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Wyoming Fee Changes for 2018

Wyoming to Increase Fees for 2018

Wyoming has announced licence fee changes going into effect Jan 1, 2018. While fees are increasing across the board, the non-resident increases are significantly higher. Non-resident deer tags are increasing from $312 to $374 (regular draw) while residents are seeing a change from $38 to $42.

License fee increases are part of the game and Wyoming hasn’t seen an increase in quite a few years. Wyoming is also one of the most generous states as far as non-resident tag allocation is concerned, and it’s expected that these changes won’t affect drawing odds very much.

For a complete list of fee chances going into affect at the first of the year, view this link:
https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Apply-or-Buy/License-Fee-List/2018-License-Fee-Changes

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment, we’d love to hear it!

Red Desert Mule Deer Migration

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One thing is certain, mule deer are some of the most amazing animals in the world! Thanks to GPS technologies, a recent study has found that the Red Desert Mule deer of Wyoming migrate 150 miles north into the Hoback basin. This herd, of approximately 500 animals travel across major highways, fences and development in the longest known migration in the lower 48! Take a few minutes and watch this video to learn more about this incredible feat.

You can also learn more at the link provided in the video: www.migrationinitiative.org.

Return to the Sage: Wyoming Antelope

Getting so close a few weeks ago and coming home empty handed changed our plans for the rifle opener. Initially we were planning on scouting for 2 days, and rifle hunting the rest of the week. But after tasting the challenge that spot and stalk archery hunting provided, we modified our plans and headed over 4 days earlier, hoping to get the job done with archery tackle. We’d then have a day or two to pick up our rifles if needed.

Wyoming Desert Sunrise
In this sage country, cover is very scarce. Our tactic consisted of driving and hiking into canyons and draws, looking for bucks that were in stalk-able locations. We each had multiple stalks every day — some better than others. It wasn’t an issue of getting within range, but being close enough, and letting an arrow fly are much different things in the bowhunting world.

Buck through the brush

Dad came and met us after a couple of days, and a good friend, Jewkes, also showed up the Saturday before the rifle hunt opened. We spent a lot of time driving, walking, and glassing bucks to stalk.  Cole showed up Sunday afternoon. He would only be rifle hunting, but came out a couple of days early to get familiar with the unit and look at some bucks.

Jewkes came about 3 inches shy of killing a buck on Sunday, but the buck had moved a few steps farther than he had though and he shot just under its belly. The young buck dashed off and quickly learned to keep his distance from Jewkes-sized predators.

Running Pronghorn Buck

Monday morning we headed out to check on a few of the bigger bucks we’d seen. We were hoping to find them in their usual haunts, so we could be there at first light on opening morning. But we couldn’t locate any of them. We checked a half dozen different areas, and none of our bigger bucks were to be found. Disheartened we decided to head to another part of the unit that we had visited just once over the past 4 days.


Glassing for Bucks

I’d like to say that we put on a difficult stalk, but that wasn’t the case. As we were arriving in the other area and had barely driven onto a strip of public land, we spotted 8 bucks feeding from the truck.  We managed to get the truck pulled off the road without spooking them too much, and Jewkes made a short and effective stalk to within range.

I was sizing the bucks up, trying to pick the largest one. They all looked to be about 2.5 year old bucks — none significantly bigger than the others. They all lined up in a row and looked our way as they had caught our movement. The third from the left, however, did have a pretty hook and was a bit more appealing to my eye. I was looking through the camera eyepiece whispering “Third one from the left…third one from the left.”

The arrow flew, the herd jumped and scattered, and the third buck from the left ran off untouched. The second buck from the left, however, had taken an arrow to the spine and dropped on the spot. The shot was a little high, but the buck was down and expired quickly. It was done. We had a pronghorn buck down — spot and stalk style with archery tackle. We were all on cloud nine as we took a few moments to let it all sink in, snap some photos, and then headed back to camp. Tag 1 of 5 was notched. Rifle season started in the morning.


