Knowing how a winter has impacted a herd of deer or how big game populations are fluctuating is essential in order to make predictions about an upcoming hunting season. Biologists acquire that data, in part, through radio collaring activities and aerial surveys. Here is a breakdown of some of that information used to create the Southeast Region hunting forecast for this fall.
Radio collaring of deer and elk
This past winter (2019-2020), 69 GPS-collared mule deer does and 59 GPS-collared mule deer fawns were monitored in the Southeast Region. Survival of these marked deer were 93% and 61%, respectively.
The Southeast Region also monitored 40 cow and 25 calf elk with GPS collars in the Diamond Creek elk zone (Game Management Units 66A and 76). Cow survival was 90% while calf survival was 44%.
These high survival values for adult female deer and elk should be encouraging for hunters looking to get out this fall. However, the average survival on mule deer fawns and below average on elk calves do not indicate population growth.
Aerial surveys by species and area
Mule Deer: Idaho Fish and Game conducted an aerial survey in 2015 to determine deer population estimates for Game Management Units (GMUs) 70, 71, 73, 73A, 74, 75, 77, and 78. On average, each of those GMUs had about 3000 mule deer during the February time frame, with the exception of GMU 73 which had a population estimate of nearly 8000 deer.
In 2019, Fish and Game conducted an aerial survey of GMUs 71, 72, and 76 and found 3100, 3500, and 9800 deer, respectively.
In 2020, aerial surveys continued in GMUs 74, 75, 77, and 78. Population estimates for those units were 3700, 3000, 2100, and 2800, respectively.
It is important to remember these population estimates represent mule