In Idaho, whitetail numbers have been on the upswing, ever since brutal winters in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 killed deer in northern regions of the state. For 2012, the outlook is positive, with good numbers of whitetails anticipated for the fall.
At this time, Idaho does not have a whitetail deer population survey. But, the estimated whitetail deer harvest of 20,959 surpassed the mule deer harvest (20,780) for the first time ever last season.
Antler restrictions seem to be working and producing bigger whitetail racks. In Hunting Units 5, 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, for example, the state has a goal of 10 percent of the bucks taken carrying racks of five-plus or more. The three-year average here, as of last season, was actually 28 percent of the bucks sporting at least five points. In Hunting Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 5, 6, the goal was 17 percent, but hunters topped that, scoring five-points or better on 27 percent of the bucks they took. All other units were slightly to significantly above goal.
Too bad things aren’t as good for mule deer.
Harsh winter conditions in 2011 resulted in the lowest over-winter mule deer fawn survival rate, at just 32 percent, since Idaho Fish and Game began monitoring this survival rate in 1998-99. If that wasn’t bad enough, adult does were hit hard, too, with an estimated 26 percent to 36 percent of them dying in four eastern Idaho deer management units. Of course, all this was in addition to the fact that Idaho’s mule deer have been on the slide for the last two decades. Mulies got some help last winter, with mild temperatures and relatively little snowfall. Plus, last year antlerless tags and some buck tags were reduced. Without snow cover, the traditional over-winter population surveys of mule deer were impossible to do, but the expectation–based in part on a recent mule deer fawn survival study that showed a 20-point improvement over the previous year– is that they have at least stabilized from their recent losses.
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.