Jewkes' Archery AntelopeJewkes' Archery Buck Closeup

With pronghorn, an inch makes a big difference. In this sense, antelope hunting differs quite a bit from most other hunts as we looked over dozens of different bucks every day, trying to judge an inch here, and an inch there.  The majority of the bucks we would see were around 13 inches tall or smaller with small to average prongs and not much mass.  As the day wears on and the desert warms, heat waves make discerning inches at distances over 300 yards nearly impossible, even with good optics. We made the decision to split up opening morning. Cole and Jewkes went one way, while Ben, Dad and I took the other truck down into the canyons where we had seen several good bucks on multiple occasions, hoping that they would be back for the rifle opener.

Pronhorn Buck on Skyline

They weren’t. We drove through the usual haunts of several different bucks, only to find them empty. We did find several 14+ inch bucks early in the morning, one in particular had sweeping horns, but we decided that only 10 minutes into the rifle season, he could live a little longer.

We covered a lot of ground, and finally found a solid buck that warranted a stalk, but he was a mile away and two draws over. We consulted the GPS (thanks to GPS Hunting Maps) and found a road that would bring us close. After a bumpy drive and a stalk of a few hundred yards, we eased our way over the edge of the ridge. The herd had moved several hundred yards west and had us pegged. I rushed to find the buck, rested over a large sagebrush, checked the range, and took the shot. I hit low and the buck trailed his fast moving girlfriends across the draw and up the canyon. I had an incorrect range, and must have picked up some brush somewhere between myself and the buck and missed low because of it.

We made our way back out of the canyons and onto a big flat that always holds good amounts of antelope — they lived there because they could see for long distance so getting close to them was tough. We found several herds, and Ben and I were able to stalk up a draw, passing several bucks on the way, but ultimately not getting the bucks we were after.

Ben Watching Buck through Scope

We returned to camp to find Cole had killed the first buck he saw that morning. His luck paid off big time as his buck was big and had character. We exchanged high fives and stories of the morning, grabbed some lunch, and headed out to find some more bucks.

Cole's Big Character Buck

Trek Tent Camp

We found another nice buck, who managed to elude us and were driving back past camp, when we spotted a herd on backside of the ridge above camp, close to where I had one of my closest archery stalks several days prior. This looked to be the same buck and I decided I’d make a stalk. Ben took Dad south to try and find another buck, while Jewkes followed me with the camera as we made our way back to camp and up the draw. Hoping we could sneak around the ridge and find the herd within range.

I left Jewkes when I thought we were close and he stayed back with the camera, as there was very little cover. I had to use the topography of the gradual ridge to make my way towards the herd. I crawled forward and saw a doe, she was moving up the hill so I backed off, looped uphill and crawled forward again. The buck was standing next to a doe at about 200 yards, and for a long time either she was in front of him or he was in front of her so no shot was offered. I studied the buck, trying to decide whether I wanted to fill my tag. The doe cleared and he turned his head to look up the draw, his ivory tips glinted in the sunlight and he made up my mind. I grabbed my pack (which I had set behind me) and laid on my back as I pulled it across my chest to use as a rest. The buck caught my movement and looked my way. He stared me down, as I lay flat on my back in some very short grass. After what felt like an hour (more like a minute) he turned and fed. His lead doe was getting nervous and turned, looking to go around the ridge from me where I wouldn’t be able to see them. The buck was following but turned back. I abruptly sat up and shot. His does raced uphill, quartering towards me as they hurried to the top of the ridge. The buck turned downhill at first, then whirled back and I shot again, but the first shot had found its mark.

Brad's Pronghorn Buck

Brad's Buck side view

Brad's Wyoming Buck


Dad and Ben were coming back past camp, so we called and they came up to take a few more photos. They then headed back south of camp to look for a couple more good bucks. Ben found a buck that evening that had a pretty curl, great mass, and good prongs. He put on a very long stalk to within 70 yards in tall sage brush, capping it off with a short shot and tagged out. His buck is 13″ but will likely score the best of all the bucks due to his mass and strong cutters.

Ben's massive hooked pronghorn buck

We capped the night off with some rice and fresh backstraps, enjoying good company, tired companions, and reliving memories of the day. The next morning Dad, Ben and I headed out to try to find a buck for Dad. We drove down onto a large flat where we had gone the morning prior. The bucks make their way across this flat as they move from water each morning. We spotted the sweeping 14″ from the morning before and Dad decided he wouldn’t pass on him twice. With a short stalk his tag was punched and we had tagged 5 bucks in 36 hours.

