“While New Mexico experienced better precipitation during the winter and spring [than last year], we are still below normal levels,” said Kevin Rodden, deer biologist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Therefore, mule deer will continue to suffer from drought conditions. Over the past five years, mule deer are on a stable to declining trend with environmental factors affecting them the most.”
The current drought really started back in the winter of 2010-2011, when the state saw little to no precipitation from winter right through to the spring, Rodden said. That made 2011 a low fawn recruitment year.
Things improved last summer, with decent rains in July and August, followed by near-normal amounts of moisture this past winter. All of which helped, but weren’t enough to reverse the current drought conditions.
“On a positive note, during the past two years, wildfires in New Mexico have burned several hundred thousand acres,” Rodden said. “Specifically, in the Gila National Forest, two fires burned close to 400,000 acres. This will translate into better habitat conditions for mule deer and Coues’ in those areas,” as the burned over habitats regenerate. Some of that regeneration got started this spring, but a lack of summer rains has put that on hold for now. Historically, hunters who want a quality mule deer buck hunt the northwestern part of the state. Lately, though, “some extremely large bucks are being harvested in the southeastern portion of the state in the Sandhill country,” said Rodden.
Don’t forget New Mexico’s Coues deer, which are actually doing very well.
“For hunters wanting to harvest a quality mature Coues’ whitetail, focus on the southwestern portion of the state,” he said. “Some great units are GMU 21, 22, 23, 24, and 27. In recent years, hunters have harvested bucks that consistently score above 100 inches with some bucks scoring over 120 inches. Overall, the Coues’ whitetail population is increasing due to their adaptability to the habitat.”
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.