This winter was anything but easy on much of the wildlife of the American west. Idaho, including many other western states, instituted supplemental feeding stations to help wildlife such as deer, elk and antelope deal with heavy snowfall.
As a natural by-product of the winter weather, Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners set the hunting seasons for deer, elk, bear, pronghorn, mountain lion and wolf last week and made some changes, particularly regarding the state’s elk and mule deer hunting seasons.
After monitoring efforts, the commission is expecting the lowest survival of mule deer fawns in 18 years as over 50 percent of collared mule deer fawns have already died this year. Given the alarming statistic, deer and elk coordinator Craig White stated that antlerless harvest for mule deer will be reduced in both 2017 and 2018 hunting seasons.
Conversely, the elk population is in much better condition after bolstering herd numbers after several previous mild winters. Statewide, GPS collar data indicates that roughly 76 percent of elk calves have survived paired with a 98 percent survival rate for collared cows.
“To get back to our objectives, we need to reduce the cow segment of those populations,” White said.
To get there, Fish and Game is adding 1,460 additional controlled hunt tags for elk, 375 of those earmarked for antlerless take.
Idaho mule deer hunters will face a combination of fewer opportunities to harvest does and fewer young bucks available in the fall. Of last year’s estimated 39,000 mule deer harvest, about 20 percent, or 8,000 of the mule deer harvested, were does.
Because of high winter fawn mortality, hunters can expect fewer two-point and spike bucks next fall, which made up 28 percent of the total harvest and 35 percent of the antlered harvest in 2016.
“In general, we’re going to see a lot fewer yearlings in the harvest than we’ve seen in the last 4 years,” White said.