BOISE — Hunters took more elk and white-tailed deer in 2017 than in 2016, but the mule deer harvest was down. With a much milder winter so far, Idaho Fish and Game biologists expect herds to recover from last year’s difficult winter across central and southern Idaho.
The 2017 elk harvest was about 17.5 percent above the 10-year average because of an increase in cow harvest. Fish and Game increased cow-hunting opportunities to reduce herds that have caused damage to private lands. The bull harvest dropped 341 animals between 2016 and 2017.
Idaho’s elk herds have grown in recent years, thanks in part to mild winters.
“Elk are hardy animals and less susceptible to environmental conditions,” Fish and Game Deer and Elk Coordinator Daryl Meints said in a statement. “It has to be a tough winter to kill elk.”
The overall deer harvest for 2017 was still slightly above the 10-year average, despite the dip in the mule deer harvest. In response to last year’s harsh winter, Fish and Game’s wildlife managers reduced antler-less hunting opportunities for mule deer in 2017 to protect breeding-age does and help the population bounce back more quickly. That resulted in 2,517 fewer antler-less mule deer harvested.
White-tail hunting remained solid and stable; hunters took more white-tails than mule deer last fall, which is rare for Idaho. The whitetail harvest in 2016 and 2017 hovered just below the all-time harvest record of 30,578 set in 2015.
While last winter’s above-average snow pack in central and southern Idaho took its toll on fawns, it also provided a lot of moisture that grew lots of food for big game animals. Many animals went into winter in great condition, which bodes well for the 2018 season.