Hunting in Wyoming: Where the Story Ends and Begins - Wyoming Magazine


Hunting in Wyoming: Where the Story Ends and Begins


by Nate Laible


The time is 4:30 a.m. and you are awakened by the sound of an alarm clock. The air is cool to your lungs. Someone is already rustling on the other end of the tent, and you can smell the coffee. You don’t want to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag, but you know the promise of sunrise is not far away. The first day of hunting season begins.

Wyomingites know the feeling well, the first day of hunting season. The feeling is one of cool fall air, and “Welcome Hunters” signs that fill every city in the state. Trucks are filled with orange clothing, and it’s not uncommon to see an orange hunting hat sitting on the dash of almost every truck. Small diners are filled with people eating and telling old hunting stories. Hunting is a way of life for many people in Wyoming, and has been stretching back to the first settlers who made their way across the Oregon Trail. Even before them, mountain men traveled the west looking for fur of different sorts.

That hunting tradition is alive and well, and it’s not only Wyomingites who enjoy the pursuit of game. Many people from outside of the state come to hunt as well. We often notice a multitude of license plates from our neighbors to the south, and other states, come fall.  A few places especially draw “out-of-staters” where it’s not uncommon to pa

ss multiple trailers and trucks bearing the green and white plates of Colorado. What a place Wyoming is that we attract so many people who want to enjoy the resources we have access to every day. People come from all over the globe because of Wyoming’s world class hunting. Contrary to our sister states in the east, many of Wyoming’s big game seasons open on different dates, from Aug. 15 through January. This gives hunters the opportunity to pursue big game and small for a long period. Wyoming also has a spring bear season, and a multitude of other small game seasons that open other times of the year.

For many Wyoming folks, hunting season is a time to spend with friends and family. It is a time to introduce someone new to the outdoors, a time to sit around a campfire and to look at the stars. Whatever the passion may be, hunting season is a time many people cherish, anticipating year-round: the next hunt.

Many do not understand the passion and time spent getting ready for hunting season. The practice and preparation is almost a full-time job, but a job that many would do over and over again, just for the chance for a close encounter with an animal or to spend time in the land that God has provided. In any case, preparing for the season is a long process every year for those of us who love hunting.

The first stage to the year-round preparation is denial. It hits us in the first couple of months—maybe even weeks—after hunting season has closed. We think, “Is it really over? Is there something else I could be hunting? I’m pretty sure one of my friends still has a tag, right?”

This is part of the hunter’s curse, that the season always ends and we already start to plan for the next one. If we are lucky, we find another opportunity to hit the hills for a couple more days. But nonetheless, there comes a time after Christmas when everything is closed for the big game hunter, and we are faced with the cold wind howling and the snow falling. This is the time where one tries to resist watching hunting movies and TV shows, because we will get caught up at the gun case, staring at our favorite gun, looking through old hunting pictures or reminiscing in the garage near a set of horns from a previous hunt. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those few months move on, and then spring is here.

Spring for the Wyoming hunter means hope. As the snow melts, it provides hunters the opportunity to look for sheds. Shed hunting has become a huge sport recently, especially here in the west. Wyoming has implemented seasons for shed hunters in certain areas. Sheds have multiple purposes, and most are sold for decorative purposes. A few are sold for chew toys for dogs. Large sets of antlers can be sold for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The main reason diehard hunters shed hunt is to gather information on last season’s animals. Where they are hanging out, and did they make it through the winter? This is really where the planning starts. Hunters start thinking about which drainage to focus on, what trails and draws will be the best for trail cameras, and where the camp will be.

Spring quickly turns to summer, and much of the hunter’s time is spent preparing for the upcoming season. The early part of summer is filled with long hikes or runs to get into shape, followed by weekends in the woods setting out the trail cameras. The workout remains the same—or one hopes that it does—through the remainder of the summer. As late July and August roll around, the unscratchable itch begins. At this point, hunters are focused on scouting and practicing with the weapon of choice. For bow hunters, practice can begin weeks after the last season closed. For the rifle hunter, summer is the time to head to the range and open up the dusty case, which may not have seen light since the end of last season.

In either case, practice is a key point to ensuring an ethical kill and the confidence to take the shot when given the chance during the season. The opportunity to take the shot during the season is one that is never promised, but is a critical part that should not be under practiced. In the last few weeks of summer, the anticipation in the air as the sun begins to set earlier and earlier is palpable. The weekends are filled with scouting trips and long afternoons glassing your hunting areas from your favorite vantage points. If you are out on a Saturday north of Laramie, you may even run into an endless stream of cars crossing Shirley Basin heading to the first Wyoming Cowboy football game.

The time has come and hunting season has arrived. For hunters, this is one of the most beautiful times to be out and about in the Cowboy State. The mountains are covered with a golden yellow blanket as the aspens change color. There is a distinctive smell of pines burning from campfires in the air. One can only imagine why it is so easy to get out of bed in the morning when hunting season finally arrives. Maybe it’s the pure beauty that Wyoming has to offer, or just a close encounter with a wild animal. There is no right answer, but one thing is for sure: Wyoming is the answer.

The time is 4:30 a.m. and you are awakened by the sound of an alarm clock. The air is cool to your lungs. Someone is rustling on the other end of the tent, and you can smell the coffee. You don’t want to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag, but you know the promise of sunrise is not far away. The first day of hunting season begins.

You crawl out of your sleeping bag and quickly throw on a pair of long johns. You gear up. You head up the mountain, and you are warmer and out of breath. You start to wonder why you put on so many clothes, but you continue up the mountain. Finally, you reach your destination. The sunlight is coming over the horizon, and you see the animal you seek. You take a deep breath, let it out slowly and shoot. Here the hunter’s story ends and begins, for it does not matter if the animal is killed. It is the journey that makes the story, not the destination, and the hunter will begin the journey next year either way.

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1 Comment

  1. yushay

    February 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Well surely hunting is not a just a simple hobby. It is a passion. By the way, which is your favorite rifle for hunting?

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