BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho hunters harvested fewer deer and elk in 2019 than they have in several years, thanks to a drop in fawn survival, reduced tag availability and fewer hunters, according to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game analysis.
In a news release, the agency said white-tailed and mule deer harvests hit the lowest numbers since 2011, while the elk harvest was the lowest it's been since 2014.
Hunters harvested 23,679 mule deer in 2019 -- 18,633 of them antlered and 5,046 antlerless. The overall hunter success rate was about 29%, down from 31% the previous year. That's the lowest harvest number since hunters took only 20,735 mule deer in 2011. Harvest numbers have been declining since 2015, when they hit a high of 37,885 animals harvested.
According to the news release, wildlife managers expected the results.
"Our mule deer populations are driven by survival of fawns and adults, as are our harvest numbers," Fish and Game's deer and elk coordinator Daryl Meints said in the release. "The last three-year stretch wasn't the kindest to our herds, particularly in eastern Idaho and in the Weiser/McCall areas." Fawn survival rates dipped in the harsh 2016-17 winter and again in the 2018-19 winter when record snow fell in February.
"When the statewide survival is what it has been for the past three years, this is what it's going to look like," Meints said.
White-tailed deer harvests were also down in 2019, when hunters killed 21,540 deer. That's due in part to a 2,000-tag reduction for antlerless animals in the Clearwater Region. Warm fall weather also contributed to the lower harvest.
The number of deer hunters in Idaho dipped in 2019, with about 4,200 fewer mule deer hunters and 3,500 fewer white-tailed deer hunters. Statewide, Idaho hit an all-time high of more than 295,000 paid hunting licenses in the state in 2019.
Elk hunters saw a less dramatic decline. Their 22% success rate was down only 1.5 percentage points from 2018. In total, elk hunters harvested 20,532 animals -- the 14th-highest elk harvest number in Idaho history.
Fish and Game said the number of elk hunters in the field remained fairly consistent with previous years.
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