Hunters Reminded of Rules Transporting Elk, Deer

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/hunters-reminded-of-rules-transporting-elk-deer/

Below is a news release from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department yet many states have similar rules aimed at combatting the spread of chronic wasting disease. Check your state’s regulations before your hunt this fall.

Hunters traveling outside Vermont to hunt deer or elk need to keep in mind that a regulation designed to protect Vermont’s wild deer from chronic wasting disease remains in effect, according to a reminder from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system in deer and elk.  Abnormal prion proteins produce lesions in the brain that cause disorientation and emaciation in conjunction with other abnormal behaviors.  This highly contagious disease is always fatal to deer.  For the latest information on CWD, check these websites:   www.vtfishandwildlife.com and www.cwd-info.org.

The potential exists for CWD prion proteins to be introduced to the environment through the bodily fluids of CWD-positive deer elk, or moose and then persist in the environment for extended periods of time.

Vermont rules on importing and possession of deer or elk from areas with chronic wasting disease (CWD) and captive hunt areas or farms:

It is illegal to import or possess deer or elk, or parts of deer or elk, from states and Canadian provinces that have had chronic wasting disease, or from captive hunt or farm facilities with the following exceptions:

– Meat that is cut up, packaged and labeled with hunting license information and not mixed with other deer or elk during processing;

– Meat that is boneless;

– Hides or capes with no part of the head attached;

– Clean skull-cap with antlers attached;

– Antlers with no other meat or tissue attached;

– Finished taxidermy heads;

– Upper canine teeth with no tissue attached.

Vermont’s CWD importation regulations currently apply to hunters bringing in deer or elk carcasses from the following states and provinces that have detected CWD in either captive or wild animals:

Alberta, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

“CWD is a very persistent disease that can resurface after years of absence,” said Mark Scott, Vermont’s director of wildlife.  “Vermont’s CWD regulation is designed to help prevent CWD from infecting Vermont’s deer and the drastic population reduction measures that would be required if it appears here.”

“Hunters bringing deer or elk from any of the CWD-listed states or provinces into or through Vermont simply have to get them processed according to the regulation before doing so.”

A fine of up to $1,000 and loss of hunting and fishing licenses for one year are applicable for each deer or elk imported illegally.

Vermont Fish and Wildlife is also reminding hunters that using any type of natural deer urine-based or deer body fluid attractant scents is prohibited in the state because of the CWD threat.

(Photo source:  Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department)

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Several Moose Incidents in Colorado

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/several-moose-incidents-in-colorado/

Below is a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

A 62-year-old New Mexico man was attacked by a bull moose Wednesday morning while running with his two dogs on a trail on the west side of Winter Park.

The victim was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital with minor injuries and released later Wednesday. The dogs were unharmed.

The man was running on Sundog Trail around 7:30 a.m. with his two dogs off-leash when the attack occurred.

“The dogs were 40 to 50 feet in front of him and came running back toward him,” said CPW District Wildlife Manager Serena Rocksund. “He stopped and saw the moose at 50 feet. At that point, the dogs ran past him and left the scene.”

Rocksund said the man reported he took two steps forward to get a better look at the moose and “those two steps caused the moose to charge. He’s very lucky that his only injury is a hoof print-shaped laceration on the back of his head.”

Rocksund said wildlife officers did not find the moose after walking the trail system around Sundog Trail.

“This is a good reminder for folks to keep their dogs on leash and give moose plenty of space when recreating outdoors,” Rocksund said. “It’s hard to see around these corners with the thick vegetation on these trails, so having a dog on a short leash here is key.”

Other moose incidents this year
A 79-year-old woman was attacked by a cow moose and severely injured on Friday, Aug. 13, around 9 p.m. in a rural area outside a home south of Glenwood Springs.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, a man walking along a willow bottom heading towards a lake in Clear Creek County was charged by a bull moose he just happened to come across. The viral video shows just how quickly a moose can decide to charge on a person. That man came away uninjured as he dived behind a tree, which the bull moose hit.

On May 29 in Steamboat Springs, a gentleman was knocked over on his back and stomped by a cow moose with two calves. The victim stated that his small dog was outside unleashed when he heard it start barking and realized there was a moose in the area. He stepped forward to grab the dog and that is when the moose charged at him. That man was examined for minor injuries on site.

Fifteen years ago on March 26, 2006, a man from Grand Lake was attacked and critically injured by a bull moose as he walked to church. That man later died from his injuries on April 6.

CPW produced a video illustrating how people can be safe and responsible around moose. The video is available on YouTube.

(Photo source:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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Oregon, Washington Approve Removal of Problem Wolves

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/oregon-washington-approve-removal-of-problem-wolves/

Both the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized the removal of wolves continually involved in livestock depredations.

Oregon killed two juvenile wolves in Baker County from the Lookout Mt. Pack which previously killed or injured five cows in five different incidents over a two-week period. Nonlethal measures continued during the permit period and continue to date, with livestock producers continuing their high level of daily human presence, hazing wolves, removing injured cattle, moving cattle to different pastures, and coordinating with other landowners and ODFW biologists to focus nonlethal activities in the appropriate areas.

ODFW issued an additional permit due to another livestock depredation by the pack on August 19, 2021.

