Western State Hunting Predicted Tough for Big Game
Bob McNally 07.08.17
Big game populations in the West took on the chin last year from old man winter. While not every state is in dire straights with its big game, there are some problem areas, and hunters should be aware of current animal status when planning trips.
Here’s the latest news on populations.
Bighorn sheep in the endangered 600-animal herd in the Sierra Nevada got clobber last year when up to 60 animals died during winter. Deer also took a winter hit in some regions of the state.
Mule deer fawn recruitment got slammed in the south-central portion of the state, with as much as 80 percent of young-of-the-year animals succumbing in the Gunnison Basin. For that reason deer licenses will be limited in the basin by 80 percent for antlerless animals, 60 percent for bucks.
Last year was the third worst winter kill for fawn mule deer in the last two decades, with some areas of the state having only a three percent fawn survival rate. Other “good” areas had a 60 percent survival of young deer. Feeding stations to help deer survive last winter’s harsh cold and snow helped, but it still proved deadly on muleys. Elk and whitetail winter kill was more moderate, and described as “average” by state authorities.
This traditional moderate-weather coastal state also took a lick from mother nature last year, though not as bad as some other regions. Fawn to adult deer ratio was 24 young to 100 mature animals, compared to 34 to 100 in an average year. Winter elk loss is described as average, while antelope was above average for winter deaths. Oregon has reduced hunting tags for muleys and antelope in regions where fawn mortality was high.
Northern Utah had a disastrous winter mortality on fawn mule deer, with only one in 10 animals surviving. Hunting licenses for mule deer in that zone will be reduced as a result. The rest of the state had “average” survival rates, with 52 percent of fawns making it, 89 percent of adult deer making it through winter.
It was a tough winter for eastern Washington elk, with three of the state’s largest elk herds having record low calf-to-cow ratios. It was especially bad on the east slope of the Cascade mountains, where calf survival was even worse. Reduced elk hunting permits will be issued this year, especially for cows. Mule deer and bighorn sheep herds had worse than average winter mortality.
West of the Continental Divide antelope and mule deer had the worst winter loss in over three decades. Deadly winter weather killed 90 percent of deer fawns, with 35 percent of mature deer also being killed. The carefully watched Wyoming Range mule deer herd lost 200 animals, including 26 fawns. Elk also were hit hard. There will be reduced licenses for antelope and mule deer.