A warm fall quickly followed by one of the harshest winters in recent memory led hunters and state biologists in Montana to believe that the effects would be catastrophic for Montana’s deer populations.

Turns out, they were wrong.

Except for the northwest portion of the state, mule deer in Montana escaped the year relatively unscathed according to the state’s Wildlife and Parks game management bureau chief.

“In most of the state the winterkill was minimal, really not bad,” John Vore, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game management bureau chief told Helena IR. “But in the northwest part of the state, the snow really lasted a long time so we do have some concerns about that. But for the rest of the state it was really good for deer and antelope.”

In fact, deer populations in much of Montana are on an upward swing as biologists peg the current population to be at more than 363,000 deer, a heavy increase over the average estimates of 283,000.  As such, the department has increased antlerless licenses for a number of areas across Montana.

After a number of years of heavy management due to shrinking populations, it seems the mule deer populations have risen to a very healthy and sustainable level.  They aren’t alone as their neighboring deer species, the whitetail deer, are also estimated to be above average population levels.

Recent estimates indicate there to be approximately 221,000 whitetails in the Big Sky State compared to the 10-year average of 204,000.

“Whitetails continue to be robust,” wildlife biologist Adam Grove said.