A spate of snow late last winter blanketed North Idaho and lent a cool start to spring, but it didn’t affect elk and deer herds.
Survival rates for both elk and deer were about average, according to Idaho Fish and Game, and success among elk and deer hunters — at least so far — reflect that.
The number of elk and deer hunters who passed through the Enaville check station during the two weekends of the general rifle season were about the same, but the number of deer and elk harvested were significantly higher than a year ago.
“It was considerably better than last year,” IDFG wildlife manager Laura Wolf said.
The number of hunters — 900 — who stopped at the check station this year was up from 839 last year, and the number of elk checked — 22 — was more than than the 16 elk checked last year.
The big change was among deer hunters. Last year, six deer were checked at the Enaville station (4 mule deer, 2 whitetails), while hunters this year checked one mule deer and 24 whitetailed deer.
Antlered deer accounted for about half the harvest this year, with about half of the antlered deer scoring between four and six points.
About a quarter of the harvested elk reported at the check station had between four and six points, with the rest of them having fewer than four points, according to data compiled by IDFG.
Fewer hunters (506) stopped in at the St. Maries check station than last year (612), but Fish and Game doesn’t think there were fewer hunters in the woods.
Unit 6, which runs from St. Maries to Avery, is the most heavily hunted unit in the St. Joe drainage and it can be accessed from Fernwood and Clarkia as well as the Silver Valley via Moon Pass.
The fewer hunters at the station checked 49 elk, including 40 antlered elk, compared to 31 elk checked at the station during the two weekends last year.
Hunters also checked 15 mule deer and 12 whitetailed deer compared to six of both species last year.
Although the check station data is just a snapshot, it can indicate a pattern. Hunter harvest reports will not be compiled until the seasons for both species end, and the more complete data will be made public early next year.
Although biologists expected more yearlings in the harvest because of good winter survival rates, based on the check station results hunters tagged elk and deer from a variety of age classes.
“We had a pretty good mix,” Wolf said.