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Spring Deer, Elk Surveys Show Mixed Results

Areas Of Some Increase, But Still Areas Of Decline Or Stable Numbers

Biologists conducting spring deer and elk surveys found some areas with improved herd growth and some areas with lower recruitment due to poor habitat conditions and disease.

During the spring season, FWP wildlife staff get a pulse on deer and elk numbers by conducting aerial spring trend surveys or green-up flights across the state. These flights occur in the same areas year after year so biologist can understand population trends. During the flights, staff count the total number of deer and elk they see and classify fawns/calves and adults to determine recruitment rates. Fawns/calves counted during spring surveys have survived their first winter and are recruited into the population. The fawn/calf count also provides a critical measure for population – the ratio of young to adults. The data gathered from these surveys are then used to adjust any antlerless B licenses prior to the drawing.

Long-term datasets for deer and elk let FWP determine if populations are increasing, decreasing or remaining stable and adjust antlerless B licenses as needed.

For antlerless B licenses for both elk and deer, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approves a quota range for each hunting district, or in some cases a region. FWP adjusts the B license quota within that range as necessary to protect herd numbers.

Additionally, adjustments to season structure to address declines in herd numbers can also be done through the normal biennial season setting process, which took place last summer and fall. The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved deer and elk regulations, including quota ranges, in December.

Here is a rundown by area for spring counts and license quota adjustments in Region 6

Mule deer

What we saw: Total mule deer numbers on post-season surveys were 21 percent below average, and spring surveys were 16 percent below average. Both represent a significant decrease from both the 2023 surveys and the historic high population observed in 2021. Fawn to doe ratios improved in 2024 to 59 fawns to 100 does, which is 11 percent above average and 41 percent higher than observed in 2023.

What we did: We reduced Antlerless Mule Deer B License quota levels by 3,375 (54 percent) across the region, from 6,200 in 2023 to 2,825 in 2024.

Why we did it: Much of the region is managing antlered harvest within standard management objectives but has restricted Mule Deer B Licenses for antlerless mule deer at levels comparable to the 43 percent of the 10-year average. In other words, the number of antlerless licenses are quite low in comparison with historical numbers.

The results we are expecting: We expect an estimated 1,158 antlerless mule deer harvested with these licenses. In addition to a reduction in antlerless mule deer harvest, we also expect mule deer populations to respond positively to improved habitat conditions and improved fawn recruitment.


What we saw: We observed 974 total elk numbers during the 2024 biennial elk survey, which is 39 percent below the lower population objective, and the four-year population average (1,133) is 29 percent below objective. Antlerless elk harvest success rate for B licenses in these hunting districts averages 13 percent over the past five years.

What we did: We reduced Elk B License quota levels by 550 licenses (69 percent) in these HDs 620, 621, and 622.s, from 800 in 2023 to 250 in 2024.

Why we did it: We made these adjustments to move elk numbers toward the population objectives in the 2023 Elk Plan for these hunting districts (1600-2400). Furthermore, the estimated harvest success rate of 13 percent is below the stated objective of a harvest success rate of at least 25 percent.

The results we are expecting: We expect to reduce antlerless elk harvest, increase cow elk survival and subsequently increase the total elk population as evidenced by the number of elk observed on aerial surveys.


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