WGFD honors AccessYes landowners
Every year the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recognizes landowners from each corner of the state who are enrolled in the department’s AccessYes Program, which is comprised of Hunter Management Areas (HMAs), Walk-In Hunting Areas (WIHAs), Walk-In Fishing Areas (WIFAs) and the Hunter/Landowner Assistance Program.
AccessYes assists private landowners in providing access for hunters and anglers to hunt and fish.
This year, the Fryberger Ranch of Sheridan County, the Billy and Delbert Daniels family of Hot Springs County, the Hi Allen Ranch of Carbon County and the Vercimak family of Uinta County were honored as the 2022 awardees at the Wyoming Natural Resource Rendezvous Convention and Trade Show in Casper on Dec. 7.
The Fryberger Ranch, owned and operated by Sue and Ron Martin and located in central Sheridan County, is the Northeast Quadrant AccessYes Award Recipient.
According to WGFD, the ranch was purchased by Sue’s great grandparents in 1913. Sue and Ron took over ranch operations in 2000, and enrolled their property in the AccessYes Walk-In Program in 2005, which allowed premier, public access for deer, antelope and game bird hunting.
Today, Sue and Ron raise hay and cattle on their 2,600-acre ranch, which is made up of irrigated hay fields, riparian areas and rolling hills, and provides quality habitat for both livestock and wildlife, including whitetail deer, mule deer, small game animals, ducks, geese, cranes and other upland game birds.
“The Martin family’s participation in the program is particularly important because they provide public hunting opportunities in an area where public access is increasingly limited,” notes WGFD. “The surrounding area is being subdivided, and nearby property rarely allows hunting.”
Through Sue and Ron’s generosity, hunters are able to harvest anywhere from 30 to 50 big game animals annually on their ranch.
Additionally, the Martins have allowed researchers access on their land to help with an ongoing mule deer study started in 2020.
WGFD explains the study is focused on identifying the movement of mule deer through the Big Horn Mountains, evaluating seasonal range and habitat use and identifying habitat improvement and conservation opportunities.
The Martins have also taken an active approach in controlling and eliminating invasive grasses on their land, especially ventenata. According to WGFD, Sue and Ron have partnered with the department and the University of Wyoming (UW) Sheridan Research Station to map and treat ventenata in the area.
“The Martins’ participation in the management of ventenata on their ranch is crucial in reducing the spread of this new invasive grass to other public lands. Through their relationship with the department and other research and conservation organizations, the Martins have facilitated the mapping and monitoring of ventenata in the Sheridan region,” states WGFD. “Additionally, they are able to adjust their grazing practices to accommodate herbicide treatment, simultaneously leaving their property open to public hunting.”
“The Martins’ long-term participation in the AccessYes Program in an area with difficult public access and their willingness to use hunting as a wildlife management tool alone makes them a worthy recipient of this award,” says WGFD. “Additionally, their dedication to reducing the spread of ventenata and their assistance in regional research projects are reasons why the Martins are deserving of the AccessYes Program Award.”
The Billy and Delbert Daniels family
The Northwest quadrant recipient of the AccessYes Award is the Billy and Delbert Daniels family. WGFD notes Billy Daniels passed last year, but his son Delbert has followed in his father’s footsteps and continued to allow public access on the property.
This property stretches from northeast Thermopolis on the Big Horn River to northwest of Thermopolis along Owl Creek, and has been enrolled in the AccessYes Program for nearly 20 years. The land offers quality habitat for big game, waterfowl and upland game birds.
WGFD notes the Daniels family allows access on nearly 700 acres through WIHAs to provide public access for hunting mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, waterfowl, pheasants, sand hill cranes and doves from September through February.
“The Daniels have always been gracious enough to let anyone on their property to hunt,” notes WGFD. “In fact, Delbert has said if the AccessYes Program didn’t exist, he would still offer access to the general public to hunt.”
“Their enrollment in the program has allowed the department to direct hunters to their property, resulting in better opportunities for hunting and keeping wildlife damage to tolerable levels,” WGFD continues. “The public uses the Daniels family WIHAs extensively, and hunters often interact with Delbert, which has created a lot of positive relationships.”
“Due to the productive nature of the Daniels’ land, wildlife has flourished, and without their managed access, hunters would be less off. It is our pleasure to provide the Daniels family with this AccessYes Award,” WGFD concludes.
Hi Allen Ranch
Moving down the map to approximately nine miles west of Medicine Bow, sits the Hi Allen Ranch, which is this year’s AccessYes Award recipient from the Southeast quadrant.
Burt, Kay Lynn and Quade Palm own and operate the nearly 30,720-acre ranch, consisting of both deeded and public property. Most of the ranch, as well as stretches of neighboring properties under the Palm family’s management are enrolled in the AccessYes Program.
“Since the Private Lands Public Wildlife Initiative was first set up as a pilot program, the Palm’s Simpson Ridge HMA provides nearly half of the annual antelope harvest in Hunt Area 46,” states WGFD.
Several years ago, according to WGFD, the Palm family leased a large portion of the ranch, which was enrolled in the AccessYes Program at the time, for wind energy development. However, the Palms agreed to close access within two miles of the turbines and open a different stretch of land in the Beer Mug HMA north of the turbines.
In March 2018, the family allowed access to the University of Wyoming and WGFD to conduct a collaborative study evaluating pronghorn response to wind energy in the Shirley Basin.
“This project wouldn’t have been possible without the Palms collaboration,” says WGFD. “Additionally, Burt and Kay Lynn have been amazing about granting access to the department and our collaborators to monitor sage grouse leks every year, and some of the first Water for Wildlife projects were completed on the Hi Allen Ranch.”
“In conclusion, the Hi Allen Ranch has gone above and beyond to assist the department with wildlife management goals while providing the public with ample opportunity and still managing recreational hunting opportunities,” WGFD adds. “Because of their exemplary dedication to wildlife resources, the department is proud to recognize the Hi Allen Ranch as the recipient of the WGFD Southeast Quadrant AccessYes Award.”
The Vercimak family
Last but not least, the Vercimak family of Uinta County was the AccessYes Award honoree in the Southwest quadrant.
According to WGFD, the Vercimak family enrolled 1,920 acres of WIHA located in Robertson in the AccessYes Program in 2003. The property allowed access for the public to hunt antelope, deer, elk and moose and was a premier location for archery mule deer hunting.
“The Vercimak family graciously took a chance with the WGFD’s new AccessYes Program back then and continued to allow public access for almost 20 years,” states WGFD. “Due to circumstances beyond their control, the family was forced to pull out of the program in the fall of 2021. They will be greatly missed by the department and sportspersons in southwest Wyoming.”
“The Vercimaks willingness to go above and beyond so hunters and wildlife are successful in Uinta County has shown through their actions,” WFGD continues. “As Wyoming is becoming more and more difficult for sportspersons to access due to private land closures, the Vercimak family stands out as people who are trying to continue access and have a very positive effect on wildlife resources. They are landowners worthy of recognition for their generosity and good stewardship.”
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.