Idaho anticipates good year for whitetail deer and elk


Idaho Whitetail
Photo credit: Dreamstime

Get ready hunters: it’s going to be another good year for Idaho whitetail deer and elk. It also appears that big game hunting in Idaho is no longer under the radar; last year, nonresident deer tags sold out for the first time since 2008 and only 300 nonresident elk tags remained, reports. And, with the season almost here, 2017 tags are already selling quickly. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), nonresident deer and elk tags could sellout by the end of October. While this is great news for hunters after whitetail deer and elk, those who want to hunt Idaho mule deer should be aware that, due to severe winter conditions, younger bucks and fawns suffered high rates of mortality and mule deer numbers are lower than prior years.

Here’s the breakdown for nonresidents – and residents – after deer and elk this year:

  • Mule deer: This was the second-lowest winter fawn survival rate (30%) in 19 years due to record snowfall and severe winter weather. Yet, because of a large population of surviving mule deer bucks and breeding-age does, IDFG anticipates a rebound in mule deer numbers next spring. TO help this effort, IDFG has reduced the number of doe permits for most units in southern and central Idaho to keep more breeding does. Also noteworthy: because mule deer numbers were so high for the past few years, while there may be a “drop in the harvest there’s a good chance it will fall within the range of the last five years,” according to IDFG.

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  • Elk: Herds have steadily increased over the past few years, which means that hunters should expect plenty of elk to choose from for the upcoming season. Yet, even these hardy animals didn’t escape the winter conditions completely; elk calves did experience some mortality. Breeding cows and mature bulls did not, though, so IDFG anticipates a continued uptick in elk numbers across the state. Herds in the Weisner and Pioneer zones are over objective, resulting in more cow tags for those areas.  With plenty of over-the-counter tags, 28 elk hunting zones, archery and muzzleloader opportunities and early and late hunts, there are plenty of choices for Idaho elk hunters.
  • Whitetail deer: IDFG reports that there are a plethora of whitetail deer opportunities across the state with about 20% of the bucks at 5-points or bigger. Hunters “will see a good mix of age classes and plenty of mature bucks,” says IDFG’s Clay Hickey. Hunters should check out areas north of the Salmon River where there is abundant whitetail deer; however, regardless of where you choose to hunt, whitetail deer are found throughout the state.


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