Editor's Note: Outdoors writer Mark Heinz is doing a series on hunting in all 23 counties of Wyoming. Links to other Hunting Wyoming stories are at the bottom of the page.
A sprawling piece of real estate that includes some of central Wyoming’s wide-open sagebrush steppes and badlands, Fremont County also has panhandle that stretches to the cusp of the Teton/Yellowstone territory, making it a hunter’s paradise.
It has legendary deer and antelope herds, but for now at least the focus seems to be on elk, some locals told Cowboy State daily.
Most of the customers coming into Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Riverton of late seem focused on gear related to big game hunting, said Tait Tanz, who works in the shop’s firearms section.
The county’s antelope were hit hard by a brutal winter and many of the deer are apparently suffering from chronic wasting disease (CWD), said Tanz and local hunter Chance Jennings.
“I’m not hunting mule deer this year. I think CWD testing is now mandatory for mule deer harvested in this area,” Jennings said.
“A lot of the deer out there aren’t looking too good,” Tanz said.
Taking Advantage Of Rugged Timber
However, in the Wind River Mountains and other high country in Fremont County, elk seem to be thriving, said Jennings, who likes to archery hunt for wapiti.
It’s a matter of going farther up and farther back into the rough stuff, and thereby avoiding crowds, he said.
“We’re hunting at 8,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation in dark timber with lots of blowdown (dead trees blown over by the wind). Lots and lots of blowdown,” he said.
All the fallen timber can make the going extremely rough, particularly when it comes to packing an elk back out. But that really cuts down on the competition.
“The elk here have both good quantity and good quality. There’s a high ratio of bulls to cows,” he said.
And even though Fremont County is not known as monster trophy elk territory, for the hunter willing to put in the time, some sizable bulls are out there, Jennings said.
He said Wednesday he hadn’t yet found a bull yet this season, but he plans to keep trying.
Meanwhile, on her first elk hunt ever, his wife Kerstin had dropped a bull elk with antlers in the 300-inch range, he said.
Good For Grouse
Fremont County has respectable bird hunting, he added.
Boysen Reservoir and Ocean Lake both offer decent duck and goose hunting, he said.
And the vast sage flats host respectable numbers of sage grouse.
“They’re dispersed widely out there,” he said. “You’re really going to need a good dog if you want to hunt the sage grouse. Because without a dog to sniff them out, you’re going to end up walking right past them.”
He prefers ruffed grouse, which dwell in more mountainous territory and are excellent table fare.
“I’ve shot a few ruffed grouse with my bow this year,” Jennings said. “I could say I was out hunting for elk and happened to find grouse, but it was more like I was out hunting grouse and might happen to find an elk.”
Moose, Bears And Wolves
Moose tags are extremely hard to draw, but for those lucky hunters who do, Fremont County has some big bulls, Tanz said.
Jennings said he was lucky enough to draw one a couple of years ago and ended up bagging a sizable moose.
There’s also good black bear hunting in Fremont County, Tanz and Jennings said. Grizzlies are starting to filter in, but they can’t be legally hunted in Wyoming.
The area’s wolf population seems to be booming, and they may be hunted there. However, they’re extremely elusive, Jennings added. He’s found wolf tracks and scat in his camp a time or two but hasn’t gotten a shot at one yet.
Wolves aren’t known to be particularly aggressive to humans, and Jennings said he doesn’t fear them.
“But when you’re way out there after dark and they start howling, that can be scary,” he added.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.