Nevada Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Nevada's been hit with a good deal of drought over the last decade, and mule deer here have certainly had their problems--from drought-stressed forage to encroachment of non-native vegetation into mule deer ranges, to alterations in habitat from human development and an increase in predators. Yet, the 112,000 mule deer currently estimated to live within Nevada's borders actually represent an increase of 4,000 mulies since 2008.

Part of the reason for that small but important increase goes back to the Winter of 2010-2011, which was, by Nevada standards, a pretty wet one.

From that winter precipitation, and some timely spring rains, "Very good forage resulted in the summer of 2011," said Tony Wasley, mule deer staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "Many does were in good shape through a very mild 2011-2012 winter. Some deer captured and collared, however, had very low body fat and appeared drought stressed before the winter. Does body condition in the Spring of 2012 was likely average to below average statewide."

Deer forage by this summer? "Horrible," Wasley says. "Extreme heat and drought conditions exist throughout the state."

It looks like another tough, dry summer for the state's mule deer, and Wasley is concerned that the low quality forage stunted this spring's fawn recruitment. Yet, there are enough deer that the Department of Wildlife, for 2012, has added antlerless mule deer hunts for Hunting Unit 051; and for Hunt Unit Groups 062-064,066-068 and 101,102,109. Peak of the Nevada rut is mid-November. "Rutting activity can be seen as early as the first week of November," Wasley notes, "but typically peaks in either the second or third week."

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.