Last year, big game hunters were facing tinder dry conditions and skirting around wildfires. This year, the outlook is good overall, according to Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie.
“With the extra moisture/snow this past winter and spring, forage and habitat conditions are good,” de Vergie said. “Some animals were unable to reach their normal calving/fawning grounds due to deep snow, but we are seeing a lot of newborns on the ground so nature took its course.”
Thanks to a wet winter and spring, ponds, streams and lakes are full.
“Water is distributed well across the landscape which will help keep big game animals spread out. This will help with hunting seasons and hunters should be able to find animals in most places. The high moisture levels also helped with forage production. Grasses, shrubs and berry crops seem to be plentiful so body condition and antler growth should be good. Deer populations are stable in the NW portion of the state and buck hunting should be good. We are seeing a lot of larger, mature bucks on the landscape. Elk hunting should also be good as local populations numbers are on the higher side. The heavier winter did not appear to have a negative affect on either deer or elk,” according to de Vergie.
The same goes for bear hunters, who can expect good forage to produce bears in good body condition. Bear sightings are increasing, as bear numbers remain high.
“There are a lot of bear licenses available so sportsmen should be able to get a license and have the opportunity to hunt,” de Vergie said.
Coming in from out of state? “Nonresident bear licenses have been reduced in cost this year to $100. This should provide better opportunities for out of state hunters to have the chance to harvest a bear.”
Local populations of moose in the northwest portion of the state are on the increase, and have become very spread out, providing a good outlook for hunters who drew a moose license. “Opportunities to locate moose are more common and there are more and more larger bulls on the woods. Moose have become very spread out across the entire NW portion of the state so hunting opportunities continue to increase with increased licenses allocated,” de Vergie said.
Increased moisture throughout the region should benefit antelope hunters as well. “Antelope appear to be spread out all across their ranges and numbers are good. There was no noticeable loss of antelope due to the heavier winter so hunting should be good.”
The big game hunting season dates will remain relatively the same this year.
“There are ongoing discussions and a decision should be made soon by the Parks and Wildlife Commission on the next 5-Year Big Game Season Structure. So, hunters need to be aware of this for next year. Changes could occur,” de Vergie said.