WDFW authorized the lethal removal of one to two wolves from the Togo pack territory in response to repeated depredations of cattle on public and private grazing lands in Ferry County. The action comes despite a series of non-lethal deterrents used by the three affected livestock producers.

Lethal removal of the wolves is not expected to harm the wolf population’s ability to reach the statewide or local recovery objectives.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supports the management of all wildlife by state wildlife agencies.

(Photo source:  Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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Nevada Governor Announces Landmark Step in Habitat Conservation Efforts

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/nevada-governor-announces-landmark-step-in-habitat-conservation-efforts/

Below is a news release from the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is celebrating Habitat Conservation Framework Executive Order 2021-18 signed by Governor Steve Sisolak on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. This order seeks to reverse the long-term trend of loss in Nevada’s wild landscapes and maintain the multitude of values they provide for our communities and wildlife species.

This executive order calls for the creation of a comprehensive Nevada Habitat Conservation Framework. The framework will engage conservation partners; stakeholders; and local, state, and federal agencies to identify values and services provided by intact habitats. In addition, the order will evaluate threats; prioritize landscapes; and develop strategies to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate Nevada’s threatened wildlife habitats.

Two immediate products will be developed to address threats to Nevada’s sagebrush habitat and wildlife movement corridors. A Sagebrush Habitat Plan will seek to collaboratively address the conversion and loss of Nevada’s sagebrush habitats due to climate change, wildfire, and invasive species.

“More than 50 percent of all historic sagebrush habitats across the west have been lost to wildfires, invasive species, pinyon-juniper encroachment, climate change, and other threats. As a result, the sagebrush ecosystem is one of the most imperiled in the U.S.,” said NDOW Director Tony Wasley. “Now more than ever, it is important that all concerned entities come together and maximize our collective efforts to restore these critical ecosystems. NDOW applauds the Governor for signing this executive order and creating a turning point in Nevada’s habitat conservation legacy.”

In addition to the creation of the Sagebrush Habitat Plan, NDOW will coordinate the collaborative development of a statewide Nevada Wildlife Connectivity Plan aimed at maintaining migratory corridors for species such as mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and other species that rely on these corridors to move between their seasonal ranges.

“Nevada’s wild landscapes provide the clear air, clean water, and open space that are integral to a healthy economy and our way of life,” Governor Sisolak said. “Whether it is mule deer or desert tortoises no animal thrives without a healthy ecosystem, and this executive order puts a crucial focus on the corridors through which wildlife migrate to survive.”

The HCF and all supporting strategies outlined in Governor Sisolak’s executive order make up Nevada’s greatest collaborative effort to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate Nevada’s key habitats and migration corridors.

(Photo source:  Nevada Department of Fish and Wildlife)

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Guided Elk Tours Return to West Virginia

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/guided-elk-tours-return-to-west-virginia/

Below is a news release from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Since 1997, RMEF and its partners completed 52 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in West Virginia with a combined value of more than $9.8 million. These projects protected or enhanced 33,432 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 32,371 acres.

Wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor lovers who want a chance to see the Mountain State’s growing elk herd up close and in a natural setting can now book a seat on a guided elk viewing tour organized by West Virginia State Parks.

On Thursday, the state parks system announced the return of the popular event and an exclusive 10 percent discount on lodge rooms and cabins at Chief Logan Lodge for people who book a tour. Elk viewing tours, which are scheduled this September and October, will start and end at Chief Logan Lodge. Each tour is limited to 12 people. Tickets cost $30 and can be purchased online at WVstateparks.com.

“Our elk viewing tours offer an incredible opportunity to see these majestic animals and learn about the history of elk management in West Virginia,” said West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Stephen McDaniel. “There aren’t many places where you can get this kind of experience, so folks should book their trip before seats sell out.”

Morning tours start at 5:30 a.m. and evening tours start at 4 p.m. Tour dates are listed below:

Morning Tours

Saturday, Sept. 11

Sunday, Sept. 12

Saturday, Sept. 25

Sunday, Sept. 26

Saturday, Oct. 9

Sunday, Oct. 10

Saturday, Oct. 16

Sunday, Oct. 17

Saturday, Oct. 23

Sunday, Oct. 24

Evening Tours

Sunday, Sept. 19

Thursday, Sept. 23

Saturday, Sept. 25

Sunday, Sept. 26

Thursday, Sept. 30

Sunday, Oct. 3

Saturday, Oct. 9

Sunday, Oct. 10

Saturday, Oct. 16

Sunday, Oct. 17

Saturday, Oct. 23

Sunday, Oct. 24

While there is no guarantee guests will see or hear elk, tour guide Lauren Cole has prepared a fun and entertaining program for guests to enjoy. Tours last four hours, depending on wildlife viewing conditions and weather and groups typically walk or hike up to three miles. Tours are limited to guests 12 and older. For more information about the elk tours, contact Cole at lauren.e.cole@wv.gov.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding and volunteer manpower that led to the  successful restoration of wild, free-ranging elk to their historic West Virginia range in 2016. RMEF also provided funding and guidance in 2015 that led to the creation of the 25,155-acre Tomblin Wildlife Management area that provides key habitat for West Virginia’s elk herd.

