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Game herds feel drought impact; state changing seasonal quotas

Mar 28, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Sportsmen say the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is managing game responsibly with 2013's big game seasons.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Riverton Branch Library, officials outlined the big game seasons for hunters and responded to public comments that came from a meeting in December.

Don Scott attended the meeting. He said he hunts deer, elk, antelope and birds, and said there has been less vegetation to feed the animals because of drought conditions.

"I think the hunting quotas are pretty much right on with what they need to be," he said. "There will be people who are upset that the quotas have been cut."

In hunt areas near Riverton, limits to the number of mule deer that can be harvested were reduced along with antelope quotas. Game and Fish raised the number of white tail deer that can be harvested, and quotas in elk hunt areas stayed the same.

"The deer out in the desert, they have been suffering one of the worst years in history," game warden Chris Daubin said. "That hurts buck quality."

Deer in farm areas have fared better, he said, because they can eat crops and drink from irrigation ditches.

Along with the drought, Daubin said last year's hunt lowered the number of deer, leading to lower deer quotas this year. The number of deer and deer hunting licenses climbed together in recent years, but last year the harvest was so high it shrank the population.

"Hunters told us we put a pretty good hurt on the deer," Daubin said.

Other hunters attending the meeting also thought Game and Fish officials acted responsibly by lowering hunt quotas.

"In some of the areas we've been concerned about they lowered the quotas," Greg Larsen said. "That's what we were hoping for."

Larsen and his friend Glen Gamble both hunt everything they can, and both said they stay on top of hunting issues.

"These guys try to do a good job," Gamble said about the state agency's staff. "If they're cutting (quotas) back they needed to."

Lander regional wildlife supervisor Jason Hunter said even with the reduced hunt quotas, his office is aiming for smaller herds just as livestock producers are.

"Us having reduced wildlife populations during this time is us doing our part," he said.

Daubin said recently announced budget cuts will not affect enforcement of hunting laws.

"There will still be game wardens," he said. "We'll still be doing our jobs."

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