Winter Conditions for Mule Deer

robby denning

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
11,729
Location
SE Idaho
I've learned over the years just how much winter conditions affect deer in the Rocky Mountains. I've journaled my scouting/hunting excursions for 20 years and hands down, I see more good bucks after a mild winter and especially after a series of them. Even crappy units seem to "come on" after a mild winter or two.

I got out this last few weeks, and while I haven't seen any heart-attack bucks, I've seen some good ones and lots of deer doing really well here in Idaho. Snow depths are low with little crusting and lots of access to feed. Deer are spread from hell to breakfast. Only 12 more weeks and they should be in the clear.

How about you? What are you seeing for conditions?
 

muleymemories

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2012
Messages
129
Location
SW Idaho
Good to hear the herds are doing well. Haven't had the chance to get out yet and look around, but the winter here is SW Idaho has been pretty mild.
 

Shrek

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2012
Messages
7,068
Location
Hilliard Florida
Is the light snow pack all good or will it just continue the western drought ? Is there enough snow to fill the reservoirs and feed the streams through the summer ? I know the drought is hurting the herds.
 

Whisky

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
1,257
It is a catch 22. Drought or harsh winters? But, at least here in ND, the winters do FAR more damage to the herds than drought. Last Winter was very mild. ND was dry, but not near as dry as the rest of the nation. Actually I was having a conversation just today about us not having even a half a$$ blizzard yet this year. So far it's been very mild. I don't live in mule deer country for ND so I don't get much scouting accomplished this time of year, but I imagine they are enjoying our current weather. As dry as everybody was going into Winter, I think we are possibly looking at much dryer conditions this year than last.

Now, here's the funny thing. NDGF surveys last Spring showed a DECLINE in both mule deer and antelope in western ND from the previous year. Even after our very mild Winter, herd #'s declined. Maybe a mild winter this year, and another one next year, will get us to where we need to be?

My livelihood is in Ag, but my life is hunting. Don't tell any farmers I said this (or my boss), but I'll take a couple more mild winters and if need be, drought, to get better hunting. And maybe sometime in the next 5 years, we'll again have an antelope season. :D


ETA: Wild fires are not usually a problem here in ND, which is why I feel like I do. Now if they were, would I think differently?? You guys in MT, CO or WY, what does more damage to the herds, tough winters or thousands of acres habitat being burned up?
 
OP
robby denning

robby denning

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
11,729
Location
SE Idaho
davinjax
yes, I should have mentioned that. In the long run, droughts hurt them, too. Right now, we're on the cusp of a drought or being OK. We can handle a light winter snowpack if we get spring rains.

I'm welcoming the mild winters because we have not recovered from the devastating winters of 07/08 and again in 10/11 around here, so that is why I'm liking this trend for now. As Whiskey says, winters seem to do far more damage than droughts.
 

RUTTIN

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2012
Messages
357
Location
Kamas, Utah
Here in Utah the winter of 10/11 put a hurt on the deer in the northern part of the state where I live. With the mild winter we are having now, only time will tell. There were not a whole lot of deer around, but the does that I have seen all seem to have twins with them. Right now we have had some cold temps, and the deer I harvested in November did not have much fat on him at all. Hoping that the temps warm up a bit. Our problem is with vehicle mortality as well, a lot of deer getting hit on the roads this time of year.
 

VANDAL

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
309
E Idaho snowpack is still near 100% of average without much snow in the lower elevations so I think we are on track to fill reseviors. Spring rains will be huge this year to replenish the lower wintering grounds.

I've gone out 3 or 4 times the last few weeks. I think the deer look great. Spread out everywhere and still able to feed on the North facing slopes which typically have better feed quality.

My biggest concern is the hot, dry summer last year really hit the dryland wheat. There's not much stubble or residual left and I haven't seen any deer in the fields. Last year the stubble was >12 inches and they were all over it. Not sure how significant that is but it is different from last year.
 

VANDAL

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2012
Messages
309
Whisky- thats funny. I work in Ag too and my family farms. Snowpack is everything around here but I still want mild winters and conditions that favor the health of our deer.
 

Tdiesel

Senior Member
Joined
May 16, 2012
Messages
123
Location
Colorado
Boy we are way short in southern CO on snow fall but are having the cold still -30+ at nights we started feeding the cattle just cause they look kinda like they need some, takes the stuffing out of all the animals but makes calling coyotes great they come running. I see the animals up in the foot hills more cause its say 10 degrees warmer than the valley floor. I say might as well have the snow we got the cold already and we need some major water replacement on the reserviors.
 

belly-deep

Senior Member
Joined
May 23, 2012
Messages
707
I saw fewer elk and deer on the winter range in Glacier Park than I've ever seen. 25-30 mule deer and 2 elk, as opposed to the 150+ deer and 50+ elk I saw there two years ago. I don't know where they went???
 

HellsCanyon

Senior Member
Rokslide Sponsor
Joined
May 29, 2012
Messages
3,474
Location
Lewiston ID
Was worried that the warm weather of yesterday wasn't going to last long enough to keep from freezing over at night. Thank God the weather has held out and the 8-15" of snow we've had has melted to where you can see green on the South facing slopes.

Mike
 

dirtytough

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
1,295
Whisky I've been out in the grasslands and the deer are looking good. About 6-8 inches of snow maybe. Its supposed to warm up again this week. Hopefully it will stay warm through spring so the deer have a coupe mild winters in a row.
 

Whisky

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 25, 2012
Messages
1,257
Dirtytough, that's good to hear. They need all the help they can get.
 

huntwest

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2012
Messages
106
Location
ND
I hope the deer can have a few good winters. We need them, with amount of deer I have seen in ND. Glad to hear it dirty tough.
 

Latest posts

Featured Video

Stats

Threads
205,597
Messages
2,121,439
Members
51,551
Latest member
blockfire76
Top