The anticipation for hunters has been building for months and alas, the time has come or is rapidly approaching as seasons for big and small game are about to open across Wyoming. Some trends — good and bad — figure to hold true once again in 2023. Mother Nature always plays a role in hunter success and animal survival, but how much?

Whether you are after pronghorn along the plains, deer or elk in the mountains, bighorn sheep high in the mountains or birds along the flatlands and wetlands, check out the 2023 Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunting forecast from eight regions around the state. The forecasts from each region are based on data and observations from the field by department biologists and game wardens.

A few reminders:

Before heading out be sure to review the 2023 hunting regulations for any season changes.

Hunters who harvest a deer or elk in any of the state’s chronic wasting disease focus areas are encouraged to get it tested. The information is valuable and will help Game and Fish’s long-term monitoring and management efforts.

Hunters are reminded to be mindful of the spread of invasive plant species and to report locations of cheatgrass to the county Weed and Pest District. 

Hunters are reminded to be bear-aware when recreating this fall. Hunters should take the necessary safety precautions and be on the lookout for bears — and signs of bears.

Big game hunters are reminded that hunt areas denoted with an asterisk (*) have limited public hunting access and are largely comprised of private lands. In these areas, hunters should get permission to hunt private land before applying for a license, or at least recognize that hunting small isolated parcels of public land can be difficult and frustrating at times. 



Pronghorn population performance has been variable in the Casper Region in recent years, with herds around Casper remaining at or near population management objectives while herds in northeast Wyoming (from Douglas to Lusk to Sundance) remain far below objective. Over the past five years, pronghorn numbers have generally declined in much of the region due to multiple harsh winters coupled with poor fawn survival and periodic disease outbreaks (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and Blue Tongue). In some cases, herds were well above objective and have declined to appropriate levels, while in places like northeast Wyoming, hunting seasons have become extremely conservative to allow herds to grow to desired levels. Then came the winter of 2022-23.  As the historically harsh winter progressed, wildlife managers decided to remove Type 6 or 7 (doe/fawn) licenses from almost all of the hunt areas in the region out of an abundance of caution, with one notable exception in Hunt Area 32 south of Casper, where pronghorn have faired well. Thankfully, substantial pronghorn losses were not realized in much of the Casper Region despite severe winter conditions being prevalent in much of the state, partially due to the fact that pronghorn populations were already well below what the landscape could support. Regardless, most pronghorn populations are now under objective with conservative hunting seasons for the foreseeable future.  Despite numbers remaining below-desired levels in much of the region, hunters should experience average to high harvest success as buck ratios remain strong and license issuance has been drastically reduced for the fourth consecutive year. 

Mule deer

*Correction: This section has been updated to reflect the correct mandatory sampling areas.

Mule deer populations have decreased or remained stable throughout the region over the past several years, with all populations being well below established objectives. Mule deer adult and fawn survival continues to be poor, which can be attributed to past summer droughts and habitat conditions, disease in some herds and predation. Despite lower-than-desired numbers, buck ratios remain high in most mule deer herds and hunter success should be good for those hunting on private lands and in limited quota areas. Hunters on public land within general license areas should experience low to moderate success, as seasons will remain conservative. In the Black Hills, unprecedented conservative 17-day general seasons will be held in conjunction with the elimination of most doe/fawn licenses in Hunt Areas 1-6, meaning hunters will have only two full weekends to hunt this year. Hunters lucky enough to draw a license in conservatively managed limited quota areas should see high buck ratios with modest trophy potential. In the high-altitude desert (Hunt Areas 10, 34 and 89) many prime-age, mature bucks don’t grow large antlers compared to mule deer in other parts of the state. However, these herds are managed for good numbers of older-aged bucks and produce some nice deer every year. Thankfully, 2023 experienced an extraordinarily wet spring and early summer, which should boost forage production and overall habitat quality. In turn, this should lead to good over-summer fawn survival while bolstering the nutritional condition of adult females as they enter the coming winter. This will hopefully result in improved winter survival and fawn production next year, something our mule deer populations could use. Mandatory CWD sample submission is required for hunters who hunt in Hunt Areas 88 and 89. Hunters can get their deer tested for CWD by collecting a sample themselves and sending it to the Wildlife Health Lab or by bringing the head to a game check station or Game and Fish regional office during office hours.

