As I stated in my last blog, I’d kick off my in depth look at Wyoming’s Region A, but let’s also take a look at Regions B and T, which will cover all of Eastern Wyoming. Eastern Wyoming, as a whole, has some limitations in terms of public land access. There are very few large, contiguous blocks of public land to get lost on. For the most part, you are dealing with numerous parcels in the 1-5 square mile range before running into private land or an inholding within the National Forest.
Public land hunting opportunities are best in Northeast Wyoming’s Region A, encompassing units 1 through 6. The Black Hills National Forest and a small portion of the Thunder Basin National Grasslands make up the majority of the publicly accessible lands. Within the National Forest is also a small amount of accessible private land enrolled in Wyoming’s Walk-In Hunting Areas, totally less than 1,000 acres at this time in Crook County.
While the public lands offer hunting convenience, the real draw to Region A is the deer density. I know of no area in the 11 major Western States that presently supports as many deer per square mile as Region A. Presently, you are looking at roughly 32 deer per square mile, with 19.4 whitetails, and 12.9 mule deer per square mile. Only a few places in Western Colorado can come close to matching those numbers. South Dakota and Nebraska likely have as many deer, but because they don’t survey their big game herds very well, it’s hard to really know.
There’s quite a lot of overlap in terms of the habitat usage between the two species here. In the national forests, you never know whether or not you will run into a mule deer or whitetail. Mule deer tend to outnumber whitetails in the plains, badlands, coulees, and rangelands, but whitetails dominate the river bottoms and croplands.
Hunting pressure in Region A can be quite high, as there are a lot of tags issued. Thankfully, these units have a long season, lasting 20-25 days. This helps to spread out the worst of the pressure. So if you’re a public land hunter intent on the hunting the Black Hills, hunt the second or third week on weekdays if possible. Unit 2 has the most public land, but if all tag holders were hunting at the same time on public lands, you’d be looking at roughly 13 hunters per square mile. In most places, that would be an obscene number of hunters to deal with, but thankfully the deer still outnumber hunters 2.5 to 1.
Success rates in region A run about average for mule deer hunting around the West, hovering around 40%. Sex ratios are mediocre, so is the trophy potential. This is a heavily hunted herd, certainly not trophy managed, but with 25% of the bucks being harvested, there’s still potential for a mature animal. Tags aren’t too difficult to come by; 73% of those with no preference points drew a Region A general tag in 2010. There are no limited quota units in Region A.
All in all, if you’re just looking for a good time with a lot of action, you can certainly find it here in Region A. This is one place where it makes since to buy up to 4 doe tags and have a reasonable expectation to fill most of them if you have enough time.
Region B is a much larger area than Region A. It’s bordered on the south by Lusk, Douglas and Casper, and the north by Gillette and Newcastle. Public lands are widely scattered throughout the region with the Thunder Basin National Grassland plus large amounts of BLM in mostly small parcels and some state lands. Units 7-14, plus 21 and 22 are in Region B. Only units 10 and 22 have a large amount of public land, although every unit has some. Unit 12 would be the worst option for public lands. Unit 7 also has some large Walk-In Access Areas, several of which exceed 3,000 acres.
The deer density isn’t particularly high in the units with significant public land, but the sex ratios and trophy potential are quite good. If you are going to consider a mule deer hunt in this area, you must be a good map reader. You can get yourself in a lot of trouble if you aren’t paying attention to your mileages and landmarks. The BLM and state lands are almost never marked, so it’s up to you to know where you are.
There are whitetails to be had in the Region, but mostly on the private lands. Mule deer densities vary from 11 per square mile in the easternmost, private land-heavy units down to just 4 deer per square mile in the more arid country near Casper and Gillette.
There are only a few places to recommend within this large region. Unit 22 is limited quota area, and a great option for a public land plains mule deer hunt. Though there aren’t many deer there, the visibility is great for spot and stalk hunting, and the average success rate is over 80%. It’s really a top notch value as the tags are virtually guaranteed and frequently go to leftovers.
Unit 10 is a good bet with the general tag, though no easier to draw than 22. The Region B general tag rarely has more than a handful of leftover tags, so if you want it, you must draw the tag. The season in unit 10 is shorter than the surrounding units, lasting from just October 1-8 in 2010. Most of the other units last two plus weeks in early October.
All in all, Region B has some interesting mule deer hunting opportunities, but if you aren’t confident with your map reading and navigation skills leave it those who are.
Region T, east of Cheyenne and south of Lusk has much less to offer to a DIY hunter. Southeast Wyoming is mostly shortgrass prairie, and small, rolling, lightly-timbered hills and bluffs. The public uplands aren’t devoid of deer, but the low density and sketchy landownership patterns make hunting difficult. Mule deer outnumber whitetails about 4:1 out here, but unless you have access to the river bottoms out here, don’t bother hunting these units. Unit 57 has several thousand acres of Walk-In Access and Camp Guernsey, which straddles units 16 and 55 is another option for those who are fixated on public land hunting in Southeast Wyoming. Otherwise, leave it to the locals, you aren’t missing much. The Region T tags do go to leftovers, but there are better choices.