Nestled on the cusp of the Black Hills and near the South Dakota state line, Weston County has herds of elk and mule deer, like you’d expect to find across most of Wyoming.
There are plenty of whitetail deer too, Brandon Sams, an avid hunter from Newcastle, told Cowboy State Daily. The county has a good mixture of open grasslands and the heavily forested slopes of the Black Hills.
Big Cats Galore
But what really sets it apart are the opportunities for turkey and mountain lions, said Sams, who has hunted both of those species in Weston County.
“The whole Black Hills region is kind of an epicenter for mountain lions,” he said, adding there are a few methods hunters can use to bag big cats.
“I know guys who have called them in and guys who have just stumbled across a mountain lion and gotten it that way,” he said.
But hunting with hounds is the tried-and-true method, Sams said.
“The best way is to wait for a good snow and then turn the dogs loose,” he said.
Well-trained hounds can track a mountain lion for miles, and then chase it up a tree and hold it there for hunters.
Gobs Of Gobblers
“Here on the fringe of the Black Hills, there’s a lot of turkeys,” Sams said, and there a few methods of hunting them as well.
“I’ve spotted and stalked turkeys sometimes, and that’s really tough,” he said.
Spot-and-stalk hunting entails finding the game – usually from a distance through binoculars – and then planning out a route to stealthily move into shooting range. But turkeys are notoriously difficult to sneak up on.
The best method is to get into full camouflage, find a good hiding spot and call a big tom turkey in, Sams said. But even then, a hunter must be completely quiet and still, because even a small mistake will scare off a wise old bird.
Deer And Elk Access Can Be Challenging
Weston County has decent elk herds, and the mule deer and whitetail are doing well there too. The region escaped the worst of last season’s brutal winter, which killed massive numbers of big game animals in central and southwestern Wyoming.
Access for big game hunting in Weston County can be a challenge, Sams said. Many of the best spots are on private land, especially toward the Black Hills.
However, there are a few good parcels of public land, and hunters willing to put in the effort can have a decent shot at getting an elk or deer into the freezer before the hunting seasons close, he said.
Bird Hunting Is OK
Weston County isn’t really known as a bird hunting hot spot, Sams said. There are a few pheasants and grouse scattered about, and a bird dog with a good nose can produce some results.
“We’re not really near any big flyways (for waterfowl),” he said.
But some hunters like to “puddle jump” ducks, Sams added. Meaning, sneaking up on ponds in hopes of finding ducks hanging out there and within shotgun range when they notice the hunters and take to the air.
Sams added that he’s not much of a small game hunter, but Weston County seems to have plenty of cottontails about for anybody who’d like to pick up a .22 rifle and try getting the main ingredient for rabbit stew.
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Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.