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Hunting

Jackson Woman Wins Bison Hunting Tag, Donating It To Disabled Female Veteran

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Winning a bison hunting tag through Gov. Mark Gordon’s annual raffle is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, something many Wyoming hunters dream about, but can only hope they will receive.

Having won a tag, Jackson resident Norma Winder, 71, is giving hers away.

“My husband and I have been privileged enough to have been all over the world and I’ve actually shot a bison cow a number of years ago,” Winder told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “But over the last five years, my husband and I have been donating our general elk or deer hunting tags to a veterans group.”

That group, the Kniestedt Foundation, provides “exceptional” hunting experiences to active and veteran members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Foundation officials believe hunting and shooting empower people by providing them with a chance to connect with nature, challenge their minds to greater focus and engage the body in physical activity.

Winder and her husband have helped around 20 disabled veterans hunt in Wyoming over the last several years, but with the bison tag, she had a particular stipulation for the recipient.

“You always hear of guys getting to go on these hunting trips, but I’ve never heard of a woman getting the opportunity to do so,” she said. “So my stipulations were that it went to a female disabled veteran.”

As a longtime hunter and conservationist herself, Winder knows what a joy it is to harvest an animal, especially a massive one like a bison.

She also knows the beauty of Wyoming’s outdoors and wants to share it with as many people as possible.

This is why she and her husband wanted to share the opportunity for these veterans, who served their country and risked their lives. She thinks this is one of the best ways to thank them for their service.

“We have other opportunities to shoot a [bison] cow or whatever we want to do, so why not give it to someone else, who can never afford to put in for one of those permits?” she said. “The joy of doing it is absolutely fantastic.”

Winder said she believes the foundation has found the perfect recipient for the hunting tag, but this had not yet been confirmed as of Thursday.

However, she knows what a thrill the hunting experience will be for whoever the lucky veteran is, as well as the people in her support system.

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Longtime Moose & Bighorn Sheep Applicants Would Get Much Better Chance of Hunting License Under New System

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20107

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is considering a substantial change to its “preference points” system to give longtime applicants for moose and bighorn sheep hunting licenses a better chance of drawing one of the tags.

In Wyoming, each time hunters apply unsuccessfully for a moose or bighorn sheep license, they get a “bonus point.” For each bonus point, they get one more chance in the license drawing. For example, after 10 unsuccessful applications, a hunter would get his or her name entered into the license drawing 10 times.

Under the new system, the number of bonus points a person has will be squared each year. For example, if a person had 10 preference points entering 2025, he or she would have 100 chances to draw a license. If the hunter did not draw a license that year, he or she would have 11 bonus points the following year — 121 chances to draw a license.

A person with maximum preference points now would have 31 points in 2025, giving them 961 chances to draw a license, in contrast to a first-time applicant who would have only one chance.

The new system would reduce the chances of an early applicant receiving a tag but increase the chances a longtime applicant will receive one, with the greatest increase in odds beginning after year 30.

“As with any thorny, contentious issue, there are definitely people who are very opposed to this, but we felt like it was the best way forward,” Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish director, said during the Legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee meeting May 9.

In this past year’s legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill proposed by the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force directing the Game and Fish Department to reserve 90% of the once-in-a-lifetime ram bighorn sheep, wild bull bison, bull moose, mountain goat and grizzly bear “big five” licenses for Wyoming hunters, with the remaining 10% set aside for non-residents. In the past, 75% of licenses were saved for resident hunters and 25% went to non-residents.

In-state and out-of-state applicants do not compete directly against each other for tags.

No preference points system exists for bison and mountain goat tags, which are chosen through a completely random draw and grizzly bears are federally prohibited from being hunted, so the only discussion pertaining to preference points for “big five” licenses is for bighorn sheep and moose.

The new proposal also comes from the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force. 

However, the idea does not have the support of Lee Livingston, a Cody outfitter, Park County commissioner and member of the Task Force.

“I was in favor of it initially, but now that we’ve gone to 90%-10% and once in a lifetime on those species, I think we need to give a few years before we make any change,” he said.

Stacked Odds

The weighted bonus system would be implemented in 2025, and those with the highest number of preference points would still have a better chance than others of drawing a tag.

Existing high preference points holders would draw a tag with “near certainty” between 2022-2024 after being given “near maximum preference points.”

Under the current preference points system, the hunter with the highest number of points automatically gets a tag, but there are also random draws and weighted random draws. About 25% of the licenses are given out based on random draws.

Currently, in-state applicants have a 0.35% chance of drawing a license in their first year. It takes more than 30 years to have a 10% or greater chance of drawing a sheep tag and even by year 53, the chances of drawing a tag only increase to roughly 14% for sheep and 20% for moose. Numbers are far worse for out-of-state applicants.

“We say in a preference point system that at some point you will draw a tag,” said Joe Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College. “The numbers just don’t support that; the system just isn’t sustainable.”

Schaffer helped the Game and Fish Department process numbers to analyze the the issue.

Schaffer said moose and bighorn sheep are the most desired of all hunting tags.

“How do you create a fair as possible system for all the people that want access to a very scarce resource?” he asked. 

Schaffer said 15 Wyoming residents and five non-residents have the maximum 26 preference points, while more than 4,000 people apply each year for for bighorn sheep licenses.

All the applicants are vying for 180 permits awarded each year. Similar numbers exist for moose tags.

Ultimately, Schaffer said no drawing system will address game scarcity issues, so finding a way to increase moose and bighorn sheep populations must be a top priority, as the Game and Fish Department can no longer promise people will get to hunt those species at some point in their lives.

“We’ve got to a point where the system isn’t going to work the way it did when we started it,” Nesvik said. 

Under bonus and weighted bonus point systems, first-time applicants are even less likely to draw, but returning customers have much better odds than they do in the current system.

“It does favor those in the system that have been applying, applying, applying and just not drawing,” Schaffer said.

Under current regulations, applicants who go two years without applying lose all their bonus points. This rule would continue under the new system.

Higher Chances But Less Revenue?

The Task Force took two key issues into consideration before making its recommendation: the substantial investment out-of-state residents have made in buying preference points, and what it does for this group of people if the state moves away from preference points to a bonus points system.

Getting rid of the preference point system comes with the risk of dissuading hunter interest and cutting into Game and Fish Department revenue. 

Non-residents pay fees of $150 per year to collect preference fees, but residents pay only $7.

In 2020, revenue from non-residents for moose and sheep tags totaled $2.7 million, while revenue from residents totaled $107,485.

“I’m truly concerned with the revenue and how that would be managed in this transition,” Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, said. 

Nesvik said given current demand, he doesn’t anticipate any significant drop in the number of people applying for tag with implementation of the bonus system, while Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, predicted the change would be “revenue neutral.” 

Hicks also said the Task Force recognized a need to improve the chances in the license drawing for applicants who have been in the system for more than 10 years.

A few other solutions were considered, but none were considered as viable as the weighted bonus system.

Schaffer said the Task Force considered phasing out the preference points system, but found that for bighorn sheep, it would take about 90 years to phase out the current preference holders and 73 years for moose. 

Cutting off all new applicants immediately while continuing the program for the rest wouldn’t help much either, with more than 30 years needed to phase out under that scenario.

Under completely random draws, Schaffer said the chances of drawing a license are about as unlikely in the short-term as they are in the current system, but grow to a more than 10% chance much more quickly than in preference points and bonus point systems. 

Hicks said most other Western states use a similar non-resident preference point system and he considers it one of the most equitable systems available. 

Schaffer said Arizona and Idaho have also made cuts to their non-resident access and New Mexico is even considering eliminating non-resident hunting altogether. 

He said license cost increases in other states didn’t cause a decline in participation, nor have increases Wyoming has adopted in the past.

“We’re not going to see a drop off,” Schaffer said. “These are once in a lifetime opportunities. You’re still going to have some of the best odds in the United States of drawing a bighorn sheep or moose permit.”

Nesvik is not recommending extending these changes to deer, elk and antelope at this time.

“I think that there is a potential down the road that could be a solution,” he said. “There’s so much more opportunity with those other species that we thought we’d deal with the hardest to draw, the more scarcest, lowest number of tags now.”

The recommendation will be discussed further at upcoming legislative committee meetings.

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New Law Means 90% of Hunting Licenses For “Big Five” Animals Will Go To Wyoming Residents

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Beginning in the fall of 2023, more Wyoming residents will have the opportunity to chance to win big game hunting tags, thanks to a new limiting the licenses available to out-of-state hunters.

Next fall, 90% of the licenses for the “big five” wild game animals – bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, grizzly bears and wild bison – will be allocated for Wyoming residents, leaving only 10% of the licenses for non-resident hunters, according to the state Game and Fish Department.

“These are some of the most highly sought-after licenses that we offer in Wyoming and throughout the West, so the demand is incredibly high for them,” said department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo said. “People wait decades in order to draw one of these tags, both resident and non-resident hunters.”

The change is outlined in a new law that increased the number of big game licenses available for Wyoming residents from 80% of all licenses to 90%.

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce made the suggestion to the Legislature last year to change the allocation numbers. The Legislature adopted the change during its budget session earlier in 2022.

DiRienzo said the department will lose about $200,000 because of the change in allocation because hunting tags sold to non-resident hunters can be significantly more expensive than those sold to resident hunters. For example, a non-resident hunting tag for any wild bison is $4,402, while the resident rate is $414.

“The decrease (in revenue) to (the) Game and Fish (Department) was so small, it wasn’t much of a concern,” she said.

She added there will be an estimated 100 fewer licenses available for non-residents next year, but the number does fluctuate, depending on the populations of animals.

It should be noted that although grizzly bears are included on the “big five” wild game list, they are currently not allowed to be hunted due to their endangered status. However, they were included in the legislation, in case the hunts are one day allowed.

Since the reallocation law will not go into effect until July 1, the Game and Fish Department will have until Jan. 1, 2023 to implement the new rules, so hunters this fall will not be affected by the change.

Last month, the department made the decision to offer 11,000 fewer mule deer and pronghorn hunting licenses due to the continuing drought across the West.

The department estimated the 2021 post-hunt populations at 363,200 for pronghorns and 291,700 for mule deer.

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Buffalo Detective Hits One In 16 Million Jackpot; Wins SuperTag Hunting Trifecta

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

One $30 raffle ticket has resulted in one very epic upcoming autumn hunt season for a Buffalo police officer.

James Kozisek, a detective with the Buffalo Police Department, took a chance this spring when he purchased his raffle ticket for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “SuperTag Trifecta,” which allows the holder to hunt any three big game animals anywhere in the state.

“It’s kind of weird, they have these other SuperTags, where you can buy just for each animal, and I usually do that,” Kozisek told Cowboy State Daily. “And I could not tell you why, I was just like, ‘Oh, why the hell not, it’s thirty bucks,’ and I just bought one ticket. 

“I usually don’t buy a Trifecta,” he continued, “because I think the odds are so (bad) that I’m just like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ but for some reason – I can’t even explain why, just a random act – I just bought one ticket, and that was it!”

According to Sarah DiRienzo, public affairs specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, it’s unusual for someone in Wyoming to win the Trifecta.

“It is exciting, always, when a Wyoming resident is able to win the Trifecta,” said DiRienzo, “because it is a raffle. So it’s a random draw, residents and non-residents are in the mix together.”

Kozisek had monumental competition for the prize. A total of 124,602 SuperTag raffle tickets were sold in the state this year, raising $1.6 million to go toward supporting wildlife management and other conservation issues in Wyoming. 

That was a record-breaking number, as last year’s raffle raised $1.3 million. 

Those funds help the Game and Fish Department meet its budget, which last year came in at more than $79.5 million.

“That money goes into the Game and Fish general operating fund, which goes to support projects like mule deer initiatives, our Conservation Camp, Chronic Wasting Disease research, projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, fish passage projects,” DiRienzo noted. “It could go towards any of our on-the-ground wildlife projects, and also projects to help people learn more about the outdoors.”

People often purchase multiple SuperTag raffle tickets not only to get the chance to hunt big game anywhere in the state, but also to support conservation efforts in Wyoming, DiRienzo said.

“It is really a once in a lifetime experience to be able to draw a SuperTag,” she said. “It’s so special to be able to go on a hunt like this. I mean, we just hear from hunters all the time who – and lots of people don’t win, there’s not that many licenses available – but they say that the reason they buy super tag tickets is primarily to support conservation. And that’s really cool.”

Winners of the individual SuperTag raffles this year hail from Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, and Arkansas, as well as one other hunter from Wyoming, Keith Reau, who won the wild bison tag. 

Holders of the individual SuperTags will be able to hunt one pre-selected big game species anywhere in the state.

Kozisek, a born-and-raised Wyomingite, has hunted since he was a boy. But winning the SuperTag Trifecta has inspired a bigger sense of adventure as he plans his fall hunt season.

“I’ve killed lots of elk, but I’ve never killed a monster, like, a big one,” Kozisek pointed out. “And one of the things Alicia (Kozisek’s wife) brought up, she’s like, ‘Go travel the state.’ There are places in this state I’ve never been. There’s phenomenal hunting all over the Red Desert, the Ferris Mountains down by Green River, all that country where I’ve never even been.”

Kozisek explained that unlike a Commissioner’s Tag, in which a hunter must report to the Game and Fish Department where he or she intends to hunt, the SuperTag has no such restrictions.

“I can hunt anywhere in the entire state when the season’s open,” he said. “I can go hunt the Red Desert, load up my truck and drive to Cody, hunt there, I can hunt anywhere I want, as long as there’s a season open. I don’t have to declare to anyone. The whole state is wide open.”

The SuperTag Trifecta allows the winner to choose from 11 big-game species which three he or she will hunt: bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, elk, wild bison, deer, pronghorn, black bear, gray wolf, and mountain lion. 

However, Kozisek does have to declare what species he intends to hunt prior to the season opening.

“I have a few more months to finalize everything,” he said. “I could change my species and pick bighorn sheep and bison if I wanted to, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing mountain goat, and I’m leaning towards elk and deer.”

Because Kozisek has lived in Wyoming his whole life, he’s got friends around the state who have offered their assistance to give him the best chance of bagging his targets. However, he wants to see if he can act as his own guide – being a Wyomingite and all.

“Some of these guys are like, ‘Man if you need help, let us know,’” he said. “But a Wyoming boy drawing a Wyoming trifecta? I’d like to try to do it on my own. However, I need to do it right. So if all of a sudden in November or late October I’m hurting, I can call (some friends who are guides) and they’ll try to get me in.”

Kozisek said his win has drawn attention from around the state from well-wishers hoping he succeeds.

“The State of Wyoming is just there,” he said. “They’re supporting me. I mean, there’s people that are willing to help me out and point me in the right direction, or whatever I need.”

That support includes his bosses at the City of Buffalo, who have assured him that if he needs extra time off from his job as a police detective, he’s got it.

“I called down to city hall and I had to talk to them about a leave of absence,” he said. “And they said, ‘Absolutely, if you run short on vacation or whatever, we understand this isn’t just a normal thing and you can look into a leave of absence, unpaid time off-type stuff.’” 

Since Kozisek and his wife grew up in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains and lived and worked for eight years in Cody, he said his wife encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond the hunting grounds he is familiar with.

“She’s like, ‘You’ve seen Cody and Meeteetse, but go explore the state – you can hunt anywhere at any time. As seasons open, go explore, go explore this wonderful state.”

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Wyoming Residents Will Soon Be Able To Collect And Eat Roadkill

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Wyoming is one step closer to adding roadkill to the dinner menu. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted unanimously last month to adopt regulations that will allow motorists to collect certain species of dead wildlife from the road starting next year.

Wild bison, deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and wild turkey could be on the menu for residents. There was some hesitancy among the commission, due to the possibility a person could intentionally run down an animal for harvest.

“Do you expect problems with people taking their own truck out there just to smack one just so they can get one?” Game and Fish Commissioner Mark Jolovich of Torrington asked Rick King, chief game warden. “I’ve heard of some pretty unethical stuff that’s happened in my 65 years.”

King said there have been a handful of cases in the past where people have run down big game critters with a vehicle on purpose. However, “it’s been pretty few and far between and so I really don’t anticipate that to be a significant challenge,” he said. “I’m confident that this statute and other existing statutes provide plenty of coverage that, if it did occur, we’d have plenty of prosecutorial ability to address it.”

Wyoming Game and Fish officials queried two other states with roadkill harvest laws and both reported that occurrences of intentional roadkill were negligible.

The state’s new rules include some common sense restrictions for safety’s sake. Some roadways will be off limits for collecting roadkill, including the three interstate systems in the state. Carcasses can only be picked up from sunrise to sunset and there will be both an app and an online site in which to obtain a permit to collect roadkill. The commission authorized spending about $17,000 to develop the system, which is intended to help ensure there isn’t a heavy workload placed on game wardens and law enforcement officials chasing down accidents with wildlife.

The system, which will be integrated with WYDOT’s existing 511 app, can be used even when outside cell coverage; King said it works pretty “slick.”

“They’ll get an electronic authorization [to harvest roadkill] back on the app and away they go,” King said in his presentation to the commission. “So our folks shouldn’t be burdened with a big workload. And it should be really easy for folks who want to collect roadkill.”

The regulations were developed by the Game and Fish Department in cooperation with the Wyoming Transportation Commission in response to House Bill 95, which the Wyoming Legislature passed earlier this year. With a unanimous vote, the Game and Fish Commission sent the regulations to the Legislative Service Office, where the Legislature’s Management Council will work to make sure the regulations meet the intent of the bill, said Ryan Frost of the LSO. From there the rules will move to the Secretary of State’s Office and then to the governor’s office for final approval.

Once the rules are signed, motorists will be able to harvest animals, but they must take the entire carcass and not just parts they want. Once the usable parts are harvested, the carcass must be disposed of in a landfill or receptacle bound for the landfill in an effort to help control the spread of disease.

There are other rules for safe collection of animals, but don’t expect state-sponsored recipes in the near future.

“The $17,000 that you approved was not for cookbooks,” King told the commission.

The rules are expected to be finalized sometime in the coming weeks.

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California Man Killed In Hunting Accident Near Ten Sleep

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California man was killed in a hunting accident last week near Ten Sleep, the Washakie County Sheriff’s Office announced on Tuesday.

According to the department, law enforcement officials in Washakie County were alerted to the report of a hunting accident on Oct. 6 off the top of Smilo/Sand Draw Road, east of Ten Sleep.

The report indicated a man had been accidentally shot with a hunting rifle.

Ambulances could not travel up the road due to adverse conditions, so private vehicles and a sheriff’s unit transported emergency medical staff to the Cabin Spring area, where units proceeded to the scene on foot.

The reporting party used cell phone contact with Worland dispatchers and handgun shots to steer units to the scene.

A helicopter life flight was launched to the area.

At the scene, medical personnel conducted triage and stabilized the victim for transport. The man was taken to the hospital in Worland for further treatment.

The victim was identified as 63-year-old Californian Ron Blank, who was elk hunting with his son, Dan Blank.

The pair were traveling back to their pickup truck and climbing up a ridge. They encountered a rock face and climbed over it. While handing rifles up to his son so he could climb the rock face, the rifle discharged and Ron Blank was struck in the upper right chest area.

His son rendered immediate first aid and then called for assistance.

Ron Blank passed away at the hospital in Worland due to massive internal trauma and a loss of blood. The family has been notified and arrangements have been made to transport his body back to California.

Th case is still under investigation by the Washakie County Sheriff’s Office and the Washakie County Coroner’s Office.

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New Wyoming Task Force Dives Into Hunting Controversies

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

On paper, the agenda for the inaugural meeting of the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force seemed pretty tame. Intended to be an introduction to the new advisory group, the members instead immediately attacked one of the most controversial issues before them: the allotment of limited quota tags.

Wyoming legislators, government leaders and citizens from across the state were picked for the panel among many applicants, being chosen jointly by the governor and legislative and Game and Fish leaders. Local appointees include state Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, Park County Commissioner and outfitter Lee Livingston and Meeteetse landowner Duaine Hagen.

The panel is being tasked with studying top-priority, in-state wildlife issues related to the allocation of hunting opportunities, sportsperson access and other top wildlife issues. 

One of the first major topics at hand was the distribution of “big five” tags, said Livingston. The proposal — which is still up for debate — would suggest a big change to the licenses allotted for the top species in the state: moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, bison and grizzly (if they are ever delisted from protection under the Endangered Species list and managed by the states).

“We’re looking at 90% of the licenses being reserved for resident hunters and 10% going to nonresident hunters,” Livingston said. “We’re also toying with a once-in-a-lifetime [limit] on all five of those species.”

The task force members are studying the issue closely because non-resident licenses and the purchase of non-resident preference points are extremely important revenue for the Game and Fish Department, so any change to the current regulations could affect the department’s bottom line. It could also raise the price of licenses for residents, said Flitner. The lawmaker said she has taken an informal poll of resident hunters and most said they don’t want to pay more to hunt. But if the allotment percentage changes, Flitner said there is little else that could be done to make up for the losses.

“There’s really no other way,” she said. “Currently, [resident] hunts are subsidized by non-resident hunters.”

The Game and Fish doesn’t receive general tax revenue or general funds from the state. It’s a self-funded agency, relying on fees and license sales for the bulk of its budget, plus a share of federal taxes on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.

Due to the State of Wyoming’s current budget deficit, the department returned $800,000 it normally receives from the state to compensate for free and reduced price licenses. It represented less than 1% of the department’s $88.5 million in annual revenues, but was the only way the department could help the state on the 2021 budget, said Game and Fish Deputy Director John Kennedy.

Both Livingston and Flitner are keenly aware that boosting the percentage of resident tags is a favorite subject of Rob Shaul and his litigious outdoor organization, Mountain Pursuit. It’s hard to debate the issue without it seeming like a win for the organization, Flitner said, as much as she would like Shaul to find alternative ways to debate issues.

“He offends everybody. He has no filter,” she said of Shaul. “I’d be curious to know just how many people actually think like him.”

Added Livingston, “he seems to me like a spoiled kid who wants to get everything and then some.”

Cody Regional Health

Shaul often accuses the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Department of being unduly influenced by the state’s outfitting industry, sometimes with harsh rhetoric.

For example, he’s filed a lawsuit arguing that two commissioners were wrong to donate commissioner complimentary licenses to the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association  When the attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss the suit, Shaul sent out an opinion piece questioning whether Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, who oversees the AG, was “yet another corrupted puppet of the Outfitters.”

Many politicians and officials in the state say they wish Shaul would look for ways to debate in a positive manner, rather than trying to push his way into the headlines by tearing down the efforts of the Game and Fish and the governor’s office.

“Everybody else is trying to find the middle ground” to debate the issues, Flitner said.

The task force is also looking into limited quota draws for hard-to-get licenses for ungulate species.

“My thoughts are going to be looking at a waiting period on those on those tough-to-draw ‘type one’ licenses,” Livingston said. “Hypothetically, if you draw one of those licenses, you might have to sit out for three years before you can apply again.”

Flitner said the task force might also be looking at making proposals to change the allocation of landowner licenses.

“We’re eager to dive into the tough issues head first,” she said.

Livingston, Flitner and Hagen are offering an opportunity for local sportspersons to discuss the issues at a Tuesday listening session in Powell. The event will run from 6-8 p.m. at Heart Mountain Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, the full task force is meeting today (Thursday) and then again on July 19. Both of those gatherings are being held in Casper, but members of the public can watch and participate via Zoom.

The agenda for this week’s meeting is available on the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force website at www.wyomingwildlifetaskforce.com. Meetings will be recorded and available for viewing online within a week.

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Wyoming Hunting Group Encourages Use Of Lead-Free Ammo, Tackle

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

A new Wyoming hunting group wants to prove the value of switching ammo and tackle to local sportsmen and women. They know success won’t come easy, but the journey will be worth it if they can keep poison off your plate.

Sporting Lead-Free hopes to reduce lead consumed inadvertently by people and wildlife and is proposing ways to help anglers and hunters see the positives of choosing tackle and ammo that doesn’t poison the environment.

Programs include X-raying your packaged meat to help get the lead out of your wildgame meals and demonstrating the advantages of new, non-lead ammunition.

“A lot of us hunt because we want to know where our food is coming from and being able to know that you’re providing clean meat to you, your kids, your grandkids and other family and friends,” said Brian Bedrosian, director and co-founder of the group.

So far, he said the group has X-rayed about 1,200 packages of wild game meat — finding lead fragments in about 15% of the ground meat packages.

It’s almost impossible to keep lead fragments out of meat from harvested animals, Bedrosian said. The metal rarely causes severe issues in humans as long as exposure is low. However, it’s particularly deadly to; scavenging birds who consume gut piles; animals that have been shot but not found by hunters; and waterfowl that eat lead pellets in fields and wetland areas.

Every year, as hunting season comes to an end, wildlife biologists, veterinarians and rescue workers in the state start seeing raptors, including golden and bald eagles, being brought to raptor care facilities with lead poisoning. Bedrosian has spent the past 15 years documenting the link between lead-based ammunition and ingestion in wildlife in his role as conservation director of the Teton Raptor Center. He’s also the former president of the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society and is co-chair of the Wyoming Golden Eagle Working Group.

“We have arguably the best population of breeding golden eagles in the western United States,” he said in a Tuesday interview. “What we do here has a profound effect on the continental population of golden eagles.”

As an avid big game hunter, Bedrosian knows how hard it is to persuade outdoors enthusiasts to change. But those on the front lines have grown frustrated watching waterfowl, raptors and some of the most endangered species suffer and die due to lead being introduced into the environment.

In 2018, a condor moved into an area near Laramie, exciting wildlife enthusiasts. It was the first verified condor sighting in Wyoming in decades. But the news soon turned sour when condor T2 died of lead poisoning near its perch on Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range.

“I think it’s a fair statement to make that California condors cannot survive in the wild without getting rid of lead in ammunition and other sources,” Bedrosian said.

In Park County, Susan “the bird lady” Ahalt, founder of Ironside Bird Rescue in Cody, has struggled to keep up with the number of eagles and other birds suffering with lead poisoning. She often runs out of freezer space after hunting season due to the number of carcasses she has to store. When an eagle dies, it has to be shipped frozen to the national repository for eagles in Denver.

“I’d like to defrost [the freezer], but it’s never empty,” Ahalt said in 2020.

Ahalt is also a hunter and said she never gave her ammo a second thought until seeing how lead poisoning affected wildlife.

Bedrosian watched lead levels in raptors drop after the Teton Raptor Center distributed free non-lead ammunition. He said getting hunters to switch to nontoxic ammo comes down to education and availability of alternatives.

Sporting Lead-Free’s outreach coordinator, Hannah Leonard, will be handing out non-lead split shot to anglers during the state’s free fishing day. She is also willing to travel Wyoming, X-raying meat and presenting ammo seminars.

The group feels it’s a better approach to educate outdoor enthusiasts rather than seeking legislation outlawing the use of lead ammo.

“We are 100% behind a voluntary educational approach,” Bedrosian said. “We have no interest in going down any kind of regulatory or legislative route.”

Leonard hopes to do at least two shooting demonstrations a month, having groups shoot both lead and non-lead ammo and looking at the results of bullet fragmentation and ballistic performance. They will also be launching a mobile X-ray facility to better serve the entire state.

“If you’re worried that the meat you packaged might contain lead fragments, we will identify those packages that have that lead,” she said, adding, “If you have children or somebody pregnant in your life, you can make sure they don’t consume that [meat].”

Most ammunition manufacturers have a non-lead line now. Non-toxic ammunition “is available in every caliber and the performance is amazing,” Bedrosian said.

The price is a little higher, but the difference is between 25 and 50 cents a bullet. Cost could come down as more hunters adopt non-lead options.

Sporting Lead-Free is partially funded by a grant from the Knobloch Family Foundation.

“They’re an organization that has put a lot of time and investment into Wyoming protecting our landscape, funding migration initiatives with the ungulates, as well as land conservation easements,” Bedrosian said.

Sporting Lead-Free also takes private donations and hopes to grow the group through its educational efforts and social media. For more information go to www.sportingleadfree.org.

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Several Wyoming Hunting Applications Due June 1

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June 1 is a big day for Wyoming hunters; it’s the deadline to submit applications for many fall hunts for residents and nonresidents. Applications must be submitted on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website before midnight.  Hunters have just a few days left to complete applications for:

Resident elk
Deer
Antelope
Springer and Glendo special pheasant hunts
Sandhill crane
Beaver
Fall Turkey

New for this year, anyone applying for licenses must create a username and password to utilize their Game and Fish account, including youth applicants. Creating a username and password is a simple process much like on other websites. To help, Game and Fish has step-by-step videos and written instructions. 

“Don’t wait until the last minute to create a user account to apply for licenses. If you have questions, we want to help you early,” said Jennifer Doering, Game and Fish license section manager. 

For big game species, turkey and crane, the Wyoming Game and Fish Hunt Planner can help hunters with their applications through interactive, in-depth mapping. For each species, hunters can see an overview of all the hunt areas in the state and choose individual areas to explore. Different colors designate private and public lands, and users can see public and county roads. Changing the map base layers also allows hunters to toggle between views like road maps or satellite imagery.

“The hunt planner maps are the best you will find anywhere. These are maps made from Game and Fish data, so if we make a change to an access area or hunt area boundary, it is updated here first,” said Sara DiRienzo, department public information officer. “And, our data is verified on the ground by our field folks.”

In addition to the hunt area maps, each area also has details about topography and how easy the land is to access. Other public hunting locations are marked with points for the Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas, walk-in and hunter management areas.

“The hunt planner gives hunters an informed edge when applying for a license and strategizing their hunting trips,” said DiRienzo. “The updates we make to this tool are a direct result of comments and suggestions from the public on information they need to plan their hunts.”

All applications must be made online by midnight MDT on June 1. For those who may not have access to a computer or need assistance applying, Game and Fish has computer stations at each of the regional offices and at the Cheyenne Headquarters. Hunters who have questions about applying online can call Game and Fish at (307) 777-4600.

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Buffalo Residents Fined, Lose Hunting Privileges In 2019 Poaching Case

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Two Buffalo residents have been fined and will lose their hunting privileges for the foreseeable future in connection to a 2019 case where a bull elk was killed illegally, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) said Tuesday.

Christopher Morales and Keisha Filbert have both been convicted of wildlife violations stemming from an anonymous report to the WGFD that claimed Morales killed a bull elk in September 2019, using a hunting license issued to Filbert.

The WGFD charged Morales in 2020 with illegally taking wildlife and Filbert for illegally transferring ownership of a hunting license following an investigation that spanned several months.

Upon receiving the anonymous report, wildlife investigators reportedly conducted an online investigation, which revealed photos of Morales and Filbert posing in camouflage clothing with two bull elk in 2019.

Morales claimed to have taken his own elk with a crossbow Sept. 6, adding that Filbert killed hers likewise Sept. 12, per the WGFD.

He denied shooting the second elk, stating that he had only tagged along during the second hunt, a story reportedly backed up by Filbert.

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The anonymous report, however, stated that Morales was observed leaving the area alone on Sept. 13 with elk antlers on his vehicle, the morning after Filbert’s elk was reportedly killed, according to the WGFD.

Search warrants yielded a video of Morales’ hunt Sept. 6 and cell phone data that did not match the story, the WGFD stated, adding that Filbert’s phone signal did not place her in the area the day of the second hunt.

During her interview, Filbert was reportedly unable to answer questions regarding her hunt. Instead, she described details from a video recording taken by Morales during his hunt on Sept. 6, per the WGFD.

Wildlife investigators reportedly tracked the path taken by Morales the day the second elk was taken using his cell phone data, locating two elk skeletal remains that matched the geographic location of the elk depicted in Morales’ and Filbert’s pictures.

When she was interviewed a second time in August 2020, Filbert allegedly admitted that she did not take the elk and was not with Morales when it was killed.

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The case recently concluded with the approval of plea agreements between the offenders and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, approved by Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff.

Per the plea agreements, Morales has been ordered to pay $5,000 in fines, $2,000 in restitution, and has forfeited his hunting privileges for three years for taking wildlife without a license.

Filbert lost her hunting privileges for two years and was ordered to pay a $400 fine for illegally transferring a hunting license.

The case displayed a great deal of effort to deceive game wardens during the investigation, Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman remarked, noting how Filbert dressed up in camouflage clothing to pose with the elk as if she had been the hunter.

“Thank you to the concerned sportspersons that started this investigation,” he added. “Many wildlife crimes are never detected because people do not pass information to the (WGFD). Honest sportspersons can make a big difference in protecting Wyoming’s wonderful wildlife resource by reporting violations to the Stop Poaching hotline.”

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After 80 Years, Women To Shoot In Lander One-Shot Hunt In 2021

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For the first time since 1940, women will be competing in the 2021 Lander One-Shot Antelope Hunt.

For reasons left to legends of the old hunt, only men were selected to be on teams that competed in the hunt until now. The One-Shot has often been called the Super Bowl of Shooting Sports. Over the years, it has featured hundreds of governors, U. S. senators, celebrities, astronauts and business leaders.

On Thursday, the One-Shot Antelope Hunt Club Board of Directors encouraged sportswomen and sportsmen to apply to be on new teams for the 2021 Hunt.

Darin Hubble, President of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt Club, states, “The organizations look forward to having sportswomen participate as team members.”

Hubble also indicated the teams of three shooters could be a combination of men and women, all men or all women.

Historically, women have played tremendous roles in the hunt. Many women have hunted with their husbands, served as guides and have always been at the range participating in shooting sports during the hunt.

Information on becoming a new team/team member is located online at
www.oneshotantelopehunt.com New team members are selected and qualified to be on a new team based on their ability to support the conservation work of Water for Wildlife® Foundation, sportsmanship and the desire to become affiliated with members who enjoy big game hunting.

The One-Shot Antelope Hunt has been hosted by 16 consecutive Wyoming Governors. It brings with it a very large economic impact for the city of Lander and wildlife conservation work in Wyoming.

The organizations are looking forward to supporting and encouraging women in the sports of hunting and shooting.

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Sheridan Police Department to Hunt Deer In Town

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It’s not going to be a free-for-all where Sheridan residents use grenade launchers, Howitzers, and flamethrowers to annihilate packs of deer or anything.

But there is going to be hunting inside the city limits. And it’s nothing that new.

The problem is an abundance of deer in the town and with that abundance comes deer and human conflict.

So how to take care of it? Bow hunting.

The Sheridan Police Department is launching a program again that will harvest deer from the city limits of Sheridan.

“The program has really suppressed the deer versus vehicle collisions,” Sheridan police Lt. Travis Koltiska said on a Sheridan Media talk show.  “We’re trying to address some of the aggressive deer in town and reduce the property damages.  It has been a very successful program.”

Officers will be conducting operations in the afternoon and evening hours. As in years past, all harvested deer will be donated to individuals in the community.

Any community member who deserves to receive a harvested deer, with the ability to process the animal, should call the Sheridan police and ask to be put on the deer donation list.

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