Park County has just about every type of geography Wyoming can offer, and a huge variety of wildlife, from Rocky Mountain goats in the high alpine country to whitetail deer in the river bottoms.
Land Of Plenty
Virtually every species that Wyoming hunters might want to pursue calls Park County home, including upland birds, waterfowl, predators such as wolves, and trophy game animals like bighorn sheep.
The county’s elk herds remain a staple. But mule deer also have been doing well there this year, said Josh Lancaster, who works at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Cody.
“We had a cold front roll in about three weeks ago, and it moved the animals down out of the mountains, so many people were successful with deer in the North Fork,” he Cowboy State Daily.
Mule deer continue to struggle throughout the West because of habitat loss, disease and other challenges. And the winter of 2022-2023 hit parts of Wyoming like a sledgehammer. Prime mule deer herds in the southwestern region of the Cowboy State suffered huge losses.
But Park County was spared the worst of the winterkill, Lancaster said. When last winter hit, mule deer coming down out of the mountains found ample forage in Park County’s lowlands.
Elk Hunting – Tricky Access, Hungry Grizzlies
Wyoming’s elk populations are booming across the board, and Park County is no exception. Lancaster said Park County elk hunters have been doing well, including dropping some sizable bulls.
Most of the elk remain up in the mountains on the west side of the county. There’s a mixture of private and public land in some of the best hunting spots, so getting access can be tricky.
“In some places, you have to get permission to go across the private land in order to get to the public land,” he said.
Then there’s the grizzly bears. Many elk hunting seasons overlap with the time when grizzlies are trying to fatten up for winter hibernation. So gut piles left by elk hunters can draw in the bears. Hunters who aren’t careful might lose their entire elk carcass to a bear.
“From what I’ve been told, with the grizzlies, every gun shot is a dinner bell for them,” Lancaster said.
Wolves Are Catch-As-You-Can
Park County also is prime territory for hunting wolves. The county contains some zones where wolves can be hunted only with a tag and during specific seasons. In other parts of Park County, they may be shot on sight at any time, no tag required.
But wolves are wise to people with rifles and can be incredibly elusive, Lancaster said.
“You either see them, or you just don’t see them,” he said. “People will say, ‘If I have a wolf tag, I won’t see any. But when I don’t have a wolf tag, I’ll see them.’”
Antelope, Whitetails And Birds
Other areas of Wyoming might get more attention as antelope hunting hot spots, but Park County shouldn’t be overlooked by those wishing to tag out on a speed goat.
The Badger Basin and the McCullough Peaks area are two places in Park County where the pronghorn hunting is fine, Lancaster said.
Along the Shoshone River, whitetail hunting can be good as well. However, as in other parts of Wyoming, whitetail have been knocked back this year because of blue tongue disease.
The river bottom country also offers opportunities for turkey and pheasant hunting, as well as ducks and geese.
Just about anywhere in the low county where the water hasn’t frozen over, hunters with a few decoys and good dog can find waterfowl, Lancaster said.
Pheasant hunters have been reporting good success this year, he added.
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.