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Idaho Fish and Game

State of Deer and Elk: Learn how season setting is done and how hunter input is used


With the big game public comment period open until Feb. 22, hunters can provide useful feedback to help Fish and Game wildlife managers make better decisions

Every hunter knows there’s a lot of work and preparation, both physical and mental, that goes into a big game hunt. Long before the prehunt work begins, the 2023-24 season-setting process is underway, a valuable time for hunters and Fish and Game wildlife managers to shape the upcoming big game seasons.  

Fish and Game’s season setting is when wildlife managers distill down an incredible amount of scientific data and infuse it with comments and suggestions from hunters before presenting a final proposal to the Fish and Game Commission in March.  

In the fifth installment of Fish and Game’s State of Deer and Elk, State Wildlife Manager Rick Ward discusses how season setting works, and why thoughtful input from hunters is an important step in the process. See the 2023-24 season proposals and comment here

Hunters’ collective role in the season setting process cannot be overstated. Real “boots on the ground” testimony pertaining to a particular region or hunting unit provides valuable information that Fish and Game wildlife managers can use when drafting hunting seasons. Understanding how the process works also gives hunters a better idea of the role they play in the process.  

Learn more about Fish and Game's State of Deer of Elk in the video series below:

Welcome to The State of Deer and Elk

The State of Deer and Elk gives Idaho hunters and others an opportunity to see how Idaho Fish and Game biologists gather data about these important and iconic animals and use that information to manage healthy, sustainable populations that provide excellent hunting opportunity. 


Movements & Migrations

Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Research Manager Shane Roberts shows how Fish and Game uses GPS collars to better understand deer and elk movements and migrations, and how biologists use that data to determine which herds make up a local population. 


Surveying herds

When we think of counting deer and elk, the first thing that comes to mind is biologists flying in helicopters and getting a bird’s-eye view of deer and elk herds when animals are concentrated on winter range. Many hunters assume surveys happen every year in each of Fish and Game’s 99 game management units, which unfortunately is impossible.

When hunters submit their mandatory hunter reports, wildlife managers can see what may be happening in between aerial surveys. 


Survival and mortality

Idaho Fish and Game biologists have spent decades counting and monitoring deer and elk populations, and in recent years, GPS collars have allowed them to pinpoint where and how animals die. It’s a critical part of understanding all facets of wildlife management, and a common question is often, “What kills the most deer and elk?”