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
  • Friday, November 24, 2017 11:01am
  • Northwest

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

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, a female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Bainbridge Island, Wash., as seen from a federally permitted research vessel. The National Marine Fisheries Service has finalized rules to expand the Southern Resident orca's critical habitat from the Canadian border down to Point Sur, Calif., adding 15,910 square miles, (41,207 square kilometers) of foraging areas, river mouths and migratory pathways. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Endangered southern resident orca numbers drop from 74 to 73

Since July 1, 2021, three whales died while two were born, officials said.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Floatplane wreckage recovery in Puget Sound begins

The U.S. Navy will use a remotely operated vehicle Deep Drone 8,000, a barge and a crane in recovery efforts.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
COVID, monkeypox levels down

State says prevention efforts will continue.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
State employees likely to get 1K bonuses for COVID booster

Under a tentative deal state employees would get $1,000 bonuses for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot.

FILE - Then-Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz addresses a news conference in Seattle, on Sept. 2, 2020. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Diaz as his pick for permanent chief of the Seattle department. Harrell on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022,  announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Seattle mayor appoints Adrian Diaz as city’s police chief

Diaz has served as interim police chief since September 2020.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Human remains wash ashore, possibly from floatplane crash

A female torso found near Sequim could be connected to a floatplane crash near Whidbey Island.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle teachers approve new contract following strike

Teachers in Seattle have approved a new, three-year contract following a strike.

X
West Seattle Bridge reopened Saturday night

After 908 days without a high-rise bridge, the drivers and passengers of West Seattle regained seven road lanes.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Monkeypox cases declining in WA, outbreak trajectory unclear

The drop in infections statewide is directly linked to the drop in cases in King County.

Guillermo Carvajal, a member of the support staff at Northgate Elementary School in Seattle, and Erin Carroll, an occupational therapist there, picket outside the building on the third day of a strike by the Seattle Education Association on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. The union and Seattle Public Schools continued negotiating over issued that include pay and support for special needs students. It remained unclear how long the strike might last. (AP Photo/Gene Johnson)
Tentative deal reached to end Seattle teachers strike

Seattle Public Schools said late Monday it had reached a tentative agreement with the union for teachers.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Floatplane wreckage located in Mutiny Bay

Wreckage of a floatplane that crashed into Mutiny Bay last week has been located on the seafloor.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Body of Whidbey Island plane crash victim identified

A body found near the site of a floatplane crash in Mutiny Bay has been identified as 29-year-old Gabby Hanna.