By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce has unanimously recommended that the Wyoming Legislature split hunting licenses for white-tailed and mule deer to allow for improved management of the separate species.
Currently, white-tailed and mule deer are just considered as “deer” when it comes to issuing Wyoming hunting licenses, but the task force believes this should change. When a hunter receives a deer license, the choice should be made whether the hunt will be for white-tailed or mule deer, the task force said.
Task force Co-Chair Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the recommendation was “long overdue.”
“This is something that wasn’t needed at the onset, until our white-tailed deer population has grown as robust as it has statewide,” he said. “But mule deer and white-tailed deer are completely different species, two different ungulates on the landscape.”
By changing the current statute, Coursey noted that this would also allow the Game and Fish Department to manage the two deer populations separately and accordingly.
The Legislature’s joint Travel, Recreation and Wildlife committee will take this recommendation up as an interim topic, but Coursey was not sure when the committee would study the issue.
Committee chairs Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time.
Coursey said he did not see this topic being a “heavy lift” for the Legislature, either during the interim or legislative session next year.
“I really don’t think this is going to be a difficult statute change,” he said. “We were mindful of this when making the recommendation and the Game and Fish Department has assured us that this won’t be difficult to implement if it does pass.”
Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Division, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that splitting the deer into two populations for management has been discussed in some form for decades.
“The concept has been discussed internally and with the Wyoming Legislature for a long time,” King said. “Game and Fish has taken a look at this internally several times, going back to the late 1980s. A bill was introduced during the 2015 legislative session, but died in the TRW committee.”
Neither King nor Coursey could say how much the state would benefit, financially, if the licenses were to be split. Resident hunting license fees for Wyoming residents is $42, while non-resident fees are $374.
King did note that the process to apply for and obtain a hunting license for either mule or white-tailed deer would be the same as it is now.
In 2020, 21,370 mule deer and 19,904 white-tailed deer were harvested, according to the Game and Fish Department.