Three years ago Wyoming suffered from a decade-long drought, but then 2010 and 2011 saw increasing amounts of precipitation in many areas of the state, winter and summer, and deer habitats began to improve. This year, though, the drought returned and by August, drought gripped Wyoming pretty hard. As one would expect, deer forage is in trouble.
“Right now the entire state is under a fire ban for campers,” said Al Langston, spokesperson for the Wyoming Game and Fish. “The coming hunting season will probably be fair to good depending on the hunt area. Of bigger concern is the absence of good nutrition for the animals to put on adequate fat reserves to get them through the winter. If we have a tough winter, losses could be substantial for deer and antelope.”
July saw one to two inches of rain fall in southern and southeastern Wyoming, so deer there may be in better shape than the rest of the state come fall.
Wyoming estimates its mule deer herd at 400,000 animals, plus another 50,000 to 60,000 whitetails. Mulies are way down from population highs in the early 1990’s. Lots of factors are to blame, including the afore-mentioned drought, habitat lose and, possibly, some impact from Chronic Wasting Disease on deer numbers (currently the focus of a study).
Whitetail herds took a pounding two winters ago, with many lost to winter kill. But, they’ve been on the rebound ever since, and state game biologists rate them as stable to actually increasing in a number of areas, especially in the northeastern Black Hills region and along river drainages in the southeastern sections of the state.
Rut Peak: Mid-November into early December.
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.