Dad's sweeping antelope buckDad's Buck Closeup

I’ve long believed that antelope hunting is a great first hunt — but ultimately, it just makes a great hunt whether you’re new to the sport, or a seasoned veteran. The North American Pronghorn truly is a unique and amazing animal, hunting them in the sage deserts of Wyoming is hard to beat.


Morning Glassing for Antelope

Wyoming Horned Toad

Speedy Spot and Stalk

As a kid, Dad and I would always put in for Antelope together. We’d typically spend a single day hunting. I’d often be tagged out by 9 am, and then we’d drive around for a few hours until Dad would take one in the mid afternoon. Then we’d drive home — after all it was archery elk season and we’d rather spend our available time doing that. Antelope hunting was always a fun hunt that we shared, but Elk hunting was always our priority.

This year is a bit of a throwback as I decided to spend my points on the same unit that Dad and I hunted when I lived in Wyoming. This isn’t known as one of Wyoming’s trophy units, but the population numbers are always good and it is rare to go more than 20 minutes without seeing a buck. Antelope hunting in Wyoming can be as hard as you make it, and this year I wanted to devote a few more days, including some “spot and stalk” hunting with bow in hand.

Wyoming has always been one of my favorite states to hunt — probably because it is where I first hunted. The country is familiar and opportunity is abundant. For and extra few dollars we can hunt the archery season and when the rifle season comes along, can pick-up the guns. This weekend Ben and I decided to head out to the unit to get our feelers out for some better than average bucks, and bring our bows along for fun. After all — spot and stalk Antelope hunting has a reputation of being very challenging, but something I had never tried. Dad came over the mountain as well, as he drew a tag.

We arrived friday evening with just enough light to look over a few herds across a large sagebrush flat where I’d taken several bucks in the past. Standing in the short sage brought back a lot of great memories hunting with Dad. I’m sure this hunt, when it’s all said and done, will be another chapter of great memories hunting with family and close friends.


sunset1
lookingaround
We were back overlooking the same flat at first light in a stand-off with a vocal buck. The buck circled us and headed east onto the flat. I caught a few pics of the rising sun and the fleeing buck.


goodbuck
sunrise

I won’t get heavy into the details of the hunt up to this point as I’ll be posting a video of this hunt later. We hit it hard all day — heat waves made glassing difficult most of the day, but we managed to screw up some great stalks and found a few above average bucks for the rifle hit list. I will say that I’m addicted. Spot and Stalk Pronghorn hunting is a blast!


flatstalkbuck_rubtwogoatsrainbowfenceBen GlassingcanyonwatchingBen_StalkBrad Miss2

Wyoming’s Second Chance Antelope

By Chance Thompson

It’s early in the morning, you get tucked in behind your keyboard and log onto the Wyoming Game and Fish website. Today is the day you find out your draw results. You’ve waited a long time for this. You just know that you drew that premium Pronghorn Antelope tag you applied for way back in March. You type your information in and read that magical word. UNSUCCESSFUL! How can it be? You had it all planned out; your first western big game hunt on the wind swept prairies of Wyoming. Now what? Wait another year and try again or give up on the idea all together? Absolutely not. There are still literally thousands of opportunities available this year for both residents and nonresidents to hunt antelope in Wyoming.

Every year after the preliminary draw has taken place thousands of tags are still available in units that are considered sub-par or that have private land issues. The fact is that a majority of these units offer excellent opportunities and have ample public land on which to hunt. It takes a lot of research and planning but it is entirely possible to hunt antelope on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. By purchasing these tags after the draw, your preference points are still yours to keep which allows you to build valuable points for a future hunt in one of the premium trophy units in Wyoming that may require several years’ worth of points to draw. Another great aspect is hunting these units is you are allowed the opportunity to study antelope behavior under real field/hunting conditions. This knowledge will become invaluable when you finally obtain the trophy quality tag.

