Alaska is such a well-known dream destination for caribou, bear, moose and sheep hunts that people forget the state is also home to pretty good numbers of Sitka blacktail deer. Actually, in southeastern Alaska, Sitka’s are the most pursued big game species, with approximately 12,000 harvested annually. The two biggest deer regions are Kodiak Island and Prince William Sound. Both herds took a hard beating from the most recent winter.
“This winter was a very harsh one [on Kodiak Island], with near record snowfall and colder than average temperatures,” said John Crye, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wildlife biologist for the region. “The winter kill was more severe on the northern half of Kodiak island and the western side of Afognak. The remaining parts of the archipelago should see good hunting this fall.”
Deep snows and low temps were bad in the Prince William Sound area too, said DFG biologist David Crowley. “I expect that we lost 50 to 70 percent of our deer,” Crowley, said. “I also expect that fawning was below normal.”
At the same time, though, Crowley notes, “Season and bag limits will remain the same, because hunting has little impact on the population.”
The good news is that these winter deer kills also mean that forage will be in good shape because of less browsing. So, the deer that made it out of the winter are now eating very well! And while Sitka’s were introduced into Alaska, the deer have adapted well to the population ups and downs from severe winters.
“Deer will bounce back quickly given a couple of mild winters. This cycle is typical for deer here, living as they do on the northern extreme of their range,” Crowley said. In both these regions, the prime rutting period runs from November 1 to November 10.
The Western Regional Report**
_A very dry summer in the Southwest shriveled up forage and made it hard for does to successfully drop and raise fawns. However, new deer browse is starting to appear in the burned-over areas from 2011’s wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico.
Things are trending up for deer in the Northern Rockies, after horrendous winters starting in 2007-2008. A mild and generally snowless 2011-2012 winter helped Idaho mule deer and whitetail numbers begin to rebound–though it might take another year or two for that growth to be reflected in the harvest. Wyoming suffered from a decade-long drought, but the last two years have seen a return of the rains, and deer habitat is turning around. Montana’s deer have been hit hard by harsh winters and a major EHD outbreak last year, which took out thousands of trophy whitetails, especially along the Milk River corridor._
Top Trophy Zones
AZ: Units 3C, 12A, 13A, 13B, and 24A.
CA: Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity counties.
CO: Units 25 and 26.
ID: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, and Kootenai counties.
MT: Fergus, Madison, Missoula, and Ravalli counties.
NM: Units 32 and 33 for mule deer; units 21, 22, 23, 24, and 27 for Coues.
OR: Clackamas, Grant, and Jackson counties.
WA: Chelan, Ferry, Lewis, Spokane, and Stevens counties.
WY: Bighorn, Crook, Lincoln, and Sheridan counties.