Antler hunting season may soon start three days later for non-residents
Antler hunting season on public lands is a huge event in western and southern Wyoming, and residents may soon get a three-day advantage.
Under House Bill 123, public lands that currently have an antler hunting season would still open to hunters on May 1 at 6 a.m., but only for Wyoming residents. Non-residents would have to wait till May 4 to participate.
House Speaker Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) testified in favor of the bill, saying it would reduce the number of people on opening day, which would be less stressful for wildlife. He added that the number of non-resident hunters can be overwhelming.
“I mean, hordes of them in my country, not one or two, I'm talking lots and lots of people,” Sommers said.
There was some discussion about how to regulate who is and is not a resident, as the requirements for a Wyoming drivers license and resident hunting license are different.
“How can we even enforce that?,” asked Jess Johnson, the government affairs director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “Is it somebody out walking their dog? Is it somebody out horseback riding? Or are they in the act of shed hunting at that point? How do you tell the difference? Do we go up and ask everybody for their driver's license? I can tell you, I certainly don't carry that when I'm on my horse.”
There were some suggestions to create an antler hunting permit that would delineate between residents and non-residents. But, Sommers said that is overregulating Wyoming hunters.
“I think the intent of this is not to over regulate – not to create a permit,” he said. “Let's just back off the resident. And we're not stopping non-residents from hunting horns, we're just delaying it.”
Sommers suggested the public should decide how the Wyoming Game and Fish Department delineates between a resident and non-resident in an open comment period.
Rep. Danile Singh (R-Cheyenne) also brought up tourism dollars. He was concerned that delaying the season start date for non-residents could dampen money spent in communities. And while Sommers partially agreed, he said the impact would likely be minimal.
“But most of them stay in campers, they're not staying in – at least what I see around my area – they're not staying in the hotels,” Sommers said. “They're staying in campers, tents.”
The bill unanimously passed out of the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources committee and will now be heard on the House floor.