To many self-guided hunters, the prospect of trespass fees is too expensive or just cuts against their grain. For others, the armies of orange-clad hunters on the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management grounds are enough to make them look elsewhere. In some instances, it may be the fact that the species for which they hold a tag is not available on the public grounds. Some states don’t have much public ground for hunting.
As a result of shrinking access, many states have started walk-in or public hunting programs on private properties. Such programs got a start with the Block Management Program in Montana and have grown to neighboring states, each having a twist reflective of the priorities and challenges of that state.
The quality of hunting on these properties is as varied as the properties themselves. Some are top-notch opportunities for a trophy, while others have average trophy quality but good numbers. Walk-in only is the norm in some states, while other states allow some form of motorized access. Landowners may require permission slips and reservations, while some merely require a form to be completed at the sign-in box.
Whatever your hunting interest, you will find some area, in some state, that can fulfill your need for access to chase the species you are hunting. Below is a quick summary of Wyoming’s program. Some are more geared to big game, while others are pointed toward upland birds. Any serious western hunter needs to look at these possibilities and the inexpensive access they provide. Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah at this time, have no program available. Wyoming has implemented a program similar to Montana’s Block Management Program. Still in its growing stages, the Hunter Management Areas (HMA) are creating opportunities in some of Wyoming’ best big-game areas.
HMA properties in Wyoming are managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. To secure a reservation you must possess a tag for the given area. Reservations are handled by the Regional Game and Fish offices and usually are taken starting in mid-July.
On their website, WG&F has a link to each property, showing the species available, which hunting unit the property is located within and any restrictions on hunting activities.
Much of eastern and central Wyoming is private, in fact, is mostly private. Most public land in eastern Wyoming requires permission to cross private land in order to access the scattered public lands. As such, Wyoming has focused their HMA activities in these areas, with emphasis on the properties that will provide access to contiguous public grounds that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Wyoming also has their Walk-in Hunting Areas. These properties allow public access, but by foot only. Species allowed and other restrictions are similar to the HMA program. The biggest difference from the HMA program being the WHA properties are not managed by the Fish and Game regional offices and usually require you to merely sign in at the parking area.
Last year I hunted pronghorn on a leftover tag in northeastern Wyoming with my son and a friend. We saw many pronghorn and without much effort, found many for our taking. It was great fun and in a weekend trip, we filled three buck tags.
One particular benefit of the HMA properties in Wyoming, is that many of them are located in areas that have leftover deer and antelope tags, with some even having elk tags available after the first drawing. For those needing a fallback plan, this works great.
Wyoming does not have many properties in the HMA program that are renowned for their upland bird hunting. Though some exist, bird hunters would be better served by focusing on the same type of properties in Kansas and South Dakota. If big game is your passion, particularly antelope, take advantage of this Wyoming opportunity. I can attest to the quality of the hunt and the ease by which access and tags can be secured.