(Photo source:  West Virginia Division of Natural Resources)

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Tennessee Announces 2021 Elk Hunt Participants

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/tennessee-announces-2021-elk-hunt-participants/

Below is a news release from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The 14 persons who will participate in the 2021 Tennessee Elk Hunts and the grand prize winners of the Tennessee Conservation Raffle were announced Friday during the August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission held at the Cookeville Holiday Inn.

In addition, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency presented proposed changes to the 2022-24 bait, sport fish, and commercial fishing proclamations. The commercial fishing proclamation will be presented for vote at the September commission meeting and the bait and sport fish proclamation will be voted on at the October meeting.

A total of 11,146 persons registered for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s elk quota hunts. The total is an increase of 1,543 applications from 2020. The Tennessee began its elk hunt in 2009 with the participants randomly selected from a computer draw.

TWRA Elk Program Leader Brad Miller announced the 2021 winners. Selected to participate in the archery-only hunt Sept. 25-Oct. 1 are Sam Neely (Crossville), Kevin Howe (Humboldt), William Kittredge (Indian Mound), Richard Lee Cox (Madison), Charles Douglas Evans (Greeneville), Jeremy Flynn Gideon (Tullahoma), and Ronnie Vinson (Englewood).

The gun, muzzleloader, or archery equipment hunt will be held Oct. 9-15. Selected to participate are Ryan Payne Richards (Jackson), Johnny Dale Collingsworth (Tazewell), Brian Keith Wright (Knoxville), Steven Devaughn Weaver (Clinton), Matthew Hubbard (Brentwood), and Grant Wilson Guinn (Springville).

The youth tag permit winner is Kolton Lee Casson (Ocoee). This will be the 10th year for the tag which is designated for youth ages 13-16, Oct. 2-8.

All hunt permits are valid on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and can also be used on private lands (with landowner permission) within the Elk Restoration Zone in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan, and Scott counties.

The 2021 Tennessee Conservation Raffle features 10 prizes, one which includes a permit to participate in the elk quota hunt. In the order which drawn, the winners have their choice. This year’s raffle is also highlighted by a $50,000 voucher which can be applied to a new vehicle from any Mid-South Ford dealership. Other packages include an elk tag for the Tennessee Premier Elk Zone, a deer hunt on Presidents Island; a Tracker boat, a UTV, turkey hunting package; waterfowl hunting package, a $5,000 Academy + Sports Outdoor gift card, a precision long-range shooting package, a Tennessee Henry rifle, plus 100 additional winners will receive a knife.

Joey Woodard, executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, reported on this year’s raffle and announced the winners. The first person drawn was  Donald McBroom (Mammoth Cave, Ky), followed by James Jackson (Harrison), Travis Hale (Soddy Daisy), Ted Williams (Dickson), Sam Malone (Memphis), Sheila Watson (Charleston), Steven Henderson (Livingston), Darrell Wardlaw (Smyrna), Don O’Dell (Corryton), and Mark Hyjek (Spring Hill).

The commercial fishing proclamation preview included changes to allow a 600-yard net to whip-set for carp fishing, increase access to Camden and White Oak wildlife management areas, allow the use of hoop nets that have a wire frame, and changes to the paddlefish regulations. All were supported by the Commercial Fishing Advisory Committee.

The sport fish proclamation features several changes to size and creel limits on various areas of the state. The full proposals for both the commercial and sport fish, and bait proclamations will be available early next week. The public will have a comment period on the proposals through Sept. 14.

Dr. Lisa Muller, from the University of Tennessee, gave an update on the ongoing elk project. A total of 29 elk have been collared and DNA has been obtained. Preliminary winter elk diet has been examined. A duck blind update was given. A total of 16,098 persons registered for this year’s Tier 1 drawing. Participation was up 11 percent over last year.

An overview of the fiscal 2022-23 Agency budget was presented by TWRA Deputy Director Chris Richardson. The commission approved the budget.

(Photo source:  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

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The Lowdown on Idaho’s 2021 Elk, Deer Hunting Seasons

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/the-lowdown-on-idahos-2021-elk-deer-hunting-seasons/

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Game and Fish.

If you want the quick version of what the 2021 big game season is likely to look like, here it is: similar to last year for elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. There’s been no dramatic changes to the statewide populations for those animals up or down, and the statewide harvests for 2021 should also be similar to 2020.

However, biologists are closely tracking a disease outbreak among deer herds in the Clearwater area, and it’s too early to tell how that may affect the larger population and fall hunts.

In 2020, hunters harvested 22,776 elk, 24,809 mule deer and 24,849 whitetails. Elk harvest was above the 10-year average, and deer harvests were slightly below it. Success rates were 23 percent for elk hunters, 28 percent for mule deer hunters and 44 percent for whitetail hunters.

Thanks in part to a relatively mild winter and healthy herds in most parts of the state, Fish and Game Deer/Elk Coordinator Rick Ward expects 2021 harvests will meet, or possibly exceed, last year’s harvest because there are plenty of animals available, but there are also some changes that could affect that.

As usual, there’s more to the big picture

Idaho’s big game harvest over the last decade has generally stayed within the bounds of normal fluctuations and been fairly predictable. For example, elk harvests rose to about 20,000 animals in 2014 and have stayed above that number ever since and reflect a healthy, robust and relatively stable population, which is likely to continue.

