Albany County is rock-solid territory for Wyoming’s three iconic big game species — elk, mule deer and pronghorn.
This year, as always, folks are waiting for the weather to cool off so the hunting can get hot.
“What I’m hearing is that the elk are still really high up in the mountains because it still hasn’t cooled off this year,” Christopher Rice of Laramie told Cowboy State Daily.
Archery Wraps Up, Rifle Season Opens
Rice owns Gem City Custom Rod and Flies and often ties fishing flies at the West Laramie Fly Store, a frequent stop for hunters headed to and from the Snowy Range mountains.
Archey hunters reported that high temperatures during their seasons, which opened in August, made things tougher, Rice said.
In some parts of Albany County, rifle seasons for elk, deer and pronghorn (commonly called antelope) opened Oct. 1. In other sections of the county, they’ll open Oct. 15.
Andrew Hillman of Cheyenne was one of the lucky ones during the Oct. 1 deer rifle season in western Albany County. He bagged a nice-sized buck that day.
“He came out at about 270 yards with two smaller bucks, and I just dropped him. It was awesome,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Varied Topography, Few Birds
The heart of Albany County features vast plains and sage brush steppes, which can be great for mule deer and antelope. And sometimes big snowstorms can drive elk herds out onto the flatlands as well.
To the west of Laramie are the Snowy Range Mountains, which offer traditional heavy timber and alpine hunting for elk and mule deer. To the east, the Laramie Range has more rocky and barren slopes that also can hold ample elk and deer herds.
There’s not much bird hunting to speak of in the county, Rice said. The Laramie Plains Lakes and the Laramie River host a modest local population of duck and geese, but they usually get wise after the first few days of hunting season.
“Unless there’s a huge storm up north to push them down, we don’t get many migrating birds here, and often times our lakes here freeze up before they even arrive,” he said.
At the Sportsman’s Warehouse store in Laramie, quite a few people were stocking up on waterfowl supplies such as shotgun shells this week. But they seemed to be destined for hunting grounds outside of Albany County, said Alex Santistevan, who works in the store’s firearms department.
“A lot of them are headed up by Torrington, or over to Nebraska,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
Meanwhile, sales to people gearing up for elk hunting, resident and out-of-state hunters alike, was brisk, he said. And most seemed interested in trying their luck in general elk tag hunt areas in the Snowy Range.
Some of the elk herds in Albany County are far above objective numbersset by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. However, those herds also frequent mostly private land where hunters can have a difficult time getting access.
So, areas on public land, particularly the national forest in the Snowy Range, remain popular.
Deer Could Be In Trouble, Antelope OK
Parts of Wyoming, particularly in the La Barge, Rawlins and Baggs areas, were hit by horrific winterkill last winter, leaving severely diminished deer and antelope herds.
Deer in the Albany County weren’t hit nearly as hard. But at least going by the reports Santistevan heard from early season archery hunters, those herds could be struggling a bit.
“People kept telling me they were seeing does with no fawns,” he said. “That could mean we’ve got a couple of really rough years for deer hunting coming up.”
Santistevan agreed that the deer hunting in Albany County has been lagging a bit this year, and he hasn’t heard too many success stories.
“Deer have been hard to come by,” he said.
He added that “nobody who works here at the store” bagged any antelope during archery season, but some of his coworkers have connected with decent bucks during the first few days of rifle season.
Meanwhile, Albany County’s burliest species, moose, seems be doing exceptionally well, Rice said.
Moose are classified as a trophy species by Game and Fish, and tags for them can be extremely difficult for hunters to draw. But for those who do, the hunting should be fruitful, particularly in the Fox Park region of the Snowy Range, Rice said.
“People are having a hard time finding deer, but everybody’s been seeing moose, including some really big bulls,” he said.
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Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.