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Wildlife

Population control: Wildlife, ag groups explore hunter access

Written by Christy Martinez

A draft proposal under consideration by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Wyoming Board of Agriculture would reward those landowners who provide access for hunting on their private lands.

Although hunting access for wildlife population control continues to be a challenge for both the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and landowners, WGFD Director Scott Talbott says it’s important to recognize those who allow access.

“Sometimes we focus on the problems, but there are a bunch of folks out there who are doing a really good job,” comments Talbott. “This program would recognize those landowners who allow access and who actively participate in wildlife management. That’s clearly to the benefit of the ag community, to hunters and to the general public.”

Of the draft proposal, Talbott says, “It’s a project that’s been identified by both groups as something on which they could work together. The initial program would be to recognize those landowners who provide access throughout the state.”

He says that program would include a grant program for landowners who provide access, to give them seed money that could be matched with other funding sources for projects on the land that would benefit both wildlife and ag operations.

Commission President Fred Lindzey of Laramie, who represents Sweetwater, Carbon and Albany counties, explains that the program would raise funds through an auction of Commissioner licenses donated to the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation.

“What we hope to do is recognize those landowners who have provided and still provide access to hunting on their property,” says Lindzey. “The program would be in recognition of the fact that it’s hard to manage the animals if hunters can’t help, and there are many landowners who have allowed people to hunt, even though it’s not an easy deal.”

“The idea is being batted back and forth between the two groups, and they would like to have something in place by mid-year next year,” says Talbott.
“We hope that by next fall we’ll have this thing rolling, and have money in the bank to support it,” says Lindzey. “It’s a positive thing the Commission and the Board of Ag can do together to recognize those who have allowed access.”

In addition to the new program that’s in the works, Talbott says there are three other projects that encourage landowners to allow hunter access on private land through the Hunter Coordinator Program. The program was a pilot project near Laramie Peak in 2010, and for the 2011 hunting season it expanded to the Meeteetse and Cody areas.

“We are working with several participating landowners in the locations, and we hire a person who goes out and works directly with the landowners and sportsmen to facilitate elk harvest,” says Talbott, adding that, although it wasn’t as successful as they would have liked in the Laramie Peak area last year, it did well enough for the agency to commit to try it in other areas.

“Although in its first year the program didn’t really harvest that many more elk, it provided a view for landowners of what could be done,” says Lindzey. “By and large, the landowners were pretty happy with the way it went. There was Game and Fish presence there all the time, and they didn’t have to worry about people leaving their gates down or driving four-wheelers or pickups across their pastures. It was a tightly coordinated effort to get a harvest on animals, and I think it turned out well and will be attempted elsewhere in the state as we look at ways to get hunters into these areas.”

Talbott also mentions the Hunter Management Program and the Walk-In Program as other WGFD strategies that have helped with elk harvest. The Hunter Assistance Program also exists to connect landowners who need to lower wild game populations with hunters who need places to hunt.

“Our programs have expanded by leaps and bounds,” says Talbott of the collective strategies. “There is no doubt that we have more interest in them than we have the money to fund them or the personnel to work with them.”

“Overall, there are two things to look at,” he continues. “Access issues are stable, if not increasing, and there’s a tremendous interest in our programs, although access to some places is still very difficult.”

Of WGFD enforcement for those who hunt irresponsibly, Talbott says many landowners are in the Walk-In and Hunter Management Area programs simply because their participation allows the agency to enforce ranch rules, such as forbidden off-road travel.

“If those rules are ignored, we can cite them for it, and we can assist landowners with some of the problems like hunter behavior, four-wheelers and gates,” says Talbott.

Lindzey acknowledges that one ongoing problem is that, although there may be several landowners in an area who allow access, that doesn’t do any good if there’s a big adjoining block of land where hunter access is not allowed.

“It disrupts the whole thing – elk tend to run to places where they don’t get shot at, and it disrupts the whole thing. We have some landowners who don’t even live in the state who create problems by not allowing elk harvest, so a few are harvested, and after the season they find their way back to the landowners who allow access,” says Lindzey. “That’s an issue that tends to be a real problem in parts of the state.”

“It’s their right to not allow hunting on a big chunk of land they’ve bought, but the question is how to sit down with them and talk about it,” he adds.

Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..