Mule deer populations tend to have more spikes and drops, which is largely driven by weather, or more specifically, winters. Mild winters like last winter typically mean growing herds, or at minimum, stable ones.

Hard winters mean lower fawn survival and fewer young bucks the following fall, and severe winters kill a significant number of the adults, and herds may take years to recover. That is also reflected in the mule deer harvest over the last five years after herds and harvests took a substantial hit after the 2016-17 winter.

“Mule deer are kind of the poster child for boom and bust populations,” Ward said.

White-tailed deer populations tend to be a little more stable than mule deer populations, but they are still affected by weather and disease. Over the last decade, whitetail harvests have not fluctuated as much as mule deer, and Idaho’s whitetail harvests have been at, or near, historic levels in recent years. Last year also marked the third time in the last 10 years the state’s whitetail harvest exceeded the mule deer harvest.

“If you think back a few decades, that would have been unimaginable,” Ward said.

2021 season includes significant regulation changes

While hunters should have plenty of opportunities to harvest game, there is a significant change that could affect the overall harvest.

The Fish and Game Commission changed nonresident tags for 2021 and nonresidents are more restricted than in the past. Nonresidents participation is limited in all deer and elk hunts, and for the first time, nonresident are only allowed to hunt in one unit during general deer hunts, and their numbers are also limited in each elk zone, as well as a statewide cap on nonresident deer and elk tags.

The intent was to redistribute nonresidents throughout the state and restrict their ability to hunt multiple units for deer. What effect those changes will have on harvest and overall hunter success remains to be seen.

“Hunters are going to adjust to the new system and figure things out,” Ward said. “But it’s going to take a year or two for the dust to settle.”

There’s also the wildcard that affects harvest: fall weather. North and Central Idaho are experiencing a major wildlife season, which could affect archery deer and elk seasons that start Aug. 30.

There was also a disease outbreak detected among whitetails in the Kamiah area in Late July and August. Biologists are getting reports the outbreak may be more widespread and is likely to affect more herds in the Clearwater area.

Resident elk hunters are reminded that if they want to exchange an elk tag for another zone that could be limited by wildfires, or access restrictions, they must do so before their hunting season starts. For many archery hunts, that’s Aug. 30.

To get details about fires see the Fire Information webpage.

How deer and elk populations are monitored

Big game managers throughout the state are constantly looking at data that provides details on how herds are faring and whether they are growing or declining. Harvest stats are one way biologists track populations, and aerial surveys are done periodically in most areas to gauge population trends over time.

Each winter, biologists in Central, Southern and Eastern Idaho capture fawns and elk calves during winter and fit them with telemetry collars.

Those young animals are monitored until late spring to see how many survive, and survival rates are applied to the larger population to get an estimate of how many animals were added.

Statewide, 77 percent of collared elk calves and 64 percent of mule deer fawns that were collared during winter survived through the end of April. That compares with 77 percent and 65 percent through the same period in 2020.

Fish and Game has been monitoring winter survival of fawns for 23 years, and the average survival of fawns is about 57 percent, which means two years of above-average survival for mule deer fawns and growing herds.

“Fawn weights, which indicate how likely they are to survive winter, were high in many places in southern Idaho when we captured and collared fawns in December and January. These are the conditions that lead to herd growth,” Ward said.

Ward added that fawn survival is not uniform, and it ranged from 50-85 percent in 2021, depending on where the fawns were collared. Elk have not been trapped and collared for as long as mule deer, and elk calves typically survive at a higher rate than mule deer fawns.

Since researchers began collaring elk calves in 2014-15, survival has ranged from a low of about 52 percent in 2016-17 to a high of 84 percent in 2014-15, so last winter’s 77 percent survival is at the upper end of that range and signals herd growth.

Biologists also collar some adult does and cows, which typically survive at a high rate, but serve as an early warning if they start dying during hard winter.

Read more about 2019-20 winter deer and elk survival

Winter collaring and fawn monitoring are unfeasible in the northern parts of the state, but Fish and Game has started to incorporate data gathered from its extensive use of game cameras for monitoring wildlife populations.

The method involves taking millions of photos, and using sophisticated computer software to sift through them and applying mathematical modeling to get deer and elk population estimates at the game unit level.

“We are confident we have a method that will measure deer and elk abundance in North Idaho,” Ward said. “But we have nothing to compare it to in some areas, so this will be our new yardstick.”

Ward noted that getting populations estimates is only part of the project, and biologists are also trying to learn what drives, and limits, deer and elk populations in the northern parts of the state.

Elk population is like a rising tide

While deer populations can be boom or bust, elk populations are almost more like the tides gradually rising and ebbing, but there’s been little ebbing in recent years. Hunter harvest of elk in Idaho is near the highest it’s ever been with some caveats. Some of that harvest has shifted from the traditional backcountry and wilderness areas to more “front country,” and recent harvests also include a higher number of depredation hunts where elk are damaging crops. But there remains plenty of elk for hunters to pursue in most regions of the state, including lots of general hunting opportunities.

“Elk populations, particularly those in Southern Idaho, are robust,” Ward said.

Southern Idaho, the Panhandle and Eastern Idaho have continued to produce lots elk, as well as some of Central Idaho, but portions of the Clearwater country and wilderness areas in Central Idaho continue to struggle, or hold their own, at lower populations than were seen in recent decades.

