Elk Hunting on Crystal Butte

A hunter wades through knee-deep snow and deadfall timber 1,400 feet above the valley floor on Crystal Butte last November. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing to close the area in the late season to hunters possessing “general” licenses.

Wyoming wildlife managers plan to do away with a late-season, over-the-counter elk hunt on Crystal Butte and instead triple the number of limited-quota licenses.

Lopping off the month of November for “general” licenses in elk unit 80 is among the more notable changes to local hunting seasons the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing for fall 2018. The change, a response to overcrowding, is among those to be discussed at a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday at Teton County Library.

“The past few years we’ve been seeing a lot more people hunting that general hunt in area 80, and there’s been a lot of crowding issues,” Game and Fish wildlife biologist Aly Courtemanch said. “There has been a lot more citations and a few spike elk getting shot by mistake, and so we’re thinking that we’d try to close that general hunt earlier.”

“General” elk hunters will still be able to pursue wapiti in the zone east of the National Elk Refuge until the end of October. The number of “type 6” licenses hunters must acquire through a lottery would jump from 100 to 300.

Biologists say that wintering wildlife likely fared the winter well, and they estimated no large changes to populations of regional herds of elk, deer and other ungulates. The Jackson Elk Herd, for example, was assessed in recent weeks at 10,877 animals, which is 111 more elk than the number tallied a year ago.

In other elk hunting changes, some season dates are being slightly adjusted. State officials are proposing to trim the number of licenses that will go to Grand Teton National Park hunters by 25 and plan to close park hunting north of Moran to relieve pressure on a struggling population of elk that lives in and near the Teton Wilderness. There’s also a proposal to boost the number of “any elk” tags available to hunters in the private-land zone between Moose and Wilson by 25 tags.

Changes to Jackson Hole deer hunting seasons are minimal, with the exception of a new 15-deer limited-quota whitetail hunt that will be open through the month of November in the area between Moose and Wilson.

The limited moose hunting in the region remains largely the same, though in an area south of Jackson the number of licenses will be trimmed from five to two.

Pressure on the Jackson Bison Herd is going up, with the overall number of licenses increasing from 120 a year ago to 192 this coming hunting season.

Wildlife managers also plan to extend the hunting season for ruffed and blue grouse by one month, so that it will close at the end of December.

The public can comment on the hunting seasons though April 4. A form is available at WGFD.WYO.gov/Get-Involved/Public-Meetings. Biologists and wardens will be in attendance at Thursday’s meeting to explain changes to hunting seasons and present their latest findings on wildlife populations.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, env@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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