There are several steps to get your research process headed in the right direction. The very first step would be to look at the leftover list and narrow it down to a minimum of 3 units that interest you. The units may share a border or they may be several hundred miles apart from each other. You need to see how many tags are leftover in each unit. Sometimes units may have only a handful, others may have hundreds. There is a narrow window from the time the leftover list is printed to the time when the tags actually become available for purchase. So it is important to get your research done and make a decision on which unit you would like to hunt. Some of these tags will be sold within minutes of being available. Others are available right up until the season starts.

An invaluable tool to help narrow down your search is a good map. BLM maps are very good tools to determine exactly how much public land is available in the units you are interested in. These maps can be purchased from the BLM field office in the area that you are interested in hunting. These maps are cheap (typically under ten dollars) and really help you get a feel for the land ownership status in the area. When looking at the maps you want to find blocks that are brown, green, or blue in color. Brown indicates BLM land, green indicates national forest land, and blue indicates state land. These three types of land are public and can be hunted by anyone. The white sections of the map indicate land that is privately owned and permission must be obtained from the land owner in writing before you can legally hunt these lands.

The next step would be to get on the phone and contact the Local Chambers of Commerce and the Game and Fish Department offices and request a list of private land owners in the area who allow hunting on their land for free, or a very small trespass fee. We at HuntAddicts.com are also available via email to discuss your plans and get you pointed in the right direction for your next hunting adventure in the high deserts of Wyoming. Stay tuned to the huntaddicts.com featured articles section for more in depth articles to help you make the most of your western hunting opportunities.

Chance's Antelope
Chance’s buck taken on a leftover license in Wyoming’s unit 25

Public Land Elk Hunting: 5 Steps

By Brad Carter

I watched my Dad peer through the eyepiece of his binoculars. Barely old enough to keep up, I desperately wanted to take a look. I tried to search with my eyes in the direction that the binoculars were pointed, and finally could make out small tan spots in a meadow on the very top of the highest peak around. I finally had my turn to view what made my heart pound with anticipation. They were elk, and they were living at 9,000 feet where we had seen them several times before, and several times since. Now later in life, as I carry my own rifle, I have found myself climbing that same rocky peak in search of the elk I hunted with my father years before.

I have seen elk up close in that same meadow consistently year after year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Elk have similar patterns that they follow every year almost to the foot. This is just one of the many things I have learned about hunting successfully for Bull Elk. By following the tips below, you can increase your success when hunting on public land for pressured Bull Elk.

1. FIND YOUR ELK: Elk are going to be found in the same places year after year, unless they have been moved out by an irregularity. For example, an area that I, along with my family and friends, had found success in just wasn’t clicking for us one particular year. As I glassed the opposite mountain side where I had previously seen elk nearly every time I went, there wasn’t an animal to be seen. To investigate further, I hiked to the top of that ridge. Sheep tracks littered the ground. This event ruined my hunt until I figured out that the herd had moved across the canyon, to nearly the same clearing that I was glassing from the day before. Nothing can replace pre-season scouting for finding where elk will be during the hunt. The most critical days are those right before the hunt. However, once an area has produced results during consecutive years, there is a good chance you will find elk in the same place the next year.

2. PATTERN YOUR ELK: Elk aren’t likely to stay in the same area year round. Several factors play into this phenomenon. Hunting pressure will move elk out of their summer areas and into areas where we are less likely to reach them—unless we’re just plain crazy. Frankly, I have been called crazy several times for killing elk where I have.

