Hunting Wyoming: Come For the Big Game, Stay For The Birds In Natrona County

Natrona County, Wyoming, is known for its prized antelope herds, but prospects may be down this year. Those hunting for big game should also be on the lookout for sage grouse, partridge and waterfowl.

MH
Mark Heinz

September 21, 20234 min read

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If you’re planning to hunt in Natrona County this fall and winter, a big game bow or rifle will come in handy, but don’t forget that shotgun.

“We have some pretty decent waterfowl hunting here, and our upland bird hunting can be really good,” local outdoorsman Trent Tatum told Cowboy State Daily.

Tatum works as a fishing guide, so he was still busy with that this week. But as cooler weather sets in, he’s eager to get out after birds, as well as Natrona County’s ample elk herds.

Fellow resident Dave Castle agreed that Natrona County can have some of the best elk hunting in the state.

“The Casper Mountain-Muddy Mountain elk herd is one of the largest in the state,” he said.  

However, this year, “I was lucky to draw a very hard-to-get elk tag for the Seminoe Mountains.”

That area, which borders Carbon County, is known for rough, brushy canyons — just the sort of place where huge bull elk like to hide out, he said.

Deer, Pronghorn A Mixed Bag This Year

Natrona County is known as “the epicenter of the antelope universe,” both in terms of the sheer number of the critters as well as the potential for trophy-sized bucks, Tatum said.

However, after the last brutal winter, hunting for antelope, or pronghorn as they’re more formally known, will be spotty, he and Castle said.

“Those big snowstorms just wiped out the populations. It’s kind of odd to be out there and just not see the hundreds of antelope that we usually see,” Castle said.

Mule deer also took it hard over the winter, and deer hunting tags had to be cut in some areas, Tatum said.

However, for those hunters willing to work hard, there are still pockets of good mule deer and antelope left in Natrona County, he added.

“There are areas where the weather got them good and the numbers are down. But there are still areas where the mule deer hunting is going to be fine and the antelope hunting is going to be fine,” Tatum said.

Grouse, Partridge Bonanza

While going after big game can put great steaks in the freezer, Tatum and Castle said bird hunting in Natrona County can be great fun and also puts good food on the table.

The vast flatlands of the county provide great sage grouse hunting, Castle said. In the foothills and mountains, hunters willing to do some hiking with a good bird dog can find plentiful blue grouse, which are also called dusky grouse.

Tatum said his favorite upland birds are Hungarian partridge. They are quick, elusive and challenging to hunt, and are also widely considered top-notch table fare.

As far as waterfowl hunting goes, folks can either try “jump shooting” by hiking along waterways, or staying put over a spread of decoys, Tatum said.

“A lot of people like to set out decoys along the (North Platte) river,” he said.

Don’t Forget Whitetail

There also are whitetail deer in Natrona County, although hunters should expect to get permission to go on private land to get a crack at bagging one, Tatum said.

“We have some sub-populations of whitetail along the river bottoms,” he said. “They’re going to be near water, stands of trees and agriculture and those things are usually associated with private land.”

Getting Access, Avoiding Crowds

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been good about opening public access through walk-in hunter management areas and other similar programs in Natrona County, Castle said. That’s especially true in some elk hunting areas.

The 37,000-acre Marton Ranch property along the North Platte River near Casper was recently bought by the Bureau of Land Management and remains open to the public, including for some big game and bird hunting opportunities.

With its vast, varied landscapes and ample wildlife, Natrona County can draw hunters from all over the nation, so locals tend to be secretive about the location of their best hunting spots, Tatum said.

“It’s a place people want to come to. And you can’t blame them for wanting to come here, but it can be frustrating,” he said.

Other Hunting Wyoming features:

Hunting Wyoming: Elk Superb, Deer And Antelope Down In Sublette County

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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MH

Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter