Idaho deer tend to be segregated, with the better mule deer hunting in the south two-thirds of the state while whitetails dominate the deer harvest in their core ranges in the Clearwater Region and North Idaho.
Virtually the entire state had a mild winter and wet spring, which should bode well for next year, but the overall season is likely to be only modestly better than last year.
“It’s a real mixed bag for whitetails in the Panhandle,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager. “But we’re seeing lot of fawns this year, and some nice bucks already have been taken in our early controlled hunts.”
Hunters killed 18,100 whitetails in Idaho last year, which is down from 20,025 in 2008 and 22,800 in 2007.
Whitetail hunters typically have a higher success rate than mule deer hunters because of longer seasons, rut hunting and more liberal opportunities for either-sex hunting.
Surveys indicate that hunters have a good selection of bucks ranging from yearlings to adults with enviable antlers.
Having 60-70 percent or more of the bucks with four points or more is not uncommon in top Idaho whitetail units.
However, hunting success usually hinges on whether November snowstorms coincide with the whitetail rut.
Mule deer hunters have more restrictive seasons than whitetail hunters, but they fill more tags. Hunters killed 24,100 mule deer in 2009, up slightly from the 23,569 in 2008, but below 31,400 killed in 2007.
This year’s harvest could creep back toward 2007 numbers if hunters get a little luck and good hunting conditions. Fawn survival through the past winter was a decent 68 percent, said Jon Rachael, state big-game manager.
Units 21A, 50 and 69 had 100 percent survival of their fawns, while Unit 22 had the statewide low of 33 percent survival.
Fawn monitoring is an indicator of how deer herds fared over the winter and how many young bucks likely are available. Yearling bucks typically make up most of the fall harvest.
The 68 percent survival of radio-collared fawns is above the 10-year average of about 60 percent, Rachael said.
So on paper, there should be more young bucks available this year.