2013 Deer Hunting Outlook September 22, 2013

Montana Deer Population,Management News and Information Archive

2013 Deer Hunting OutlookSeptember 22, 2013 MFWP News
    Region 1—Northwestern Montana:  Following two good winters with good fawn recruitment, white-tailed deer numbers in northwest Montana are generally recovering nicely from a recent population low in 2009.  
     Region 2—Western Montana:  White-tailed deer and mule deer are common but numbers generally are below historic averages. FWP has restricted hunting opportunities for antlerless deer to limit any further declines and speed population increases. 
     Region 3—Southwestern Montana:  Mule deer populations are stable to slightly decreasing and still down from long term averages. Hunting for mule deer bucks is by permit-only in several hunting districts.  White-tailed deer populations, found mostly in river bottoms, are stable. The area remains fortunate not to see major die-offs from EHD as did other populations in central and eastern Montana.
     Region 4—Central Montana:  Mule deer populations are mostly stable and white-tailed deer numbers continue to increase. Some whitetail populations around Great Falls and north, however, have been hit by EHD, which may impact their numbers. Also, while it's heartening to see mule deer numbers in some mountain ranges continue to rebuild, their numbers are still below average.
     Regions 5 — South Central Montana: Mule deer populations north of the Yellowstone River are on the upswing and approaching historical averages, reversing a decade-long trend. In the mountainous areas, particularly south of the Yellowstone River, a decline in mule deer numbers continues, prompting restrictive seasons in many hunting districts.
White-tailed deer living in the prairie environments north of U.S. Highway 12 have been in slow decline for a number of years, a trend that surveys continue to confirm.
     Region 6—Northeastern Montana:  Effects on mule deer from the winter of 2010-11 are still being seen with regional numbers 20 percent below average, but mule deer numbers are starting to rebound in most areas. Buck ratios are also slightly below average with fewer older-age-class bucks due to winter mortality of older bucks in 2010-11.  White-tailed deer numbers in the Milk River Valley east of Malta to Nashua and in the Missouri River bottomlands below Fort Peck Dam were heavily impacted by an EHD outbreak in 2011. In those areas, numbers remain well below the long-term average, but are starting to rebound. In the Malta area numbers are slightly below average this year. An EHD outbreak has been confirmed this summer west of Harlem in the western portion of the region.
     Region 7—Southeastern Montana:  Mule deer numbers are still more than 32 percent below the long term average due to the severe winter of 2010-11 that resulted in significant winter-kill of adults and fawns. Overwinter survival last year was high, and fawn recruitment this spring—up to 53 yearlings per 100 adults—increased relative to the previous year. That good news, however, was dampened by reduced fawning rates due to nutritional stress in does after the extreme winter of 2010-11. Drought conditions the summer of 2012 continued to impact deer nutrition, but forage and precipitation levels have been exceptional so far in 2013. Trend area surveys indicate that mule deer populations are up 11 percent from 2012 and deer populations are expected to continue a gradual climb.  White-tailed deer populations are currently 7 percent below the 10-year average. The reduction in white-tailed deer numbers, however, is not all bad. Wildlife biologists note that whitetail numbers prior to the EHD outbreak in 2012 were too high and fewer deer on the landscape will allow habitat to recover along with deer numbers. Forage and precipitation levels have been exceptional so far in 2013. 

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