BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports that fewer animals were harvested in 2019 than in 2018, and fewer hunters were in the field.
Hunters took fewer mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in 2019 compared to 2018. Fish and Game released its statewide numbers for 2019.
Elk harvest and deer harvests were down about 8 percent and 13 percent from the prior year.
The number of deer hunters in Idaho was also down by 5.5 percent from the prior year, while the number of elk hunters remained consistent.
"Hunting isn't unlike fishing — when it's good, everyone goes," said Daryl Meints, Fish and Game’s deer and elk coordinator. "When things get tougher, you see the participation drop."
For the sixth straight year, Idaho elk hunters harvested more than 20,000 elk. That’s the second best stretch in the state's history.
The 2019 elk harvest was 14th highest of all time, and fifth highest in the past decade.
Hunters harvested 3,294 fewer mule deer in 2019 than in 2018, a decrease of 12 percent.
The lower numbers didn't come as a surprise for wildlife managers.
"Our mule deer populations are driven by survival of fawns and adults, as are our harvest numbers," Meints said. "The last three-year stretch wasn't the kindest to our herds, particularly in eastern Idaho and in the Weiser/McCall areas."
The winter of 2018-19, brought deep snowfall late in the season followed by a prolonged wet, cool spring, which caused winter fawn survival to take a big dip for the second time in three years.
"Those last three years make up about 80 percent of the deer on the hill," Meints said. "When the statewide survival is what it has been for the past three years, this is what it's going to look like."
Hunters took 3,592 fewer white-tailed deer in 2019 than they did in 2018, a decrease of about 14 percent. It was the second straight year of declines in the whitetail harvest.
"The biggest fluctuations we see in our whitetail harvest are weather-related. We can see swings of around 10 percent in the harvest in either direction, just based on that," said regional wildlife manager Clay Hickey. "When we get weather and snow in the fall, our harvest numbers tend to go up. In 2019, it was balmy, nice weather during the hunting season, which didn't benefit our harvest numbers."