Oct. 02–This could be memorable year for deer hunters thanks to mild winters and growing herds.
If you’re wondering where to hunt, or just curious where there are lots of deer, a handy guide is last year’s harvest statistics.
There were 129,155 deer hunters in Idaho last year, and they killed 48,800 deer for a success rate of 38 percent. Idaho Fish and Game is expecting a nice bump in the harvest this year.
“Pretty much statewide, this is going to be a good hunting year for deer,” said Jon Rachael, Idaho Fish and Game’s state wildlife manager.
He expects plenty of bucks in all age categories, but particularly yearling two-points that make up the bulk of the harvest.
So where are the best places to hunt?
It’s a tricky question when it comes to deer hunting because different hunters have different criteria.
Some want to fill the freezer with venison and others want a good chance at a trophy buck. Most of us fall in between.
Then there’s the preference for species. Idaho’s deer hunters tend be roughly split between mule deer hunters in the south and east, and whitetail hunters in the north and central parts of the state.
Last year’s harvest was split 53 percent mule deer and 47 percent whitetails.
Whitetail hunters tend to have a higher success rate because of long seasons, generous doe hunting and open hunts during the November rut.
Most mule deer hunters are limited to about three weeks in October and buck-only hunting.
Harvest data can be tricky to interpret because many hunters only think about their particular hunt, but most units have multiple seasons, including general, controlled, archery, muzzleloader and youth hunts, which are all included in the harvest data.
This is how last year’s statewide deer harvest broke down (numbers rounded):
–Rifle hunters took 45,000 deer.
–Archery hunters took 2,900 deer.
–Muzzleloader hunters took 1,100 deer.
–Harvest included 35,000 bucks, 14,000 does.
–Among the bucks, 11,000 were four-points or larger (antler count on one side).
All this data is good to know, but it complicates the question of where’s the best place to hunt deer.
So Idaho Fish and Game’s Bruce Ackerman — a statistician and spread-sheet wizard — crunched the numbers to rank the top hunting units by eight different categories with the top 10 units in each category.
They show the best places to hunt based on whether you want a good chance for any deer, a whitetail or a mule deer, a mature buck, and more.
Although things change, some units consistently come out on top.
If nothing else, it’s fun to see where your favorite hunting unit ranks among the others.
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors