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Deer Hunting Success Up

Even with less than ideal hunting conditions, mule deer hunters across most of southern Idaho found more deer on the hunting opener. Hunters generally prefer cooler, wetter weather for pursuing big game than they saw the first few days of the season this fall. Deer are supremely well-equipped to hear humans tramping through dry vegetation. Even so, hunters reporting to Fish and Game check station workers checked in more deer and said they had seen more deer than they had since the early 1990s. Higher hunter success was particularly noticeable in the Salmon Region where deer hunters have struggled for most of the last decade while deer populations were recovering in other regions. Hunter success, as seen at the Carmen check station, was nearly double the highest year of the 1990s. The success rate was 29.5 percent on October 7-8, compared to 14.7 percent last year and 15.4 percent in 1998. Success dropped as low as 5.1 percent in 1997. Carmen check station workers counted 156 hunters with 46 bucks and two does. This is nine percent more hunters that last year and 85 percent more animals. Hunters reported seeing more deer, at least partly as a result of drought conditions that make deer more active and visible. Bucks two years old and older made up 61 percent of the take, a high percentage that may reflect a relative shortfall in yearling bucks. In the Upper Snake Region, both deer hunter numbers and success picked up considerably from last year. The number of hunters grew by 20 percent to 986 checked at four check stations while the count of deer went up 109 percent to 163. The percentage of bucks with at least a 20-inch antler spread went from eight to 14 percent. Hunters reported seeing "lots" of deer, probably at least partly because of dry conditions. In the Southeast Region, the number of hunters passing through the check station dropped seven percent from last year to 527 but, again, deer numbers were better by 56 percent (57 in 1999 and 89 this year) while hunter success went from 10 to 17 percent. The percentage of 20-inch bucks rose from 13 percent last year to 15 percent. Hunters in the southeast commented that weather conditions were "too nice to hunt" but they reported seeing good numbers of deer. In the Magic Valley, deer hunter numbers grew substantially from last year with 2,601 checked (1,828 last year), up 42 percent. Deer counted through the four stations, however, showed a 71 percent increase, from 415 last year to 709. Hunter success was calculated at 27.3 percent, the highest rate since 1992. Success in general buck hunts in Units 43, 48, and 49 went from 16.4 percent to 21.6 percent. In the Southwest Region, check stations at Mores Creek and at Marsing and Walters Ferry were operated for fewer days because of the opener falling midweek this year. For that reason, fewer hunters and animals were checked through. Check station workers said most hunters seemed pleased with their hunts. Hunters also commented favorably on the youth deer hunts. Success was down, however, from 14 percent to 12 percent at Mores Creek and from 21 percent to 16 percent at Marsing and Walters Ferry. At the Hornet Creek check station, hunter trips were down by 25 percent from last year but success went from 15 percent to 18 percent. The percentage of four-point bucks was off from 26 percent to 18 percent. That station did count an increase of 29 percent in the number of elk checked. The new check station at Midvale Hill saw a hunter success rate of 28 percent among 12,856 hunters.