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Wyoming Black Hills Hunting Shut Down By Snow

November 17, 2008.

From the Wyoming Game and Fish Department:

With more than three feet of snow in the Black Hills, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department cautions hunters to be wary of hazardous travel conditions to avoid becoming stranded until conditions improve.

Nearly 20 percent of the annual deer harvest in Wyoming comes out of the Black Hills during November, and over the past several years this part of the state has hosted an estimated 8,000 deer hunters annually. Unfortunately, the entire Black Hills region was impacted by a severe snowstorm on Nov. 6, when the area received more than three feet of snow in some locations. There is less snow at lower elevations, and on the southern edge of the hills.

A number of hunters who failed to check, or heed, weather reports are still stranded. Some have made it out. The U.S. Forest Service has been coordinating rescue efforts with the Crook County Sheriff's office.  Priority is being given to parties with children and persons with health concerns. Individuals are being given rides out on snow machines based on priority and manpower availability. No vehicles or campers are being pulled out. The Forest Service is not planning to plow any roads at this time. Stranded hunters have been told they may contact private individuals to plow them out, but they are responsible for all costs and reminded not to cause resource damage, or damage to Forest Service roads or property. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is not providing rescue services, as it is beyond the scope of normal duties and the Game and Fish has limited personnel and resources in the Black Hills.

Hunters planning trips to the Black Hills in the next couple of weeks should check weather and road conditions before heading out. Hunters with questions about travel conditions should consult the Wyoming Department of Transportation toll-free at (888) WYO-ROAD, the Black Hills National Forest at (307) 283-1361, or county road and bridge departments. Hunters should also contact private landowners to check conditions on private lands they are hoping to hunt.

Hunter access to most public land is very limited at this point. Public lands that are accessible saw a notable increase in hunter use this past weekend. In addition, many people were observed "road hunting" in these areas, and several trespass complaints were received and citations issued on nearby private land, as deer hunters tried to find places to hunt.

It is not known when weather conditions will allow for improved hunting access. "As far as we know at this time, all roads on the Wyoming side of the Black Hills National Forest are impassible to motor vehicles," said Joe Sandrini, wildlife biologist in Newcastle. However, county roads are currently being cleared in Crook and Weston counties.

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