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Western Wyoming hunter offers prizes to those willing to turn in their deer tags 


Last winter, Western Wyoming had one of the snowiest and coldest winters in decades, and it killed off some big game populations. So, one hunter is asking folks to turn in their hunting tags, in return they could win donated prizes.

In the spring, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) estimated that based on radio collar data, as many as half of the Wyoming Range Mule Deer herd could’ve died due to the winter. This summer, Wyofile reported that data indicated even higher mortality rates, with up to 70 percent of collared adult deer and 100 percent of the 2022 collared fawns. More specifics will be released after the WGFD conducts post-hunt flight surveys. Nevertheless, this herd has long been touted as one of the largest in the world.

“It's a night and day difference,” said Zachary Key, a hunter in Lincoln County. “I mean, I'm used to seeing, you know, 50-60-80 deer on an outing. And you know, I've seen six.”

So, Key started ‘Let a Deer Walk Raffle.’ Hunters can turn in their Wyoming deer tags for a chance to win one of 22 prizes.

“Like they kind of feel like it's a cool guy thing. Like you know, ‘Man, I love hunting and I love wildlife so much and I can still utilize my tag for something but not not be tempted to go out and use it’,” Key said.

He added that the prizes were donated by local and regional businesses that were immediately interested as soon as he started putting the word out about the raffle. The prizes include everything from an eight-day wolf hunt in Canada to a whole beef to a new four-wheeler.

Key said people should buy tags to support WGFD, as hunting tags are a huge source of revenue. But, Key added that he also wants deer to have a chance to repopulate.

The WGFD is not a part of the raffle. The agency did dramatically cut both mule deer and pronghorn tags in parts of southwest and western Wyoming this year – with no fawn or doe harvest. They said the adjustments reflect what it will take to rebound the populations.

“There was a lot of thought and science that went into producing these seasons this year, and so we do appreciate the thought behind it and the passion,” said Breanna Ball, WGFD public information officer, “but we still want to offer that hunting opportunity to folks in our state that will still allow for the facilitation and rebound of future populations.”

She said the key thing for helping populations rebound is protecting wildlife habitat and increasing connectivity between summer and winter ranges.

Nevertheless, Key said this is just something he felt he could do to help with the situation, but he’s not trying to discourage people from hunting either. He noted that he might host the raffle again next year.

“I also do believe in my heart that two or three years of this would actually be more beneficial to just kind of give them a little bit more of a chance to rebound because it's not going to be a one-year fix,” Key said.

He’s received about 800 licenses so far. The deadline to submit is this Friday. He said to write one’s name and number on the back of the tag and mail it to him at P.O. Box 147 LaBarge, WY 83123.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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