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Recap of Wyoming's 2008 Bison Season

February 10, 2009.

Overall, the 2008 Wyoming wild bison season got off to a relatively slow start. Despite this, some great bulls were taken.

During the 2007 season, a total of 266 bison were harvested from the herd, with 224 of those taken from the National Elk Refuge. By December 9th of the 2008 season, only 140 total animals harvested, approximately 53% of the previous year’s final number.

The backdrop to a Wyoming bison hunt.  Jed Williams photo.
The view from Wyoming bison country.
Jed Williams photo.

In response to the slow start, and in consideration of a serious need to manage the population, Wyoming Game and Fish extended the bison hunt past the original end date of December 15, 2008 until January 4, 2009.

Particularly compelling in the decision to extend the season was the low number of cows removed from the herd, since recruitment rates, or the number of calves born per year compared to the overall herd population, can easily outpace harvest numbers. Only 40 of the 140 animals harvested by December 9th were females.

The lower harvest numbers this year were attributed to the increased availability of forage in surrounding areas. “Many of the bison that would likely be on the refuge by now have remained just north of the refuge boundary in Grand Teton National Park,” explained National Elk Refuge Manager Steve Kallin.

“They haven’t had a reason to push further south.” The additional three weeks of hunting extended the season into a time of the year when more snow accumulation was likely, a factor that game managers hoped would move the animals south and increase hunter success.

Shane Sibrel's high-scoring bull.
Shane Sibrel and his bull.

Final harvest numbers have not been published yet. Although the season got off to a relatively slow start, some great bulls were taken.

Shane Sibrel took his bull, green score 128 (Boone and Crockett minimum for bison is 115), about a week before Thanksgiving.

Shane took his bull on the National Elk Refuge, not too far from the town of Kelly.

Jed Williams from Utah took a huge-bodied bull on his early December hunt, estimated to score around 125.

After hunting the National Elk Refuge for a day and not finding any bulls, Jed shifted his attention to the Bridger Teton National Forest.

Jed Williams' trophy bull.
Jed Williams and his bull.

During this time of year the bulls are off on their own or in bachelor groups.  Locating a bull on legal hunting ground became the challenge for Jed and the friends that were accompanying him, as they hiked 15 or so miles in 3 days trying to locate a good bull. 

Finally on the morning of his 3rd day, they glassed up a bull about a 1/2 mile away.  There was initially some question whether he was on legal shooting grounds or not, but they were able to confirm he was on the right side of the line and made their stalk. 

Eight hours after the harvest and with sore muscles, Jed and his friends Mark, Mike, and Lee piled the last load into the truck.  

Jacob Bishop's Wyoming Bison
Jacob Bishop and his bull.

Jacob Bishop of Mississippi took yet another great bull, as previously shared with HTW subscribers a while back.

Jacob's bull green-scored at 116 1/2. He took it on National Forest land in mid-October with a vintage rifle he had inherited from his grandfather.

Applications for the 2009 Wyoming wild bison season are due February 28th. Application information is available online.

To apply, you only have to front $20. If you are selected, however, you'll have to come up with a steep non-resident tag fee of $2,502.

Despite the cost and the difficulty in drawing the tag, anyone who has ever had the privilege to take this hunt will highly recommend it. Hunting free-ranging wild bison is one of the great hunts that the West has to offer.

I took my Wyoming bison in 2005.

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