For hunters wanting to get away from the crowds, Niobrara County is the place. With roughly 2,500 residents, it’s Wyoming’s least-populated county.
It sits in the eastern part of the state, mostly plains and breaks country bordering the South Dakota and Nebraska state lines. And it has ample numbers of all three of the Cowboy State’s premier big game species – elk, mule deer and antelope. And for those hunters who want to chase whitetail deer, there’s also quite a few of those.
Missed the Worst Of Winterkill
Last winter hit Niobrara County plenty hard, but there was still enough forage and shelter to spare its game herds the devastating winterkill seen in central and southwest Wyoming, said Jerrad Blair, who owns Lusk Big Game Processing.
“There was enough areas around where they were able to escape the winterkill,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
When people think of elk, they might think of the rugged northwestern mountains in Yellowstone Country or the coveted Red Desert elk herd.
But Niobrara County has its share of wapiti, Blair said. Much of the county is private land, but there is some access for hunters, as well as parcels of state land and other public property that might hold elk.
The county isn’t known for producing huge trophy bulls, but for hunters looking to fill their freezers with elk steaks, Niobrara County offers ample opportunity, he said.
Mulies On The Decline
Sadly, as is the case in much of Wyoming and the West, mule deer numbers seem to be declining in Niobrara County, Blair said. That species has suffered from many setbacks, including disease and habitat loss.
There just aren’t as many around as there used to be,” he said.
Competition with whitetail deer might also play a part. Though smaller, whitetails are more territorially aggressive and breed more prolifically than mule deer.
Much of the best whitetail habitat in the county is on private property, he said. However, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has set up some “walk-in” hunt areas there that offer whitetail hunting.
Walk-in areas are generally easements on private property, and as the name implies, hunters are allowed in only on foot.
Niobrara County also holds some decent antelope herds, Blair added.
Regarding the size of bucks and bulls he’s seen come through his butcher shop this fall, “I’d say everything was about average. There were a few good mule deer and some really good whitetail bucks. Antelope were about average, maybe a little above average,” Blair said.
No Bird Hunting To Speak Of
Niobrara County also has a few wild turkeys running about, but it’s mostly out-of-state hunters who seem interested in them, Blair said.
Waterfowl hunting is quite sparse, he said.
“We’re one of the driest counties in Wyoming,” so there aren’t many ponds or waterways to draw in ducks and geese.
Tenacious upland bird hunters with good dogs might find some grouse here and there.
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Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.