2023 (October) Central ID Mule Deer Hunt Recap

Joined
Oct 4, 2018
Messages
11
Location
SoCal
Curious what others experienced and/or think about my October 2023 Central ID Mule Deer Hunt Recap (in light of the 2022-2023 winter and my previous time spent in the same area during the same time).

This particular unit in Central ID, I previously hunted in 2018 (after the bad 2016/17 winter) and in 2020; so 2023 was my third time hunting this same unit. In 2018, my buddy and I pulled two mature bucks out of the unit in 6 days. We saw a decent amount of immature bucks (from 2-6) per day, with about four mature bucks over the course of the 6 days, two of which we harvested. We also saw about 3-5 small groups of does/fawns per day.

In 2020, my same buddy and I returned for the same hunt. Similar to 2018, we saw roughly 2-6 bucks per day, and about 4 mature bucks over the course of the 5 day hunt. With the exception of one spot (where we saw about 30-40 does/fawns in one day), we saw approximately 3 small groups of does/fawns per day. I filled my tag but my buddy went home empty after missing a couple bucks.

In 2023, I returned solo. Out of 6 days of hunting, the biggest buck I saw was a small four point. The only other buck I saw was a forky. I hunted the same areas we hunted the prior years in addition to new spots after not turning up any mature bucks. Surprisingly, considering the previous harsh winter, I saw a plethora of does with fawns, most of which even had two fawns. Without a doubt, I saw more does/fawns in 2023 than in 2018 and 2020 combined. These does/fawns spread from the very high country (where in previous years we only saw bucks) to the lower foothills. However, other than the two immature bucks, there were no bucks to be found, let alone ANY mature bucks. Needless to say, I did not punch my tag.

Pure bro science, the does/fawns seemed to have weathered the 2022/23 winter much better than what I expected based on everything I read/heard (which was excellent to witness). Not only did they seem healthy with many fawns, they spanned from the high country to the low country in great density throughout. What's perplexing to me is the lack of bucks (only two immature and no mature bucks), even though I covered the same country and then some.

Curious if others had a similar experience in 2023 or opinions as to the apparent lack of bucks.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2013
Messages
432
Location
Idaho
Winter survival is measured on the basis of large regional deer populations. If you zoom in on specific drainages the results may vary. After a bad winter you could luck into a drainage that is full of deer while another hunter a few miles away sees almost nothing, and everything is possible in between.

In general, I would say that the lack of bucks in 2023 has more to do with previous years of poor fawn recruitment than it has to do with last years winter. There were heavy fawn losses in 2017 and 2019, those would have been the 4-6 year old bucks in 2023. You can expect low numbers of mature bucks in 2027-28 as well.
 

Matt5266

WKR
Joined
Sep 19, 2021
Messages
387
Location
SW Idaho
Insg
Winter survival is measured on the basis of large regional deer populations. If you zoom in on specific drainages the results may vary. After a bad winter you could luck into a drainage that is full of deer while another hunter a few miles away sees almost nothing, and everything is possible in between.

In general, I would say that the lack of bucks in 2023 has more to do with previous years of poor fawn recruitment than it has to do with last years winter. There were heavy fawn losses in 2017 and 2019, those would have been the 4-6 year old bucks in 2023. You can expect low numbers of mature bucks in 2027-28 as well.
I agree, I have seen this as well in idaho. Seems like lately when I see deer I see alot. I can go over several ridges and not see a single deer. They seem less spread out as I remember years past.
 
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