, Emmerich reports. Thirty-nine percent of elk hunters brought meat home last year compared to 38 percent in 2003.

"Liberal elk seasons for several years have helped bring some herds to targeted levels, but I believe when we ever get a good October snow again, you’ll see elk success take a considerable jump," he said.

At 88 percent, moose hunters recorded 1 percent better success than 2003. "We’ve pared moose licenses back in the historical range of the Yellowstone area, which has helped keep success high," he said. "Growing populations in the Big Horns and south of I-80 are also contributing to success."

Wyoming harvest statistics are compiled from surveys mailed to hunters. The printed 2004 Big Game Harvest Report will be available Aug. 1 from the G&F for $18. The results are scheduled to be on the G&F Web site in mid-July.

Christine Leonard, the G&F’s wildlife statistician, says the 2004 harvest survey is an accurate and timely report thanks to assistance of hunters across the country. "The percent of hunters responding by Internet has been growing every year," she said. "That trend is great, because it’s saving money."