When we get to Northwest Wyoming’s Regions R, F and H, we’re looking at a combination of high mountains, rugged wilderness, and vast basins between them. The mountains and basins just west of the Bighorn Range divide makes up most of Region R. West of there and up into the mountains bordering Yellowstone National Park is Region F. South of Yellowstone National Park and extending down past the famed mule deer country of Pinedale is Region H. There are vast tracts of public lands throughout each of these regions. Even the BLM parcels are quite large. If you want to hunt the national forests, don’t forget that nonresidents cannot hunt the designated wilderness areas without a guide.
Region R has no limited quota units, and the region general tag is about a 50% chance of drawing with no preference points. Deer densities are much higher in the foothills, and canyons north and east of the Bighorn National Recreation Area (units 50-53), and consequently the hunting there tends to be better than in units 41-49. This is almost exclusively mule deer country; whitetails make up just a tiny percentage of the available deer out here. While whitetails do exist on the river bottoms, they harvested pretty heavily here. Go further east if you’re looking for western whitetails. Sex ratios on both species exceed 30 bucks per 100 does in the region.
There is public land in all of the units, but 44 and 45 have the least amount. Of course, those are also the smallest units, but they are in the foothills just west of the Bighorn National Forest, with just a small amount of public land. 41 has a ton of BLM land, but 53 has a greater percentage of public land, and a much higher deer density. Success rates aren’t great in 53 though, partly due to the nature of the canyon country around the Bighorn National Rec Area. So pick your poison: decent deer densities and easier country to travel and hunt in the southern half of the Region or rougher country, but more deer up north. For a true mountain hunt, hit unit 46, but the Cloud Peak Wilderness makes up almost half of it.
There’s some good hunting to be had in Region R, and the large expanses of public land are part of what make the unit so popular. You likely won’t ever have much country totally to yourself and the success rates are middle of the road, but the mule deer bucks tend to live a little longer here and the density is quite high in the northern half of the region. It’s tough to go wrong here, but depending on what qualities of a hunt you are willing to compromise on and which qualities you are most interested in, Region R might not be for you.
As we head further west into Region F, you have a similar mix of basins and mountains as in Region R, only reversed with the mountains on the West side. Region F is a guaranteed draw with 0 points. The 2.5 million acre Shoshone National Forest provides ample public hunting opportunity. However, nearly half of that is wilderness, and not open to unguided nonresidents. Units 105, 106, 111, 113 and 117 have significant National Forest hunting outside of the wilderness boundaries. Units 110, 114 and 115 are entirely wilderness. Some vast Hunter Management Areas exist in the Area. Presently, two of those areas are well in excess of 30,000 acres and open to the public with some minor restrictions.
Whitetails are few and far between on the public lands. But mule deer aren’t overly prevalent out here either. Units 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123, 125 and 127 have less than 2.5 deer per square mile. Much better deer densities occur in units 110-115. There is plenty of public land in all of the units in Region F on the general tag. However, units 109, 116-120, 125 and 165 are totally limited quota hunts. Units 105, 106 and 109 also have a special limited quota November hunt to catch rutting and migrating deer. Some units open as early as October 1st here for the general and limited tags. While the deer hunting can be decent here, the general tag is not the best way to go. None of the limited tags can be drawn with 0 preference points here, and the highest success hunts, such as the 119 November hunt take the maximum number of preference points to draw. In 2010 that was 4 points, but will likely be 5 next year.
In my opinion, there are better values to be had out there than holding out for a weather dependent hunt. The 119 tag has a nearly 80% success rate, but you can do almost as good with fewer points in Wyoming, or find even better odds with similar points. And while we’re at it, there really isn’t much else to recommend in Region F over R, M or Y. If you’re combining the tag with an elk hunt, then it makes sense, otherwise, you need towards better deer country. The success rates aren’t very good here, the deer density is quite low in some places, the sex ratios are decent, but not great and the trophy potential isn’t any better than neighboring regions. The one good thing is that there is a lot of land to spread out on. But if there’s only a few deer on that land, then who cares?
Region H is much more publicized for its deer hunting. Places like Pinedale and Big Sandy have been spoken of for many years. However, it’s a little bit overrated. Most of the tags in Region H are general tags, the success rates aren’t great, the deer density is only about 7 per square mile, the trophy potential is quite good, and the sex ratios quite high, but in some of the more accessible country, the pressure is a little obscene. Units 141 and 162 require max points, and so does the later hunt in 130. However, the late split in 130 is actually worth it and the only hunt with over 70% success rate in the Region.
For the most part, these are mountain and foothill hunts. Many of the units in this region have significant wilderness areas. Road hunting options are quite limited, and best left to other regions. There is a vast amount of public land in Region H, especially units 130 and 138, both of which have a small amount of wilderness, but there are many options outside of it. The Region H tag is quite tough to draw, with less than 20% of those without preference points drawing it in 2010. There are some solid options here, especially when combined with an elk tag, but unless you’ve got the points to draw the 130 late hunt, leave it alone, it isn’t THAT good, and not worth risking an unsuccessful draw.