Hunting season forecast for the Cody region

Posted 9/6/19

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's 2019 hunting forecast offers a detailed look at the seasons for deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and birds in the Cody Region.

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Hunting season forecast for the Cody region


The Wyoming Game and Fish Department's 2019 hunting forecast offers a detailed look at the seasons for deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and birds in the Cody Region.


Hunters should expect fair to good hunting in the southern Big Horn Basin. That includes the Southwest Bighorns herd (Hunt Areas 35, 37, 39, 40 and 164), the Basin herd (Hunt Areas 125 and 127) and the Owl Creek/Meeteetse herd (Hunt Areas 116-120).

Mule deer fawn production has decreased in recent years, which has stabilized or decreased populations in most areas; buck recruitment has been fair. Additional antlerless deer hunting opportunity was added in Hunt Area 164 to address damage and increasing prevalence of chronic wasting disease. 

Buck numbers have decreased for the Paintrock herd (Hunt Areas 41, 46 and 47) and in the Northern Bighorn Mountains (Hunt Areas 50, 51 and 53). The overall population remains lower than in the mid-2000s. Buck hunting should be fair, and antlerless hunting will be similar to last year.

The Greybull River deer herd (Hunt Areas 124 and 165) and the Shoshone River deer herd (Hunt Areas 121, 122 and 123) should have similar seasons compared to 2018 with the normal 10-day general seasons and Type 6 and 8 licenses restricted to private or agricultural lands. Managers slightly decreased doe/fawn license numbers in Hunt Areas 121 and 122 to reduce pressure on Clarks Fork migratory deer and in response to public comments.

Upper Shoshone (Hunt Areas 110-115) mule deer hunters should expect hunting to be fair, but likely not as good as last year. This herd has experienced chronically low fawn recruitment over the past five years. To address this decrease in population and fawn recruitment, managers decreased mule deer hunting opportunity within this herd until it shows signs of recovery, so the general season now runs from Oct. 15 – Nov. 3 for Hunt Areas 110-114 (see related story).

The Clarks Fork herd (Hunt Areas 105, 106 and 109) has experienced chronically low fawn recruitment over the past five years and a reduction in overall population. Managers reduced harvest opportunity by removing seven days from the general season and changing the quota of 105, 106, 109 Type 1 licenses. The general season will be Oct. 1–24. Hunting will be fair, but likely not as good.

White-tailed deer numbers continue to do well and populations continue to expand. In some areas, there is concern over the increase in white-tailed deer, disease issues and competition with mule deer, so harvest opportunity has been liberalized to keep populations in check. Managers added any white-tailed deer to the general seasons for Hunt Areas 41, 46, 47, 50, 51, 52 and 53. Managers also increased Type 3 and 8 licenses across the Cody Region. Hunters should check 2019 big game regulations to find all the changes. Conditions should be similar to last year, with more opportunity to harvest a white-tailed deer this year.

CWD samples requested

Managers ask hunters to bring in all adult (2 years old or older) mule deer bucks harvested within Hunt Areas 105, 106, 109, 121, 122 and 123 to a Game and Fish check station, the Cody Regional office or other sampling locations.



Pronghorn hunters should expect similar pronghorn numbers and hunting in the Copper Mountain and Carter Mountain herds.

The Copper Mountain pronghorn herd (Hunt Areas 76, 79, 114 and 115) will provide additional hunting opportunity because the herd is experiencing increased agricultural damage, and is currently meeting its population management objective. The Carter Mountain pronghorn herd (Hunt Areas 78, 81 and 82) has increased in the past few years and additional hunting opportunity will be provided to maintain the herd at it’s population management objective. Hunters should expect better pronghorn hunting in these areas than what they experienced in the 2018 season.

This winter, managers plan to place GPS collars on pronghorn within the Carter Mountain herd to determine animal movements, migration patterns and seasonal habitat use. This collaring project is a major collaboration between numerous partners and will provide better information to area pronghorn managers.

Expect similar hunting in the Fifteen Mile herd (Hunt Areas 77, 83 and 110) to the 2018 season. The Badger Basin herd (Hunt Area 80) has experienced a decline in fawn production and population size, therefore, managers have decreased licenses within this area. Hunters should expect to see fewer pronghorn within this herd.



Elk populations in the southern Big Horn Basin continue to do well. Winter trend count flights last year in the South Bighorn (Hunt Areas 47-49), Gooseberry (Hunt Areas 62-64) and Hunt Area 61 in the Cody elk herd had higher observed numbers than winter count objectives. Area managers are maintaining a high harvest level in these areas to reduce populations toward objective levels.

Hunters should expect similar season dates and license numbers. There are a few changes in Hunt Area 61 designed to better focus elk harvest to meet management objectives. Hunters are reminded to collect blood from their harvested elk for brucellosis testing; blood sampling kits are available from Game and Fish personnel or the Cody office.

