A mild winter came at a good time for mule deer herds throughout Idaho. Over the last decade, the population has been on a steady decline. Hunters should see more deer this fall.
“Over-winter survival was good statewide and bucks started the year in good physical condition,” said Toby Boudreau, a wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). “This will lead to better antler growth. We are missing the three year-old age class in the units that were heavily impacted by the killer winter of 2010/11, but there is an upside. Hunter surveys last fall showed a good number of three and four year-old bucks in the harvest. This translates to a decent number of four and five year-old bucks in the population for 2013, and we expect a good number of these bucks to show up this fall for hunters.”
The IDFG doesn’t conduct population surveys, but harvest data and hunter observations indicate there are decent numbers of big-bodied muleys roaming the Gem State. The whitetail population is in even better shape. Like those in other western states, whitetails continue to migrate west in Idaho, often displacing mule deer from their habitat. Last year hunters bagged about the same number of whitetails as mule deer, and hunters can expect even better whitetail hunting this fall.
There will be a new archery controlled hunt in Unit 45, along with an increase in either-sex controlled hunt tags in the Upper Snake Region. There is also a new controlled buck hunt in Units 21, 28, 30, 36A and 36B (Oct. 10 – Nov. 30), and the popular rotating muzzleloader controlled hunt has been moved from the east side of Unit 45 to the east side of Unit 52.
Hunters who didn’t draw a mule deer tag will still find good hunting in most of the state’s over-the-counter tag units. These units have plenty of land open to the public for hunting. Whitetail hunters should head to Unit 1 in the northern Panhandle region. There they’ll find ample deer numbers and mature bucks.