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A wildlife task force is asking public input for changes to moose and bighorn sheep hunting licenses

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Wyoming Hunger Initiative

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce is accepting public comment on major recommendations that they’ve made to the state’s system for drawing hunting licenses for moose and bighorn sheep. Both licenses are highly sought after with many hunters raising concerns to the current system, which is run on a preference point system.

The task force is a group that was convened by Gov. Mark Gordon to study top-priority wildlife issues facing the state. And while they don’t have any decision-making authority, recommendations that the group makes are submitted after a period of study to the appropriate lawmaking or rulemaking body for consideration, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo.

“The reason that they studied this was because the task force heard from many hunters,” she said. “There was no way they would ever draw a moose or sheep license under the current system because of how long the preference point system would take for you to draw a license. That’s sometimes decades. What the task force is studying with this recommendation is a more effective way to allocate those big horn sheep and moose licenses so more people have the opportunity to draw [a] license.”

DiRienzo explained that these licenses are highly sought after by both in-state and out-of-state hunters. The recommendations, which include transitioning from a point-based system to a completely random one, are aimed at making the licensing draw more equitable for hunters who haven’t accumulated many preference points. Wildlife managers make recommendations as to how many hunting licenses for each species should be offered each year.

“Under the task force proposal, it would all be random, and your preference points would transition to weighted bonus points and they would be squared,” DiRienzo said. “If you have 10 preference points, you go into our draw under the task force recommendation with 100 bonus points, and then you'd be with those points in a random draw for the entire allocation of licenses.”

Under the current system, hunters can accrue one point per year.

“If you're a resident hunter, and you're applying for moose or bighorn sheep, those are automatically awarded annually,” she said. “If you're not successful in drawing a license for non-residents, you have to purchase the points every year. In order to maintain a balance of points, you have to purchase a point at least every other year, and that goes for residents and nonresidents. Both groups have to keep accumulating points [each] year to keep their balance, [and] that would be the same under the [proposed] bonus point system.”

Each state’s licensing system is different, and the task force studied other states’ systems when making their recommendations, DiRienzo added. In state and out-of-state hunters don’t compete for the same licenses and have ones that are specifically allocated to each group. Around 8,000 hunters have weighed in on the recommendations thus far. The Game and Fish is accepting public comments until Aug. 1.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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