White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer populations experienced substantial die-offs in 2021 in much of the Casper Region due to a severe outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. This outbreak was more widespread and prolonged than usual due to unseasonably warm fall conditions that persisted well into November. White-tail hunters will see far fewer deer in 2023 compared to recent years, especially in the Black Hills where unprecedented conservative 17-day general seasons will be held in conjunction with the elimination of most doe/fawn licenses in Hunt Areas 1-6, meaning hunters will have only two full weekends to hunt this year. Despite being only one year removed from the large-scale EHD die-off, white-tail numbers are starting to rebound in the Casper and Douglas areas. In 2023, doe/fawn license issuance was liberalized in these areas to prevent rapid population growth, which can occur in central Wyoming when weather conditions are favorable and EHD remains at bay. Hunters are reminded the vast majority of white-tailed deer occupy private lands. The notable exception is in the Black Hills, where high numbers occupy the Black Hills National Forest, although numbers are relatively low this year due to the EHD outbreak of 2021.    


Elk numbers remain at or above objective in all herds in the region. Seasons continue to be liberal in terms of length and license issuance. Modest increases in elk license numbers and liberalized limitations occurred in parts of the region, most notably in Hunt Area 117 where seasons were further liberalized to address a growing elk population and alleviate private land damage. The region continues to provide excellent bull-hunting opportunities, with many areas continuing to boast high harvest success on any-elk licenses and good antler quality.  Antlerless elk hunter success continues to be good, although high hunter densities on public lands often result in reduced hunter success in early fall. In areas with interspersed public and private lands, antlerless elk hunters tend to require more days afield to harvest their elk as large cow/calf groups readily displace off public land. Overall, the 2023 season will continue emphasizing female elk harvest while providing good mature bull hunting in most areas. Those hunters willing to expend the effort should continue to enjoy remarkable numbers of elk and success if the weather cooperates.



Pronghorn populations and hunting success continue to be down through much of the Bighorn Basin and licenses have been reduced or maintained for the 2023 season in most of these areas. The northern portion of the Bighorn Basin’s pronghorn herds are relatively stable. Early field observations suggest good fawn production throughout much of the region. Hunting should be similar or better for those who drew pronghorn licenses within the region than last year. 


Winter survival appears to be at or above average throughout the region. Based on preliminary field observations, mule deer fawn production appears to be similar or better than last year. The region observed improved fawn production in most deer herds during the 2022 deer classifications. Most mule deer herds within the region are currently below population management objectives. Hunters should expect conditions and success to be similar or slightly improved compared to 2022. Prolonged drought and increasing CWD prevalence have had a negative impact on Bighorn Basin deer herds over the past several years. Managers are hopeful the recent positive trends in precipitation will provide a needed boost to mule deer populations. 


Most herds continue to perform well within the region, with several at or above management objectives. Based on improved precipitation and early field observations suggesting good calf production, elk hunters should expect good hunting within the Cody Region again this year.


Herds within the region have been performing better over the past several years. The Bighorn Mountain herd has recorded high trend counts for the past four years. Research conducted within the Absaroka herd (Hunt Area 9) suggests good calf production and survival in 2023. Managers are observing a slight increase in moose numbers in Hunt Area 11, particularly within the Sunlight Basin area. Moose licenses changed slightly this year to balance the new 90:10 resident/nonresident allocation. Moose hunters should expect good moose hunting conditions and success in 2023.

Bighorn sheep

The Absaroka (Hunt Areas 1-5) and Devil’s Canyon (Hunt Area 12) herds are within the Cody Region. Sheep numbers are within management objectives for the Absaroka herd and have recently fallen below objective within the Devil’s Canyon herd due to a recent disease die-off. It is estimated that the die-off reduced the Devil’s Canyon herd by 40 percent, but we have observed promising lamb recruitment thus far and anticipate the herd will recover quickly. Ram licenses within the Devil’s Canyon herd were reduced to 2 licenses and ewe licenses were removed for the 2023 season. Licenses within the Absaroka herd were adjusted to align with the new 90:10 resident/nonresident license allocation. Overall, licenses within the Absaroka herd increased slightly for the 2023 season. Those fortunate to have drawn bighorn sheep licenses within the region should enjoy good hunting. 

Mountain Goat

The Beartooth herd (Hunt Areas 1, 3 and 5A) is within its population management objective. The season structure has been designed to provide harvest opportunity in Hunt Area 3 while maintaining harvest levels within Hunt Area 1. Licenses in Hunt Area 3 were reduced for the 2023 seasons as goat populations are nearing their management objectives. Mountain goat licenses were adjusted to align with the new 90:10 resident/nonresident license allocation. Those fortunate enough to have drawn a goat license should have a good goat hunt.