Hunting in Idaho, and the Panhandle Zone specifically, should be good this year for elk and deer, according to regional wildlife biologist Kara Campbell.
“I think it’s looking pretty good,” Campbell said. “We’ve had a super mild summer. Things stayed green for a while.”
Deer: Statewide, hunters harvested 26,977 mule deer in 2018, for an overall hunter success rate of 31.1%. Meanwhile, hunters took 25,134 whitetail deer with an average success rate of 41.5%.
In the Panhandle, hunters of all weapon types were most successful in 2018 in Unit 1, where they killed a total of 4,014 deer of both species for an overall success rate of 49%. The buck success rate in Unit 1 was 35%.
Unit 5 boasted a success rate of 40%, with a buck success rate of 27%. Unit 6 came in third at 38%, and Unit 2 was fourth with a success rate of 37%.
The units with the most hunter pressure were Unit 3 (6.2 hunters per square mile), Unit 2 (6.2 hunters per square mile) and Unit 5 (4.8 hunters per square mile.)
Campbell said the harsher, later winter didn’t seem to impact deer populations too much.
Elk: A tough, snowy February appeared to kill elk calves, Campbell said. Calf survival in the Panhandle was 60%, likely in response to the late-winter snow. During more mild winters, survival hovers around 80%. The two previous winters saw survival rates dip as low as 45%, so this season should see more animals on the landscape. Meanwhile, cow survival stayed high – around 94%.
“Things are looking pretty good,” she said.
Statewide, hunters harvested 22,325 elk in 2018, for an overall success rate of 23.5%. In the Panhandle Region, centerfire weapon elk hunters had the most success in Unit 6 (21%), Unit 5 (18%) and Unit 7 (18%).
The most crowded units were Unit 3 (3.9 hunters per square mile), Unit 4 (3 hunters per square mile) and Unit 6 (2.1 hunters per square mile).
Like elsewhere, early winter conditions in the Clearwater were mild, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s statewide hunting report.
Despite record-setting snowfall in February, no “significant winter mortality was detected on the regions’ big game herds.”
Due to cool and wet spring and early summer conditions, the summer habitat for elk and deer stayed good throughout the summer.
Deer: There was some whitetail mortality, but not in significant numbers, according to IDFG’s report. As usual, the most productive whitetail units in the region tend to be those units either at the agriculture/timber interface, or units with substantial timber harvest and a variety of habitats such as Units 8, 8A, 10A, 11 and 11A.
However, there continues to be reductions in whitetail hunting opportunities. Unit 10A will again close earlier than surrounding units, and extra antlerless hunting opportunities will be reduced in many hunts across the region.
The most robust mule deer populations in the region are located along the Snake and Salmon river breaks (Units 11, 13, 14 and 18). These units are limited to controlled hunts. Hunters willing to work can venture into the backcountry and may find success in Units 16A, 17, 19 and 20.
Elk: Numbers continue to lag in the Lolo and Selway Zones, according to IDFG. Populations have declined in portions of the Elk City and Hells Canyon Zones, resulting in a reduction of hunting opportunities in these zones. Populations appear to be relatively stable in the Dworshak and Palouse Zones.
IDFG spokesman Roger Phillips contributed to this report.
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