Idaho mule deer hunters can expect a better than average season, while whitetail and elk populations are about what they were last year, according to Idaho Fish and Game.
Although some places may see variations in populations, the outlook all-in-all is pretty good, especially for mule deer in many areas, said Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Roger Phillips.
“Despite a setback in 2017 following a hard winter that mostly affected mule deer, most of Idaho’s deer and elk herds and harvests have been at or near historic highs in recent years and well above long-term averages,” Phillips said. “Hunters should see similar numbers this fall.”
A hard winter two years ago throughout much of the state’s mule deer range, and reductions by the state in the number of antlerless tags available to the public — an effort to increase the survival of breeding does — decreased mule deer harvest by nearly a third statewide. Statewide harvest numbers dropped from 37,070 in 2016 to 25,496 last year, Phillips said.
Hunters this year should expect an increase in success rates, he said.
Panhandle deer hunters last year had the highest success rate (50 percent) in Unit 1 in the northern Panhandle, and a 39.5 percent success rate (the second highest) in Unit 5, on the west side of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
In 2017, hunters in Idaho took 22,751 elk, and they have killed more than 20,000 elk annually since 2014, Phillips said.
“That’s a significant statistic because before 2014, elk harvests were well below 20,000 for seven years,” Phillips said.
The 10-year annual average from 2008 to 2017 statewide is 18,865 elk. The last extended streak of elk harvests above 20,000 per year was from 1988 to 1996, which were historic high harvests in Idaho that topped out at 28,000 in 1994, Phillips said.
Panhandle Units 5 and 6 saw the greatest elk harvest success last year, which hovered around 19 percent, according to IDFG.
Hunters statewide took 26,502 whitetails in 2017, another 26,354 in 2016 following an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails in 2015. The last four years have been the highest consecutive years on record.