When most people think of hunting in Teton County, their minds might go to elk in mountain wilderness areas.
And it’s true that the county offers some superb backcountry elk hunting, but there’s a lot more game for hunters to chase there. If you plan on hunting in Teton County, just be sure to be “bear aware” because of the robust population of grizzlies, a local hunter said.
“I’ve had grizzlies take over my elk carcasses twice,” Alex Maher of Jackson told Cowboy State Daily.
Maher submitted a “Your Wyoming Sunrise” photo he took during a recent archery elk hunt in the Teton Wilderness. That hunt wasn’t successful, insofar as he didn’t get an elk. But no journey into the vast and stunning wildlands of Teton County is ever time wasted.
Elk Numbers Not Quite What They Used To Be
Teton County embraces its reputation as an elk hunter’s paradise, both in terms of the numbers of elk and the herds’ good genetics for producing impressive trophy bulls, Maher said.
There also are lots of public land there in which to pursue elk, mostly premier national forest and designated wilderness areas. But hunters should be prepared to put in some work. Getting into the backcountry will require long hikes or horseback rides, he said.
And the overall number of elk in the county seems to have waned some, he added.
“There’s a concern that those elk numbers have gone down in the last 20 years,” Maher said.
There’s speculation that some of that could be because of predation from wolves and grizzly bears, which are abundant in Teton County because of the proximity of Yellowstone and Teton national parks.
There’s also concern over the number of cow elk that are shot during special hunts on National Elk Refuge, he said.
However, the supplemental feeding of elk on the refuge and other places in Teton County has helped preserve the herds, Maher added.
Last winter took a huge toll on mule deer and antelope across central and western Wyoming, so “if we hadn’t been feeding these elk, what would the winter have done to the elk?” he said.
Elk feeding and hunting on the refuge remain hot topics of debate in Teton County, but everybody agrees there’s nothing quite like chasing wapiti in some of the most rugged and remote country Wyoming has to offer, he said.
As for Wyoming’s other two primary big game species — pronghorn (commonly called antelope) and mule deer — that’s a mixed bag in Teton County, Maher said.
Some antelope herds migrate through parts of Teton county, but it’s not known for large numbers of resident antelope.
The county’s mule deer herds have a good reputation for genetics and some impressive bucks. And although the Teton County deer herds didn’t get hammered quite as hard as those in Sublette County this past winter, they still suffered, he said.
Maher said he doesn’t plan on hunting mule deer in Teton County this year.
Surprisingly Good Wing Shooting
He does hope to partake of the county’s great waterfowl and upland bird hunting. Teton County isn’t usually thought of as a wing shooter’s paradise, but there’s plenty of use for a shotgun and a good bird dog there, Maher said.
There are some early goose seasons in Teton County, to help ranchers that have trouble with honkers gobbling their cattle’s forage, he said.
“The early hunts are focused on all those Canada geese that are eating the grass on cattle ranches,” he said.
Those hunts involve getting permission from a landowner to set out a spread of decoys in a field, hunker down and hope for the best, he said.
For those who like jump shooting or pass shooting ducks along waterways, Teton County has that too, Maher said.
“There is a lot of BLM and Forest Service land to access along the Snake River,” he said.
And Ducks Unlimited and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have also done a lot of work to get public access to good waterfowl hunting spots in Teton County, he added.
For the upland hunter, Teton County has some great blue grouse and ruffed grouse populations, he said. Just be prepared to do lots of hiking in the foothills and mountains — and watch out for grizzlies.
Be Bear Aware
Grizzles can put an interesting twist on hunting in Teton County, Maher said. Hunters need to be keenly aware at all times and carrying bear spray or a hefty sidearm is strongly advised.
Maher said the Teton County grizzlies have certainly kept him on his toes.
“So far I haven’t been charged or had to shoot or deploy bear spray, but I have had numerous encounters with grizzlies,” he said.
Grizzlies in Wyoming are still under federal endangered species protection and may not be hunted, although there are ongoing efforts to have them delisted and open a grizzly hunting season.
Meanwhile, black bears are legal to hunt withing designated spring and fall seasons, and Teton County has plenty of them, Maher said.
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Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.