“We don’t have an elk population issue,” Ward said. “But we have an elk distribution issue.”

He noted that even where elk herds are strong and healthy, things can change. Unlike deer that have either a small home range, such as whitetails, or predictable summer and winter ranges like mule deer, elk tend to be more nomadic.

“Elk behavior is radically different than deer,” he said.

Elk herds may leave an area and find a new one and not return, and when that new area happens to be agriculture land where elk damage crops, biologists face an unenviable task of trying to change elk behavior or significantly reduce those herds while otherwise prime elk hunting terrain on public land may have fewer animals.

So with a solid and stable elk population and lots of interest in elk hunting, will the statewide harvest be above or below last year?

“I would say below, but not by a lot, because there will be fewer nonresident hunters,” Ward said.

Mule deer herds bouncing back, but not back yet

Mule deer hunters may already be pining for the “good ol’ days” pre 2017 when five consecutive moderate and mild winters allowed herds to grow and hunters reaped the rewards.

The severe winter of 2016-17 “reset the clock” for mule deer, Ward said. Herds are heading in the right direction, but still haven’t completely bounced back.

“Fawn survival the last two winters has been above average, which should translate to more deer,” he said.

However, mule deer are also found across a variety of habitats and elevations throughout the state, so all herds aren’t rebounding at the same rate, and some may be decreasing.

Ward noted the Weiser area as an example. Mule deer herds dropped by about a third between population surveys conducted in 2010 and 2020, and can be largely attributed to the severe 2016-17 winter. It will likely take more moderate to mild winter for it to fully rebound, and there are no guarantees what weather winter will bring.

While fawn survival typically garners much of the attention because young bucks make up most of the harvest, mild winters also allow those bucks that survive their first winter and hunting season to grow into mature animals, so it’s likely hunters will also have a better chance of finding more trophy-sized bucks.

Whitetails are a wait-and-see situation

Overall, whitetail hunting should remain solid, but with some caveats. Whitetail harvests have grown over the last few decades and the last few years have been similar to the mule deer harvest.

“We’ve seen the whitetail harvest increase since the 1970s, and now it has plateaued over the last decade at a high level,” Ward said.

Part of that growth is healthy whitetail populations, and part of it is hunters taking advantage of generous hunting seasons with lots of either-sex hunting opportunity. While harvest numbers are similar, whitetail hunting success rates were nearly two-thirds higher than mule deer hunting last year.

So far, there’s no reason to think good whitetail hunting won’t continue this fall, but biologists are closely watching a hemorrhagic disease outbreak that was detected in July and is likely to continue through late summer and fall. The disease tends to be highly contagious, but typically stays in fairly localized areas. If previous years are an indication, it may hit local herds hard in some areas, but won’t have as severe of an impact on the statewide whitetail harvest.

However, that’s not to downplay the impact of the disease, especially on those local whitetail herds. Fish and Game staff will continue to monitor the disease and update hunters throughout the hunting season.

Here’s a detailed deer and elk outlook for each region

Panhandle

Elk

Elk numbers in the Panhandle also remain strong with Units 1 and 4 being among the top elk units in the state, ranking fourth and third in 2019, and Panhandle units accounted for half of the top 10 elk units in the state with the Units 3, 6 and 5 joining Units 1 and 4.

With elk survival and production both ranging from moderate to high, hunters will have plenty of elk to pursue in the Panhandle Region in 2021 and should have a good-to-excellent hunting there.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

Habitat conditions are very dry throughout north Idaho. There are numerous wildfires burning across the region that have led to large forest closures in certain areas both on federal lands and private timberlands. Some of these fires are expected to burn for a long time and conditions may not change for the better prior to archery seasons.

Hunters will want to check ahead and make sure they can access their hunting spots, and have a backup plan for where to go if closures still exist in their area. Please observe all restrictions in place regarding fires and off road travel.

Deer

Whitetail hunters should be seeing the usual healthy herds of whitetails. Fawn production and winter survival have been good the last few years, and the region has not had population setbacks in recent years. Unit 1 in the northern part of the region continues to be the top whitetail producer in the state, with good deer populations and ample public land access. But Unit 1 is not alone as a top producer in the Panhandle.

Units 2, 3, 5 and 6 were also in the top 10 for whitetails thanks to habitat and weather conditions that have been favorable for growing whitetails. Whitetail hunters in the Panhandle have a long hunting season, generous either-sex hunting opportunities and a good chance to encounter mature bucks.

Clearwater Region

Due to uncertainty and constantly changing situations regarding a disease outbreak among the Clearwater’s deer population, ongoing wildfires, and access closures, Fish and Game is postponing an outlook for the region. Hunters can stay up to date on what’s happening through the Clearwater Region webpage.

Southwest Region – Nampa

Elk

The Boise River Zone has seen consistently high calf and cow winter survival rates during the past three years. The population has remained stable to slightly increasing due to good winter calf and cow survival.

The elk harvest and harvest success rate in the Boise River Zone has also remained largely stable over that time period. The 2020 elk harvest came in at 917 animals harvested, with an 18 percent success rate. The Boise River Zone (Unit 39) has been the top unit in the state for elk harvest for three straight years and routinely competes with Units 50, 76 and 1 for the top spot.

Fish and Game conducted an aerial survey in the Boise River Elk Zone in late January and early February 2021. Results indicate cow elk numbers have increased since the last survey in 2015 and are slightly over population objectives as set by Fish and Game’s elk management plan. The bull elk numbers are also within the range of objectives for the elk zone and, more importantly, is toward the top of the objectives.

The hunting outlook is also looking good in the Sawtooth Zone after a mild winter. The Sawtooth Elk Zone has averaged 634 elk harvested per year over the past 3 years. The 2020 hunting season resulted in a harvest of 658 elk, a 4 percent increase from the 3-year average. An aerial survey is planned for this winter in Sawtooth Elk Zone to estimate population size and status with respect to elk plan objectives. The zone was last surveyed during winter 2017 Biologists expect good numbers of elk available during the season in the Sawtooth Zone this fall, but weather conditions are likely to influence hunter success.

Mule Deer

With generous over-the-counter tags and any-weapon harvest seasons, and given its proximity to Idaho’s most populated area, Unit 39 is the state’s most popular and productive unit for mule deer hunters. Hunters harvested an estimated 3,025 mule deer in the unit in 2020—more than in any other unit in the state, and it wasn’t particularly close. The next closest was neighboring Unit 43, where hunters harvested 1,180 mule deer.

More than two-thirds of the mule deer harvested in 2020 in the Nampa subregion were harvested in Unit 39. Unit 40 in the Owyhees is the next highest in terms of annual harvest at around one-fifth of the regional mule deer harvest, but general season opportunity is limited to two-points only.

Overall deer numbers have been increasing in Unit 39 for the last several years. When surveyed in January 2018, wintering deer in Unit 39 were up about 5,000 animals from the 2010 count. Adult winter survival has been consistently high.

Does have been radio-collared in the Owyhees as part of a research project over the last several years, and over-winter doe survival there was good last year.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

The one tip that is always pretty good in this part of the state is to get away from roads. If an area hosts a lot of people, the majority of deer and elk are not likely to be near the roads.

With the dry conditions throughout the summer, archery hunters in particular might benefit from focusing their attention around water sources or moist areas, particularly those in feeding areas that have green forage available for elk and deer.

Also along the lines of the current drought, Southwest Idaho has so far made it through the summer relatively unscathed in terms of fire. With that said, a lot can change quickly, so hunters should stay abreast of current fires and whether fires may affect their hunting unit. Fish and Game’s Fire Information webpage is a good resource.

Wildlife managers are continuing to encourage antlerless harvest in Units 39 and 43. Unit 39 has been a very productive mule deer unit, and has been for a long time, but biologists have documented decreases in fawn production, a smaller number of fawns in proportion to the number of does, and a decline in winter weights of fawns — all of which suggest the deer herd is approaching carrying capacity.

Fish and Game offered 2,000 either-sex deer tags (an increase of 500 tags from 2020) for Units 39 and 43 (Controlled Hunt No. 1068) in 2021 and hunters should not hesitate to harvest a doe.

McCall subregion

Elk

Elk herds remain at or above objectives in most of the region with the exception of the Middle Fork Zone, which is still below objectives. Harvest success in the McCall zone is generally a little lower than in the more accessible units, but remains stable and should continue to produce good hunting.

Brownlee has an exceptionally high bull:cow ratio and harvest continues to trend up. However, hunters should expect that some of these elk will be challenging to hunt due to hunter numbers and private land access.

The Weiser River zone remains above objectives but harvest success recently started to drop off due to an intentional reduction of herds in order to meet population objectives. Several of these herds remain tough to access on private lands and continue to pose a challenge to landowners facing crop damage issues.

During season setting this year, some antlerless opportunity was reduced since the population is closer to objectives and Fish and Game reorganized a few of the private land hunts to try and push elk off private land.

Deer

A 2020 aerial survey shows the Weiser-McCall mule deer population has been slow to recover from the severe 2016-17 winter. However, thanks to milder winters, fawn survival has been around 71 percent the past two years, which is indicative of a growing population. Harvest has also been trending up in the same pattern, and this year should be no exception with higher numbers of yearling bucks.

During season setting this year, antlerless harvest opportunity was further reduced in attempt to help this population recover more quickly.

White-tailed deer herds are stable to slightly increasing across the region with the highest densities occurring in the northern portions. The whitetail season was extended in Unit 19A and either-sex opportunity was added in Unit 22 to be consistent with surrounding units.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

There were significant changes to the controlled Weiser bear hunts in GMUs 22, 31, 32, and 32A. Some of these changes included adding a general hunts within a mile of private land, as well as baiting and hound hunting opportunity. For a detailed description of the changes and new hunt structure, see the black bear seasons webpage.

Magic Valley Region

Elk

For elk, the region is near or above objectives across the region, and wildlife managers are continuing to reduce overall elk numbers in some units by providing over-the-counter antlerless elk hunting. This action is primarily to alleviate elk damage to private property in the region.

Cow elk harvest is largely dictated by weather. Cool temperatures and early high-country snowstorms provided good hunting conditions last fall. With the current drought conditions and high temperatures, elk will be concentrated near good feed with reliable water sources and abundant thermal cover, especially early in the fall.

