For many northeastern Wyoming deer hunters, the season doesn't really open until November rolls around. In fact, it might not begin for them until the first arctic cold snap comes barreling down from Alberta with snow and near-zero temperatures. It is at that time that the white-tailed deer go into rut.
Sheridan, Johnson, Crook and Weston counties have large populations of white-tailed deer. While many Wyoming deer hunters prefer the bigger-bodied and larger-antlered mule deer, there are a significant number of hunters that prefer to hunt the wilier, more numerous and, I might add, better-tasting white-tailed deer.
While most of the white-tailed bucks in the four-county region don't make Boone and Crockett lists, there are still some darned nice bucks that would make about any hunter happy. There are plenty of opportunities to fill the freezer, too.
The dense numbers of whitetails, especially in Sheridan County, have caused the Wyoming Game and Fish to have quite liberal bag limits. Hunt Area 24, for instance, has 1,500 doe/fawn type 6 and 1,500 doe/fawn type 8 permits available. The type 8 permits are for white-tailed deer only, while the type 6 are for either species. The doe/fawn seasons opened Sept. 1 and will end Dec. 21. The general license season opened Oct. 15 and ended Oct. 31 for mule deer but continues through Nov. 30 for buck white-tailed deer. A hunter may purchase up to four doe/fawn permits, so he or she could harvest five deer in Hunt Area 24.
Perhaps the hardest part of hunting whitetails is finding a place to hunt. With the exception of the Black Hills National Forest in Crook and Weston counties, most of the prime whitetail habitat is on private land. While many landowners will allow a hunter to harvest does, they often reserve the buck whitetails for paying guests or family members. Some landowners will charge a hunter to shoot a buck, while a few will allow a hunter to shoot a buck if he or she will shoot the legal number of does and fawns.
If you are planning to hunt in the region, make sure to have landowner permission before you buy your licenses and permits! The Game and Fish regional office can assist you in locating landowners who will allow you to hunt.
White-tailed deer prefer to feed early in the evening to past dark and in the pre-dawn hours to an hour or so after dawn, then will bed down for the day. Some whitetails will feed intermittently throughout the day, particularly if the numbers are high and the food is limited.
A hunter can be quite successful by sitting near a path that the deer use to go to and from their feeding area. Around Sheridan County, it means that you have to find where the deer are entering and leaving the alfalfa fields. It is imperative that if you are planning to hunt in the morning that you get to your stand before first light and sit tight. If you are hunting in the afternoon, it is a good idea to be on stand two hours before sundown.
When the rut occurs, deer will be moving throughout the day and night. The bucks that kept to the darkness will be out wandering around looking for does ready to be bred. During the rut, it seems that wary bucks become foolhardy and quite easy to get, but still a hunter still has to be in the right place at the right time.
While it's fairly easy to tell a big mule deer by seeing if its antler spread goes beyond his ears, I find that whitetail bucks are not as easy to judge. I figure if the tines are high (eight inches or greater) and heavy, that is a good start, while the beams should look to have a hefty diameter at the base.
The weather forecasts call for conditions to be more like typical November for the next week or more, so it looks like the white-tailed deer hunting will continue to improve.
Contact columnist Bob Krumm at email@example.com