Idaho Fish and Game expects the lowest fawn survival rate for mule deer in 18 years after our harsh winter, leading the department to cut back on doe tags available to hunters for 2017-18.
Through mid-March, about 50 percent of mule deer fawns wearing radio collars had died — and that number is expected to increase, according to Fish and Game. Doe survival was at 95 percent.
The reduction in mule deer tags primarily will affect doe and either-sex tags in controlled hunts. That will affect hunters across most of southern Idaho, including youth hunters who target does. Most general-season hunts that allow either sex for youth will be buck-only this year.
Fish and Game is decreasing either-sex mule deer tags in southern Idaho by 2,045 tags. Statewide, controlled-hunt deer tags will be reduced by 1,600 — a lower number because some whitetail hunts will be increased.
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Hunters also likely will see fewer young bucks because of the fawn deaths. Spike and two-point bucks made up 28 percent of the mule deer harvest last year.
“We’re going to see a lot fewer yearlings in the harvest than we’ve seen in the last four years,” said Craig White, the deer and elk coordinator for Idaho Fish and Game.
The reduction in doe tags is intended to help the deer population replace the animals lost this winter.
Elk haven’t been hit as hard by the winter and the herds have grown in recent years, so tags for cow elk will increase in general and controlled hunts. Statewide, 76 percent of tracked calves and 98 percent of cows were still alive in mid-March.
Some elk herds have grown so much that they’re causing problems on private land, like the situation that occurred near Weiser this winter.
Fish and Game will offer 1,460 more controlled hunt tags for elk, including 375 more cow tags. It’s also adding general-season hunting for cow elk in the Weiser River Zone and Panhandle Zone to increase harvests in those areas.
The Weiser River Zone has 3,000 more cow elk than Fish and Game would like.
“To get back to our objectives, we need to reduce the cow segment of those populations,” White said.
Rules for the 2017-18 seasons will be published in mid-April.