Mule Deer

The region is at objectives with most deer herds, and there was good fawn survival the last two winters. Mild winter conditions are favorable for fawn recruitment, and there will likely be a lot of yearlings in the deer herds this year.

The Magic Valley Region is experiencing extremely hot and dry spring and summer conditions, and animal distribution on the landscape can change from year to year. Hunters should expect to find deer concentrated in areas with good forage, reliable water, and abundant thermal cover, including spring seeps, wet meadows, and north facing slopes at higher elevations.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

Hunters should check in with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management before they venture afield because access could be affected by wildfires. Hunters should also obtain current travel management maps, and be aware of off-road vehicle rules and restrictions in their preferred hunting area.

Southeast Region

Elk

Hunters should expect good elk hunting this fall. Elk are simply more resilient to harsh environmental conditions than deer. As a result they are doing well across the region as evidenced by recent aerial surveys conducted the past few years. Biologists surveyed the Diamond Creek Zone in 2018 and the population estimate was dramatically higher than the previous survey in 2013, and the bull:cow:calf ratio indicates that it is still a stable to increasing population. The Bear River Elk Zone was last flown in 2017, and was up by about 40 percent from the last survey in 2010.

Deer

Deer hunting should be improved when compared to the past several years. Prior to this year, severe winter conditions have resulted in negligible changes to deer populations. However, this past mild winter resulted in above-average fawn survival for the eastern portion of the region and average survival in the western portion of the region. Additionally, overwinter adult survival was extremely high. As a result, hunters can expect more yearling bucks as well as some older age class bucks compared to recent years.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

Weather conditions during the hunting season can sometimes affect big game behavior and distribution– and thus, hunter success. Hot, dry weather can result in game concentrating near areas with water availability and cover at the highest or lowest elevations. Rainy conditions can result in more availability of quality native forage and natural water sources, which in turn can lead to big game being more widely dispersed on the landscape.

Many hunters have been concerned with drought conditions this summer. Despite these dry conditions, higher elevations and areas near water (e.g. streams at lower elevations) still provided adequate cover, water, and forage to sustain survival. Hunters should be cautious of wildfire risks in their activities and look for any fire related restrictions or closures prior to going hunting.

Doing some scouting of potential hunting areas may give hunters an idea of animal distribution and behavior. Hunters can also use preseason scouting to check road and trail accessibility and conditions as well as make landowner contacts if they are planning to hunt on or near private property.

Upper Snake Region

Elk

By and large, the elk forecast is really good. All of the region’s elk herds, except the Palisades Zone, are at or above management objectives. Wildlife managers recognize that the Palisades Elk Zone is one that performs on the lower end of our objectives compared with others, and part of that is by design. Changes were made to antlerless harvest opportunities in the Palisades Zone during this past season setting effort in order to address cow elk numbers that have been slightly below management objectives.

Elk hunters are in a good place with plenty of elk to chase, and one of things that is going to dictate the success of elk hunters is the weather.  Much of the region has received significant amounts of rainfall at the end of July and the first part of August after an early hot summer.  These rain events have coincided with cooling evening temperatures. These trends will hopefully continue and provide better hunting conditions.

 

Mule Deer

On a regional level, mule deer hunting is likely to be a little below average. Herds in the region are not back to where they were prior to the 2016-17 winter, when things were really, really good. They’re still trying to recover from that winter, along with a couple of other winters with elevated fawn mortality since then.  Significant changes were made to antlerless deer hunting opportunity across the region in an attempt to try and assist in population recovery for struggling deer herds.

Fawn survival over this past winter was about average, and managers expect populations likely increased slightly, which is a good thing, and there should be a decent class of yearlings for hunters to pursue in the fall.  The key to big changes in mule deer populations will be stringing a couple of mild winters together which leads to increased fawn survival.  Winter severity remains the key driver of mule deer populations in the Upper Snake.

White-tailed deer

There’s no reason to believe the whitetails are in a bad place, and whitetail hunting should be about normal, or average to what it has been over the last number of years. While whitetails aren’t broadly distributed throughout the region, the higher density units for the region are in units 62, 62A, 63A, and 65.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

Managers are making some changes to the collection techniques and the locations where we Fish and Game is monitoring for Chronic Wasting Disease. Hunters should keep an eye out for head barrels or lymph node collection sites, where biologists are asking hunters to leave a head, or — if they feel comfortable — to leave us a lymph node sample. Monitoring for CWD is a priority for the department.

Managers also want to remind folks of reduced youth and other antlerless opportunity across the region, and as always; hunters need to review the regulations prior to going afield.

Salmon Region

Elk

The elk populations in the region continue to hold steady, so folks should see good harvest opportunity again this season. Most of the elk zones are either at or above objectives. The Lemhi, Beaverhead, and Pioneer zones are above objectives outlined in the elk management plan for both cows and bulls. The Salmon zone remains within objectives and some reduction in antlerless opportunity has been initiated to protect the longevity of this hunting opportunity. The Middle Fork zones remains below objective for cows, but is meeting bull objectives.

The Salmon Region offers a wide range of general-season elk hunting with ample over-the-counter antlerless, or either-sex, opportunities and areas allowing the harvest of brow-tined bulls only. In addition we have a variety of controlled bull and cow hunts.

