Bison Hunting

Hunting Article

Like elk hunting, a program to manage the size of the bison population on the refuge is imperative to herd health management.

Photo credit: Mark Gocke


Alert: Bear Activity - Both hunters and Refuge staff have had regular sightings of bears and bear tracks in Refuge hunt areas this season. Though bear spray is not required in the hunt areas, it is strongly recommended. Bear spray is an effective deterrent that is specifically designed to deter aggressive or charging bears. It is not, however, a substitute for appropriate safety precautions. Hunters should remain vigilant, especially in areas with limited visibility due to shrubs, trees, and other cover as bear encounters can happen very quickly with little forewarning. Click here for more information.

The 2018 Refuge bison hunting season began on August 15, 2018.

Hunters must already have a Wyoming state bison license, issued by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, to apply for a Refuge bison permit. Individuals who have not already applied and been selected for a 2018 Wyoming bison license are not eligible to hunt bison this year. 

2018 Bison Hunting Information and Regulations (Adobe PDF)

Hard copies of the above information and regulations will be available during the hunting season at the following Jackson, WY locations: 

Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center
532 N. Cache Street

Wyoming Game & Fish Department
420 N. Cache Street

National Elk Refuge Administrative Office
675 E. Broadway Street

Frequently Asked Questions

Who manages hunting on the National Elk Refuge?
Hunting on the National Elk Refuge (NER) is managed through a cooperative effort between NER, Grand Teton National Park, and Wyoming Game & Fish Department (WGFD), with the goal of achieving optimum herd size. The NER staff posts information and updates related to the Refuge and Refuge hunting programs on this web link.

What must I have while hunting bison on the National Elk Refuge?
NER permit for bison hunting, WGFD bison hunting license, WGFD Conservation Stamp, and Hunter Safety Card (if required by WGFD).

How do I get a permit for hunting bison on the National Elk Refuge?
The application process for the National Elk Refuge bison hunting permits is done via the WGFD "Access Yes!" Hunter Management Program.

What Refuge specific laws regulate hunting on the National Elk Refuge?
In addition to all Federal and WGFD requirements, the following Refuge specific regulations are enforced.

Hunters should be knowledgeable of all regulations prior to hunting as violations may result in forfeiture of the animal, criminal penalties, and permit revocation. 

Hunting-related activities that are illegal on the National Elk Refuge include:

  • intentional herding or harassment of wildlife
  • discharging firearms other than for lawful hunting; i.e., target shooting and sighting in
  • indiscriminent shooting, shooting multiple times into a running herd, or injuring multiple animals
  • shooting from parking areas or public roads
  • interfering with or harassing other hunters
  • using decoys outside of the Archery Only Area or using blinds that completely obstruct visible orange or pink garment
Transportation-related activities that are illegal on the National Elk Refuge include:
  • driving off designated roads
  • stopping or unloading hunters along Refuge roads
  • parking outside of designated hunt parking areas
  • overnight camping or parking
  • bicycling off designated roads
  • ATVs are permitted on public roads, but they must be registered, insured, and operated by a licensed driver. ATVs and snowmobiles are not allowed on Refuge retrieval roads.
  • Horses may be used for hunting but are restricted to the Any Weapon Area north of Flat Creek (including West Hunt Lot) as depicted on the hunt map. Horses my be used Refuge-wide for retrieval purposes.

Other related activities that are illegal on the National Elk Refuge include:

  • collecting natural or cultural resources, including but not limited to antlers, skulls, and artifacts
  • possession or use of alcoholic beverages
  • possession of non-certified weed-free hay
  • starting or maintaining any fires
What are the requirements for animal retrieval?
Following harvest, bison hunters may use retrieval roads immediately. If retrieving after dark, hunters should notify Refuge staff by leaving a message on the NER Hunt Information Line at 307 / 201-5437.
Hunters may not leave animals parts, including gut piles and carcasses, within 100 feet of parking areas.
No game retrieval will be permitted through Grand Teton National Park. This includes retrieval to Gros Ventre Road parking areas at Mileposts 1.1 and 2.3 or across Highway 89. If retrieving to the Highway 89 gate, hunters must bring their vehicle inside the gate to load the animal.

What should I do before I pursue an injured animal off or onto the National Elk Refuge?
Prior to December 1, if an injured animal crosses from the National Forest onto the Refuge, or if retrieval would be more efficient through the Refuge, hunters should call the NER Hunt Information Line and leave a message describing the situation and their plan for recovery. Following this notice, the hunter may pursue or retrieve the animal as planned, giving consideration to limiting any resource damage. On December 1, Forest Service lands adjacent to the National Elk Refuge are closed to all human presence per Winter Travel Restrictions.

If the injured animal crosses into Grand Teton National Park, the hunter must notify Teton Interagency Dispatch at 307 / 739-3301.

What regulations apply to the non-hunting assistants?
Bison hunters are allowed multiple assistants and must ensure their entire hunt party is compliant with all Refuge regulations.

Assistants must stay within 50 yards of the permitted hunter, unless retrieving.

Assistants must wear a fluorescent orange or pink exterior garment as defined by WGFD regulations.

What else do I need to know?
Prior to the start date of their hunt period, hunters may only access Refuge areas open to the general public.

Hunters are allowed into hunt areas only when they have a Refuge permit and a valid matching license.

Refuge roads or parking areas may be closed or inaccessible due to inclement weather or management decisions.

Use of non-lead ammunition is encouraged.

During high fire danger, a fire extinguisher and shovel is recommended.

Bear spray is recommended. 

What guide and retrieval companies are permitted to operate on the National Elk Refuge?
Commercial guiding and retrieval services may be available. The company currently authorized to operate on the National Elk Refuge is Double Diamond Tag-and-Drag at 307 / 248-1490.

Does the National Elk Refuge allow Wyoming hunter assistance programs for hunters with disabilities?
Hunters in the WGFD Hunter Mentor Program may receive a Refuge permit.

The National Elk Refuge encourages hunters with disabilities to participate in the hunt program and offers reasonable accommodation for the activity. Hunters who have both a WGFD Disabled Hunter Permit and a Refuge hunting permit are eligible to reserve one of two designated hunt sites. Reservations must be made at the Refuge Administrative Offices at 675 E. Broadway in Jackson, WY. The reservation is limited to a 4-day period. The WGFD Disabled Hunter Companion Permit is also valid on the Refuge. Contact the WGFD for further information on these programs.

What can I do if I have additional questions?
If you have any questions about hunting on the National Elk Refuge, please call the National Elk Refuge Hunt Information Line at 307 / 201-5437. 

Key Phone Numbers:

  • National Elk Refuge Administrative Office, 675 E. Broadway Avenue, Jackson, WY 307 / 733-9212
  • Wyoming Game & Fish Department, 420 North Cache Street, Jackson, WY 307 / 733-2321
  • Teton Interagency Dispatch, 307 / 739-3301
  • Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch, 307 / 739 / 3630
  • WGFD Stop Poaching Hotline, 1 877 / 943-3847
  • Double Diamond Tag-and-Drag, 307 / 248-1490
  • All emergencies, dial 911

It can be difficult to distinguish between a one to two year-old bull and a mature cow. A bison identification tutorial is available online on the Wyoming Game & Fish Department web site and is a suggested tool to help hunters differentiate between bulls and cows. Misidentification of sex or age when killing a bison will result in the seizure of the animal in addition to a criminal fine.