The Saratoga Sun -

Mule deer quota preferred


Wyoming Game and FishDepartment (WGF) held an annual meeting in Saratoga Thursday to update Valley residents and hunters about the progress of the Platte Valley Mule Deer Plan, and to hear public feedback on the plan from residents, hunters and nature lovers.

The plan began in 2011 according to Will Schultz, a biologist for WGF. At that time, the population of mule deer in the Valley was decreasing, and so was satisfaction with the hunting conditions and harvest among hunters, Schultz said. At that time, WGF determined population goals for the deer herd and began coming up with suggestions to reach the population goal.

The plan’s objective was to have a herd of approximately 16,000 in the Valley, Schultz said. In order to reach the goal, changes were proposed to the way people hunt in the valley. Those changes were intended to increase hunter success rates and increase hunt satisfaction and harvest percentage while simultaneously managing the population of mule deer sustainably to allow the herd to reach a sufficient population.

Besides population management, the plan also was intended to better manage deer habitat, control deer predators such as mountain lion, bear and coyote, allow hunters better access to deep populations, manage non-natural disturbaces to the deer habitat and reach out to hunters and residents to work with them in carrying out the plan.

WGF set a hunter satisfaction rating of 60 percent as its goal, and it wanted to achieve a 40 percent buck harvest success rate, according to Schultz. Part and parcel of reaching these goals was to change the way the hunt happened. Instead of a general season model where there is no limit to the number of hunters given license to hunt over a shorter, one-week hunting season, the model WGF decided to deploy was the limited-quota model.

Under the limited-quota model, a predetermined number of hunters would be granted licenses to hunt mule deer in the Valley, and they would have a longer season to harvest an animal. A longer season and the issue of a fixed number of permits allows WGF to more carefully manage the population, and get closer to its hunt satisfaction and harvest percentage goals. Schultz said.

According to WGF, a vast majority of hunters—64 percent—surveyed since the hunt was changed to the limited-quota model are in favor of the scheme. Twenty-three percent of hunters surveyed said they preferred the general season model, and 14 percent said they have no preference.

Among those who attended the public meeting, most seemed to support the limited quota model. “With the longer season, things are more relaxed,” said one attendee. “People don’t feel as much pressure to bag the first deer they see.”

Another attendee said he supported the limited quota system, saying that since the system had been put in place, he was having better hunts and was seeing much better deer to hunt in the field.

Management of predators was another element of the plan that WGF reported on. “The public told us to pay more attention to carnivores,” Schultz said. Because of that, WGF had increased the mountain lion season from 7-months-long to year ’round, and had “liberalized the lion hunt,” Shultz said. More black bears are also being harvested, according to Schultz.

Katie Cheesbrough, another biologist with WGF, addressed attendees about ecological and habitat issues that the agency was working on. The agency was continuing to research migration patterns of mule deer using collar studies and other methods, and was developing a better understanding of the areas in which the deer live. The agency is working to change fences to prevent injury to animals, and is working to reduce car crashes involving deer.

The agency is also engaged in habitat renewal, including restoration of shrub and Aspen stands as well as riparian habitat, removal of invasive species that choke out the plants on which deer forage, irrigation and seeding as well as road reclamation, Cheesbrough said.

WGF will continue to develop and implement the mule deer plan, Schultz said, and would continue to seek out the opinions of hunters and other stakeholders in the area. Communication with the public is key in the success of the plan, he said, and the agency would continue to look for new ways to involve members of the public in the plan.


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