During a public land bow hunt in Wyoming several years ago, I was out of my tent well before the sun had even thought of rising. The elk had been bugling all night, and I knew exactly where they were. However, upon crossing the river that flowed between the elk and me, they had already begun to move off. I couldn’t get a shot at the bull I was after, so I started my trek back to camp for lunch. I met up with my father, and we took a shortcut on a game trail through a patch of heavy timber. We plodded along, not expecting, or thinking about chancing onto an elk that may be out late in the morning. I was looking through the timber, and caught some motion out of the corner of my eye. Realizing it was an elk, we dropped and crouched behind some brush. It was just a cow, so we waited and watched. Then another cow materialized out of the trees, and she slowly fed away from us. I looked up at my Dad, and I could see excitement in his eyes. He motioned with one finger as he leaned over and informed me that a good bull was bedded about 70 yards away. We huddled silently as the bull stood up and fed away from us and over the ridge. We didn’t have an opportunity to stalk, and we had to go home because of other obligations. We returned later in the season, and after a morning of hunting returned back to camp on the same game trail. We sneaked in and thoroughly scanned the trees for elk. There weren’t any there, so we continued through the trees back to camp. My father was leading and suddenly stopped. I froze in my tracks, he pointed with one finger behind his back. I looked ahead, and there was the same bull facing us at 80 yards. He had spotted us before we spotted him, and he scuffled off and over the same ridge he’d disappeared over earlier that season. This old bull had found a place very much to his liking. After he had the slightest hunting pressure, he moved into his favorite old hiding place and stayed there.

3. GET DOWN AND DIRTY: If you want to kill a trophy bull on public land, you’re going to have to get to places others just plain won’t. The peak I watched with my father as a young boy was one such place. As soon as the fist rifle shot was fired, these elk went as high as they could go—9,000 feet into the sky on the top of Elk Mountain. Elk, however; don’t always climb the mountain peaks; they often find the deepest and darkest patch of timber around. These big bulls only feed out at night, and when faced with any danger from a hunter can escape with a few quick kicks of their feet. One of the only ways to get a shot at these elk is to sneak your way into the timber after them. Usually these big old bulls won’t go to such extreme measures during an archery season because the hunting pressure isn’t as great and success is a lot quieter. I have been faced with this dilemma many times during my rifle hunt experiences. I have found that sneaking through elk-filled timber as quietly and slowly as possible creates results. By slowly, I mean very slowly—taking a step and studying the trees, then taking another five steps, and then stopping to search the trees. This method does often present difficult, running shots, which under some circumstances may question our shooting ethics. Other times, however, you can see the elk before they see you. I often sneak into timber along a worn game trail as the morning wears on, and have frequent sightings of mature bulls.

4. PRACTICE: I am a firm believer in practice. Of course going out to the shooting range and putting a few rounds through your rifle is going to help. But I think an important part of practice is stepping back and learning from your experiences. Decide what you could have done better in a certain hunting situation that would have made it successful. Feel comfortable shooting at distances that you have fallen short in real situations. Your surroundings will not always be perfect when that bull of your dreams comes around the nearest pine tree, but you need to be.

5. BE PERSISTENT: Even seemingly hopeful situations can end up falling apart. For instance, the sun had already fallen below the horizon when my father and I plucked an arrow from our quivers and pushed them back into our nocks. I cow called, and the brush began to crackle under an old bull’s feet. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I caught a glimpse of his ghostly silhouette; my release grasped my bowstring as I drew my bow. To my right, my Dad was doing the same thing. The bull froze; I set my pin behind his shoulder blade. But a lone branch from a deadfall log blocked my arrow’s path, so I informed my Dad that I didn’t have a shot. He decided to take the shot. The arrow clanked as it disappeared into the darkness. The bull circled us and holed up for the night, all the while still barking at us. I could no longer see the bow in my hand, and knowing that my father had missed, we returned to camp for the night. The next day we chanced into the same clearing. Wondering what caused the miss, I followed the bull’s tracks from the night before and froze in the very place that it had. My father stood where he had drawn his bow the previous evening. As we replayed our experience, my father spotted his arrow. It had lodged nearly six feet in the air in the same branch that had obstructed my way.

Things don’t always go as planned. Realize that it’s just part of the game, and continue to join me in being consumed in the passion of hunting elk.

You Can’t Cheat the Mountain, Pilgrim.

By Steve Huhtala

 

At 11,800 feet there wasn’t a whole lot of air to gulpdown. The only sign of trees were a couple thousand feet below us, with the exception of a few tree stumps from millions of years ago. Petrified tree parts littered the near vertical slopes around us and the stumps of an ancient forest still protruded from the earth here.

This was one of those moments you live for. We were about to look over the side of a saddle where I had watched 27 rams walking across four years before near where I had just shot my own ram. I always wondered what lay over this mountain pass since that amazing day.

