IDAHO — Mule deer fawns and elk calves survival over winter is what determines the population's outlook. Even though the deer and elk hunting season is several months away the survival of fawns and calves will affect opportunities for hunters this fall.
"Things look good," Rick Ward, Idaho Fish and Game Elk and Deer Coordinator said.
At the end of February, Idaho Fish and Game says 83 percent of fawns and 92 percent of calves with collars survived through winter so far.
“They are at a similar place as they were last year, and last year we had above average fawn and calf survival over the winter,” Ward said.
But, the deer and elk aren't in the clear yet.
“We saw this a couple of years ago where we were at a similar point at or above average through February, and then we had a cool wet spring," Ward said. "And fawn survival especially started going down and we ended up at below average by the time we got to the end of monitoring season.”
The end outlook will depend on the weather. Our warmer trends lately are encouraging for these populations, but a wet and cool spring could change it all.
“We are at the point now where the fawns and calves pretty much have depleted their fat reserves," Ward said. "So those animals that came in not so good of conditions are more likely to die within the next month or two with bad winter conditions than those that came in with a better condition.”
For them to be in the clear the fawns and calves will need to survive through May.
“Once we hit June 1st then we stop monitoring fawns and calves because we assume those become adults because they have made it through the bottleneck of winter,” Ward said.
Then, IDFG will be able to have a better outlook and the number of opportunities for this year's hunting season.
“In general deer hunts, which is an over-the-counter buck tag, about 60 percent of the bucks harvested are yearling bucks which are the previous winters fawns," Ward said. "The more year before production and then over the winter fawn survival, the more bucks that will be available for that fall for hunters.”
IDFG sold out of non-resident regular deer tags in record time, but there will still be more opportunities to purchase them coming up, including on April 22.
Non-resident whitetail tags and some elk tags are still available. For more information on how to get a non-resident deer or elk tag, click here. This does not affect Idaho resident tags, as those are not limited. For more information on general and controlled tags visit the Idaho Fish and Game website.