Mule Deer

Deer numbers are increasing, and wildlife managers are expecting to see a good general season this year. Fawn survival over this past winter was about even with the 10-year average, and biologists are now seeing that herds have absorbed the effects of the winter of 2016-17.

Once again, units 21 and 21A saw more snowfall and lower fawn survival than the rest of the Salmon Region. That may impact the upcoming bucks in those hunting units, but overall, the region’s holding pretty strong. Severe drought conditions region wide may have a negative impact on buck antler size this year.

What hunters should be aware of this fall

With the newly established nonresident caps set on mule deer and elk general seasons the Salmon region expects to see a noticeable change in hunter numbers and distributions across most units. In addition nonresident hunters are now limited to a single deer unit and need to be diligent in knowing their unit boundaries. As hunter distributions change, managers want to encourage hunters to be courteous in the field.

Hunters needed to help F&G get samples to test for Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious and fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, and moose is a threat to Idaho’s big game animals. It has never been found in Idaho, and Fish and Game wants to prevent it from entering the state and ensure it has not developed in Idaho’s big game herds. Hunters can help increase the number of Idaho deer, elk and moose sampled for CWD by doing one of the following:

Collecting samples from harvested animal and dropping them off at identified Idaho Fish and Game collection locations or a Regional Office.

Dropping the head of harvested animal at identified Idaho Fish and Game collection locations or a Regional Office.

Stop at one of Fish and Game’s big game check stations during hunting season.

All drop off locations and check station information will be available on the Fish and Game’s CWD webpage: idfg.idaho.gov/cwd.

CWD sample kits can be requested directly from Fish and Game by emailing your mailing address to: wildlifelab@idfg.idaho.gov.

Remember to fill out your mandatory hunter report

Much of the information in the big game outlook, Hunt Planner, and other information is derived from Mandatory Hunter Reports. Hunters who buy any big game tag are required to fill them out regardless if they harvested, or even hunted. The data is valuable to game managers and also helpful to hunters.

Want to get the latest information about Idaho big game hunting?

You can sign up for Fish and Game’s email newsletters at idfg.idaho.gov. Enter your email address in the “Stay Connected” box and you can select what topics and regions you are interested in, and cancel at any time if you no longer want to receive emails.

(Photo source:  Idaho Department of Game and Fish)

The post The Lowdown on Idaho’s 2021 Elk, Deer Hunting Seasons appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Grizzlies Wander Across Much of Montana

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/grizzlies-wander-across-much-of-montana/

Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Wildlife officials confirmed four grizzly bears in Montana’s Upper Clark Fork and Bitterroot Valleys this year, ranging from Gold Creek to Sula.

Although grizzly bears don’t inhabit the Deer Lodge, Flint Creek and Bitterroot Valleys in the density they do in some other parts of western Montana, activity has steadily increased over the past 10 years.

In the Flint Creek Range, east of Philipsburg, area residents submitted photos in May that later led to the confirmation of two grizzly bears. Public reports like these often provide important clues for biologists. Later this summer, another trail camera that is part of a research study captured photos of two grizzly bears near the headwaters of Rock Creek, southwest of Philipsburg.

Details of one of the photographed bear’s movements was also tracked on a radio collar and downloaded later.  The data showed that the bear left the Seeley Lake area this spring, crossed Interstate 90, moved through the Flint and Rock Creek areas, and then traveled as far south as Sula in the Bitterroot Valley.

The areas where these grizzlies were confirmed sit between established populations of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the southeast and the Northern Continental Divide to the northwest.

“We’ve had enough confirmed grizzly bears to remind us to expect grizzlies anywhere in western half of Montana and not just in those spots where we tend to think of them being more common,” said Jamie Jonkel, FWP’s western Montana bear specialist.

Riparian areas in the Upper Clark Fork draw bears looking for berries and other food sources. Sometimes grizzlies will cross I-90 and head south in their quest for food.  Black and grizzly bears can be found throughout much of the western half of Montana, so it is important to review bear safety tips and keep the areas around your home free from bear attractants to prevent issues for bears and people. Consider these tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and look for bear sign.
  • Read signs at trailheads and stay on trails. Be especially careful around creeks and in areas with dense brush.
  • Carry bear spray. Know how to use it and be prepared to deploy it immediately.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.

Keeping bear attractants secure, out of a bear’s reach, is especially important. When out, keep clean camps, store food and any other scented attractants securely away from sleeping areas and follow all food storage regulations.  Around home, be sure to keep garbage indoors until the day of collection; remove bird feeders when bears are out and active; consider using electric fencing around chickens, garden areas and compost piles; and move other attractants such as pet food, dirty barbecue grills and ripe fruit indoors or into a secure building.

Research ongoing into movement of grizzly bears between NCDE and Greater Yellowstone area

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Defenders of Wildlife, is working on a genetic survey project on National Forest lands in southwest and western Montana this summer. The initial survey work is nearly complete, but the DNA analysis and final results will take up to a year.

The purpose of this study was to collect DNA and photographic evidence of grizzly bears moving in between the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems and the Bitterroot Recovery Zone to help biologists understand more about the grizzly bears dispersing throughout this area over the past decade.

(Photo source:  Frank Van Manen/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The post Grizzlies Wander Across Much of Montana appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.