The North Bighorn elk herd (Hunt Areas 39 and 40) remains healthy and productive and should provide a good opportunity to harvest an elk in 2019.  Managers have checked many older class bulls in the past years’ harvest and predict good hunting success again for hunters with a Type 1 license.  Based on 2017 and ’18 winter trend counts, elk numbers in Hunt Areas 39 and 40 are stable. Harvest success however, usually depends on the arrival of cold and snowy weather to move elk to accessible locations. Managers increased antlerless licenses in Hunt Area 41 to address an increase in this elk population that remains over its population management objective.

Most elk populations near Cody are near population objectives and many of the season recommendations adopted in 2013 for Hunt Areas 55, 56, 59 and 60 will remain in place this year. Bull numbers and quality remain high, but opportunity can depend on weather conditions moving bull elk into accessible areas. Antlerless hunting opportunities will be available throughout the Clarks Fork (Hunt Areas 51, 53 and 54) and Cody (Hunt Areas 55, 56, 58-61 and 66) herds, especially where there are conflicts with elk on private land.

Managers increased antlerless licenses in Hunt Area 66, and slightly decreased antlerless hunting licenses in Hunt Areas 53 and 59 to address fewer elk counted in the 2018 trend surveys.

Overall, Cody Region elk hunters should expect good hunting since most herds are at or above management objectives.



The moose populations in Hunt Areas 9 and 11 of the Absaroka Mountains are at low densities but appear to be stable. Hunt Area 11 will again offer five licenses for the 2019 season. Hunt Area 9 licenses were reduced from five licenses to three for the 2019 season. Last year, several 40-plus inch bulls were harvested from both hunt areas, indicating there are still plenty of mature bulls available for harvest. Recent trail camera work in Hunt Area 9 has shown higher than expected moose numbers, particularly bull numbers in some drainages, indicating an improvement in overall numbers since the mid 2000s. Harvest success for these moose hunt areas still runs above 90 percent, and the 2019 season should again have good success with adequate numbers of older, mature bulls.

Moose hunting in Hunt Area 42 in the Bighorn Mountains should be better than last season. Managers recently completed their summer trend survey and observed the most moose since the survey began. This coupled with the increased incidental moose sightings along U.S. Highways 14 and 14-A this year suggest that moose hunting in Hunt Area 42 should be very good.


Mountain goats

To address resource competition and potential disease issues between bighorn sheep and mountain goats, regional managers created a new mountain goat license to reduce goats south of the North Fork of the Shoshone River. The new Hunt Area 5A will provide an opportunity for 16 hunters to hunt goats this fall. Goat densities within Hunt Area 5A are low, so managers expect harvest success to be relatively low. The hunt area is primarily mountainous backcountry that will require hunters to utilize horses or backpack hunt to access areas that may have goats.

Mountain goat numbers differ between Hunt Areas 1 and 3, with a decrease in overall numbers in Hunt Area 1, and an increase in Hunt Area 3. Despite the decrease in Hunt Area 1 licenses, hunters able to access the rugged terrain should still have opportunities to harvest a mature mountain goat. To minimize hunter crowding in Hunt Area 3, a Type 2 license will again be offered in 2019 valid only for October. Access to mountain goats in the late season can be tricky, but the Hunt Area 3 license should provide opportunity for those willing to put in the extra effort. There were no changes to license numbers in these hunt areas.


Bighorn sheep

Overall, bighorn sheep hunting in the Absaroka Mountains should be good for those lucky enough to draw a license.

In 2018, the average age of harvested rams in Hunt Areas 1-5 was a little over 7 years old, with many older age class rams checked.

Due to decreased lamb ratios, hunting success and numerous bighorn ram pickup heads being discovered, regional sheep managers reduced sheep licenses in Hunt Areas 1, 2 and 5. In Hunt Areas 3 and 4, the number of licenses issued did not change.

In Hunt Area 12 (Devils Canyon herd), bighorn sheep continue to do well, and area managers are again proposing six licenses for 2019. Past hunters have all harvested mature rams, so hunting should be very good for the four resident and two nonresident hunters lucky enough to draw one of the coveted licenses.


Upland birds & turkeys

Success for upland game bird hunting in 2019 in the Big Horn Basin will not be as good as last season. Upland bird hunting success in 2018 was down compared to previous years, with many hunters finding only scattered numbers of huns, chukars, grouse and pheasants.

Biologists observed fewer upland bird broods afield this year. Upland bird production was likely negatively impacted by heavy spring and early summer precipitation. Bird numbers have been down for a few years, so it will take a couple of years with ideal weather conditions for numbers to increase. 

Bird hunters should remember hunting has little to no effect on upland bird populations; weather and habitat play a much more significant role by influencing nesting success and chick survival.

Turkey hunting in Hunt Area 4 will continue to be good, though poult production may be down due to prolonged cold and wet spring and early summer conditions. Shell, Paintrock, Upper and Lower Nowood River drainages have good numbers of turkeys. Hunters who scout ahead and ask for landowner permission before the season should be able to find a good place to hunt.