Going Out On A Limb

By Doug Wesley
Wyoming, DIY, Public & Private Land

Doug Wesley - Going Out On A LimbJune/July 2013 EHJ (Issue 137) - With a lot of uncertainty, I put in for a lesser-known unit in Wyoming for elk in 2012 and hit the bullseye, both in drawing the tag and thoroughly enjoying pursuing elk in this remote region. Here’s my story that describes 10 months of elk hunt planning, scouting, and executing from January through the two-day October 2012 hunt.

Going into the 2012 elk drawing for Wyoming, I had five preference points, or one less than the maximum possible, given the onset of this system in 2006. My luck in drawing a bull tag in 2006 had put me a point behind in the preference point race, and I had a decision to make for 2012. In order to have a chance to hunt I could try for a good unit with drawing odds a bit better than the premium units. Or, I could collect another point and wait a few years to hunt another primo unit. I’d shot a nice Colorado bull in 2010 and I had some good luck on a Colorado DIY deer hunt in 2011 so I decided to go ahead with the research on units that I actually had a chance to draw for Wyoming elk that year.

Like all drawing strategies, I had to sift through a lot of info and make some judgment calls on some of the areas that have very conservative tag numbers. I took a very close look at one of these tools, the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal ratings for access, hunter success, terrain, and trophy quality, in combination with hunter drawing statistics for Wyoming.

I’m a firm believer in sleeper units and ones that change year-to-year based on weather, predators, and drawing pressure. In early 2012 EHJ had lifted Unit 2 into the blue chip level for the first time, based probably on a combination of increasing elk herds and lack of bears and wolves, allowing a high calf survival rate. I was skeptical at first due to the arid nature of the region and the propensity of desert-like areas to produce mediumsized bulls. And, the rifle hunt occurs well after the peak of the rut in this area.

On the other hand, the prospects of a Unit 2 bull tag seemed to present a lot of potential on paper. And, there is no archery season preceding the rifle season to get the elk stirred up. I made some calls, double-checked the numbers, and kept coming back to this unit as having a history of producing large bulls, especially in recent years, and being a decent drawing chance. I put in for it, knowing that access to the best areas could require investigating opportunities for getting permission on or across private land.

In late February the draw results came out and there it was, "Successful.” I actually had mixed emotions, as suddenly there was a lot of pressure on the accuracy of my assessment of the unit without physically scouting it.

The geography of Unit 2 is generally open terrain, an arid landscape, even for Wyoming, and a lot of small canyons and breaks with cedar-choked areas common in the draws and north slopes. Pinions and junipers are mixed in with the cedars, while sage, bitterbrush, yuccas, and shortgrass dominate the open areas. Checkerboard land ownership between private and public regions is common.

Doug Wesley - Going Out On A Limb

For a full account of Doug's adventure, go to page 38 in the June/July 2013 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.