From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 3 - 9/16/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Doug McWhirter
G&F Biologists Expect Better Deer & Sage Grouse Hunting
Higher numbers of game this year.
by Rob Shaul

Hunters can expect to see more deer and sage grouse this season report the two Game & Fish biologists responsible for game in Sublette County.

Deer numbers on the Pinedale side are "growing slowly," says biologist Doug McWhirter. He says hunters should expect a "good, but not exceptional season," this year.

The Sublette mule deer herd on the Pinedale side had an "extremely good" farm crop in 1997, reports Mr. McWhirter. Those deer translate into a good, young group of three and four point bucks in the 20" to 25" range this year. There are some larger bucks out there he adds. During last winter's classification of the Sublette herd, 18% of the bucks classified were over 25" says Mr. McWhirter.

Deer season starts September 15, well before the time the deer start grouping and moving toward their winter ranges. This means the deer will be more dispersed, and many will be up in the high country on their summer range. Starting the season this early is by design says Mr. McWhirter. The Sublette mule deer herd population is still below its management objective. Mr. McWhirter says the early season is designed to allow hunting opportunities, but allow them at a time "when the deer are relatively difficult to kill."

Sage grouse populations in the Pinedale area also are up says Mr. McWhirter. From 1990 through 1996, the G&F was seeing a steady decline in the number of sage grouse present at the strutting grounds in the spring. However, beginning in 1996, "there's been somewhat of a recovery" in strutting ground attendance says Mr. McWhirter.

Again, Mr. McWhirter says sage grouse hunting will not be spectacular. "It's not going to be like the old days," he says, but there are more birds than in years past. Sage grouse season opens September 18, which will have a bearing on where to look for birds. For the most part, the grouse will have moved out of the hay meadows and wet areas and onto the sagebrush uplands, says Mr. McWhirter. Opening the season later is by design, he adds, and will make finding the birds more difficult, therefore limiting the harvest of all the grouse, and especially of the adult females.

Gary Fralick
Piney Front

Deer numbers are also up on the Piney Front, says biologist Gary Fralick. Going into the season, "Things look more promising this year over the last several years," says Mr. Fralick.

Deer mortality was "minimal" last winter he adds. "That's really encouraging to me."

The large fawn crop on the Piney Front occurred in 1996, says the biologist. Those deer will be in their "prime" this year, and Gary expects several 3-4 year old deer to be available for hunters.

The deer are at all elevations, not just up in the high country, he says. Last year, some of the largest deer Gary checked in came out of the Bear Creek burn area _ low country just above the BLM land.

Mr. Fralick theorized that as more and more hunters set up their camps in the high country 3-4 days before the season starts, the larger bucks notice the increased activity and move down hill.

Mr. Fralick expects "fair to good" sage grouse hunting on the Piney Front. He says that antelope hunters are reporting seeing lots of grouse and that last spring's lek attendance by grouse was significantly up over recent years.

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul