Wyoming antelope populations have been struggling across most of the state for the last few years. Add this devastating winter to the mix and we are going to see tag reductions like never before. Early proposals show WYGF cutting over 10,000 antelope tags statewide for the 2023 hunting season. As such, draw odds are going to become even steeper and good public land hunts with less than 7-8 points are going to be hard to draw. Some units will see type 1 tags reduced by half or more and no doe/fawn hunts at all. Quality has taken a dip, especially in Central and Eastern Wyoming more so than the western units in recent years. Populations are struggling in the west in most units as well, but there are still some good quality bucks being harvested. In reality, antelope are a lot more resilient than mule deer, and as such, populations could recover in a few years if WYFG maintains low to no doe/fawn licenses and we see some mild to normal winters with good spring and summer moisture. Fawn/doe antelope ratios typically run higher than mule deer fawn/doe ratios with average numbers running in the 70-80/100 fawn ratio, which lends itself well to recovery. Wyoming experienced a perfect storm of booming populations from 2010 to 2017 when they were harvesting thousands of antelope does to try and bring the populations back within objective and then had back-to-back heavy winter mortality followed by extreme drought the following years, capped by another severe winter. This plummeted the existing population along with discouraging any recruitment they would’ve normally had.
All that being said, Wyoming is still home to the largest antelope population and has plenty of hunting opportunities with good quality. The number of points required to put a license in your pocket has been the biggest change in the last few years with more applicants applying and fewer tags allocated each year. The tough pill that most of us have to swallow now is that the same unit that could have been drawn four years ago with 3 points now requires 6-8 points or more to draw, and there is a good chance that there are fewer mature bucks on the landscape. Second choice licenses are becoming a thing of the past, and those that still remain are terrible hunts for public land opportunity.
One bright spot from Wyoming the last several years is that we have seen some incredible bucks being taken across the western side of the state, and even though numbers are down, that trophy genetic is still there. If you are sitting on a bunch of points and are looking at areas to burn them, you should still be looking at the Red Desert area and surrounding units around Rock Springs north to Pinedale and Riverton. These areas were definitely hit with winterkill and will not have the number of antelope they usually do, but hunters should still be able to find a mature buck. However, you may want to sit on your points and see if the herds will rebound and then apply in the future.
Overall, a good buck can be taken in most units, but judging antelope can be the hardest part, especially when 80%-90% of them are the same 12-13" with decent prongs. If you are in the middle of the pack, read through the comments on some of the different units we have listed and decide if one of them has the right terrain and trophy potential to fit what you are looking for. The most important thing to remember if you have a few points is to not overthink it and apply for a unit with enough public land to hunt and cross your fingers. The margin of quality that separates most of these units is very small and most likely will not be noticeable.
Since it is Wyoming and they have the largest antelope population in the nation and endless amounts of public land hunting opportunities, we recommend you at least build points this year for future antelope hunting possibilities. If you are looking at hiring an outfitter for a guided antelope hunt, remember that in most cases you do not need many or in some units any points and can book a hunt with one of our Endorsed Outfitters on the eastern side of the state that has access to private land and draw a license and go hunting.
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The application deadline to apply for Wyoming antelope is 11:59 p.m. MDT on May 31, 2023.
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((License fees include $15 non-refundable application fees but do not account for the 2.5% processing fee.)
|*The application dates to apply online for points are July 1-October 31.
**The archery license is $72 for non-residents, $16 for residents, $16 for non-resident youth, and $6 for resident youth.