My partner Doc, his son Brad and I slowly gazed around the corner of a huge rock cornice.
Oh my! It was sheep heaven! Four rams lay four hundred yards level across, six more were scattered below them, including the beautiful dark ram with heavy horns that led us to this spot.
And off to their right and below, lay three rams including Doc’s favorite, a heavy based long horn sheep that carried his mass out well. But, they were here for a reason. We called this place “Highway to Hell”. There was no vegetation here, only conglomerate rock tilted on edge at 70 degrees Spires of rock looked like chimneys between chutes and cliffs. Forbidding country. It was 3 P.M. and we had been climbing and glassing since 5 A.M.

This was by far the toughest piece of real estate we’d seen yet. Doc asked, “What do you think Hoot?”

I said, “I don’t know if we can get to that ram even if you do kill him, much less get him back out of here.”

“Well.” Doc replied, “I really like him….A lot!” He added. Doc reminded me of my bold statement to shoot the ram he wanted first, then we would worry about getting him out. Maybe I was being too cautious. So, we made the decision to send Brad above to scope out a route to the ram. Brad is a lean sheep-hunter-built type young man, so it wasn’t long before he was back with the good word.

“If he falls off the cliff into the chute we can go below to get to him. If he dies in his bed, we’ll have to get to him from above. But, it’s doable.”
Doc quizzed me once more. “Will you be mad if I shoot him Hoot? You said if we find the one I want we’ll figure out a way to get him back to camp.”
I replied, “It’s your tag and your ram. We’ll make it work.”

We discussed the ballistics of the situation. 325 yards, 45 degree decline…” upslope wind and the bedded ram quartering towards us.” I’m going to aim at the bottom of his curl.” Doc whispered.

“Yeah, sounds good” I nodded in agreement.  Adjusting his gun and pack, Doc made like a German Shorthair getting his bed just right. When he finished settling his rifle, we all waited and watched. I had a ringside seat through my spotting scope. I couldn’t help but think after eight years this old ram that filled my spotting scope was breathin’ his last breath. Doc was about to let the air out of him. What a magnificent animal, what fabulous country. Kaboom! I saw the impact of the bullet hit the ram where the neck, shoulder, and brisket all converge. A perfect hit! The bruiser exploded to his feet, took three steps and disappeared from view behind a rock. The next sound was the sheep crashing off the cliff into the chute below us.

“You nailed him Doc, you nailed him! He’s down. Great shot!” The other dozen rams scattered in all directions. Where sheep can go, defies physics. Running wide open across avalanche chutes and over cliffs can only be appreciated in person. They are absolutely amazing animals.

It wasn’t long before all was quiet. The other rams made their way to drainage. Brad had caught the entire stalk on video. We hoped to capture the event on film, turn it into a DVD and make it available for sale and rent through my new business, Trophy Flix.
Brad is a natural behind the camera and looking back at the footage, he really captured the spirit of the hunt.

Our trio picked our way around the steep loose rock and into the chute where Doc’s ram lay dead, but barely clinging to the rocks. He was a fine ram. Good bases, mass, and a beautiful dark cape. And like most sheep hunts, it was a team effort. We had to keep the back slaps to a minimum, as it was already tough to keep our feet underneath us. It was a real challenge just to gut and cape the ram in this precarious spot.

But, the biggest challenge still lay before us. We had to get ourselves and the ram off the mountain and back to camp. Looking down the canyon Doc suggested we go down and out instead of up and around to get back to camp the way we came. I knew this country and what it can do to you. I was reluctant. Doc offered to hike down the near ridge to afford a better look at the drainage below. He soon radioed back,” It doesn’t look to bad.” Brad and I thought,” What the heck, we’ll see some new country.”, and joined Doc below. We did indeed see some new country including: waterfalls, a dozen cliffs, brush, boulders, downfall, seven miles of trail and three river crossings. We staggered into camp at 2:30 A.M. the next morning.

I reminded Doc of the words of wisdom given to Jeremiah Johnson by Bear Claw Chris Lapp,
“You can’t cheat the mountain pilgrim.” We had a good laugh and decided there is nothing that compares to a successful sheep hunt, but a nice easy antelope hunt sounded really good right then.