- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Department of Game and Fish predicts that hunters can look forward to plentiful game this year thanks to the mild winter and plentiful moisture.

Game department spokesmen say the deer and antelope populations are growing statewide. Elk numbers statewide remain above objectives and the game department says hunter success should remain high. Hunting for sage grouse and cottontail rabbits should also be good this year.

For antelope, the forecast states that herds in the Casper region are starting to rebound after heavy winter losses five years ago. In the Cody region, antelope hunting will likely be better than it was last year. Around Green River, antelope numbers have increased in most areas. In the Lander area, antelope populations increased last year and hunter success should be good. Around Laramie, hunters should expect pronghorn hunting to be better this year than last year.

Game Department Director Scott Talbott says hunter success levels in Wyoming are among the highest in the region.

The game department’s hunting season forecast this year warns that hunting access is becoming increasingly difficult around Sheridan.

“Access to private lands and landlocked public lands continues to be difficult in portions of some hunt areas where fees for hunting access are high and little or no hunting is allowed,” the report states in the section about antelope hunting. “Leasing of hunting rights to outfitters continues to limit access for hunters wanting to hunt without a professional guide or outfitter.”

The report contains the same warning for would-be deer hunters eyeing lands around Sheridan. “Access to hunt mule deer, particularly buck mule deer, has become severely limited as much of the private land and access to landlocked public land has been leased by outfitters,” it states. “Several ranches that traditionally accommodated nonresident hunters willing to pay access/trespass fees and allowed limited hunting by residents, no longer are available.”

The report states that elk numbers remain at or above objective levels in the Casper Region and many other areas of the state.

“Antlerless elk hunter success continues to be good in most of the Region, although high hunter densities on public lands often result in reduced hunter success in the early fall,” the report states.

The report states that sage-grouse numbers have increased significantly in the Casper area over the past three years and are continuing to improve. The improvement follows substantial declines from 2006-2013.

The hunting forecast, giving detailed projections for different species around the state is available on the game department website: www.wgfd.wyo.gov/Hunting/SW_HuntingForecast.pdf .

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