Elk feed at the Wenaha Wildlife Area near Troy, Oregon, last winter. (Keith Kohl/ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

Elk feed at the Wenaha Wildlife Area near Troy, Oregon, last winter. (Keith Kohl/ Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP, File)

Tough winter leads western states to limit deer, elk hunting

Washington had severe losses among elk herds, prompting a reduction in the number of hunting permits.

By Bob Moen / Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Hunting guide Mike Clark normally has more than 20 clients lined up each fall for trips deep into Wyoming’s western wilderness to shoot mule deer, prized by hunters for their size and impressive antlers.

But unusually cold weather and heavy snowfall that blanketed much of the Western U.S. last winter killed off many young deer. And that prompted wildlife officials throughout the Rocky Mountain states to take measures such as reducing the number of hunting permits to try to help devastated wildlife populations rebound.

Clark took only six mule deer hunters out in September and October who were lucky enough to get permits. He estimated that he lost 40 percent of his income as a result. If it wasn’t for the hunters he was guiding this year to shoot elk that generally survived the brutal winter, Clark said, “We’d pretty much be selling out.”

In one remote part of Wyoming’s backcountry where peaks soar to 11,000 feet (3,300 meters), state wildlife managers documented the loss of all fawns they had been monitoring in a mule deer herd.

To help the herd recover, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission reduced the number of deer permits for out-of-state residents from 600 to 400 in the area where Clark operates, cut the hunting season to 22 days and limited hunters to killing older bucks.

Officials won’t know how effective their efforts will be until hunting season ends in January and hunters submit reports saying how many deer they killed.

Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington state also imposed hunting limits to help isolated wildlife herds recover from the winter. Deer were hit hardest in most of those states, while Washington had severe losses among several of its elk herds.

In southern and central Idaho, last winter’s fawn survival rate was just 30 percent, prompting a reduction in deer hunting permits to help herds boost their numbers, said Mike Keckler, spokesman for the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

“We’re trying to bring them back up,” he said.

And in Washington, the number of elk hunting permits was cut drastically in some parts of the state where elk died in droves, said Brock Hoenes, statewide elk specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The area of Wyoming where Clark takes hunters is known as one of the best places in the world to hunt mule deer, state Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay said. He added that the decision to limit permits was difficult for state officials to make.

Clark said his business will survive the downturn but that his future guiding hunters is uncertain if wildlife managers reduce the number of mule deer hunting permits for nonresidents again next year.

“Otherwise, none of us are going to have any deer hunters,” he said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

The Legislative Building is shown Friday, June 30, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Details of a new two-year state operating budget were released Friday, the same day Washington lawmakers must vote on the plan in order to prevent a partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington Senate approves new tax on high capital gains

The measure would impose a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets in excess of $250,000.

FILE - In this March 4, 2018, file photo, then-MacKenzie Bezos arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has married a Seattle science teacher. Dan Jewett wrote in a letter to the website of the nonprofit organization the Giving Pledge, on Saturday, March 6, 2021, that he was grateful to be able to marry such a generous person and was ready to help her give away her wealth to help others. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
MacKenzie Scott marries Seattle teacher after Bezos divorce

The groom taught chemistry at the private Lakeside School, where Scott’s children attended.

Dozens may have been under-vaccinated in Port Townsend error

People who received doses March 4 can be tested to see if they have the proper antibodies.

55,000 in Washington may have to repay unemployment benefits

Some failed to respond to requests for information and became ineligible for money they received.

Whatcom County sees 13 new B.1.1.7 variant COVID-19 cases

Snohomish County has 2 known cases of the mutation, also called the “U.K. variant.”

A syringe of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown Thursday, March 4, 2021, at a drive-up mass vaccination site in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. Officials said they expected to deliver approximately 2500 second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the site Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Vaccine eligibility to expand to more groups on March 22

Included will be workers in agriculture and grocery stores, as well as law enforcement and others.

Seattle teachers vote to stay out of classrooms

The union said it has no confidence that the district will keep educators safe during the pandemic.

Senate OKs bill for graduating students to take bridge year

Seniors also could retake classes and boost grades that may have faltered during the pandemic.

Pacific gray whales spotted in Puget Sound

They tend to congregate in waters off Whidbey Island and feed on ghost shrimp.

Cashmere mom wins custody case that straddles two countries

A Chelan County judge ruled that Saudi Arabian courts did not provide the woman with due process.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo Ethan Nordean, with backward baseball hat and bullhorn, leads members of the far-right group Proud Boys in marching before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, has described himself as the sergeant-at-arms of the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys. The Justice Department has charged him in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., with obstructing an official proceeding, aiding and abetting others who damaged federal property, and knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building. He asked a judge Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, to release him from detention pending trial. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster,File)
Judge orders release of Proud Boy charged in Capitol riot

The Auburn man will be restricted to home detention and must remove all firearms in his home.

Senate OKs bill prohibiting price gouging during emergencies

Products would include building materials, emergency supplies, gasoline and health care services.