Yet another application season is upon us. They sure seem to come around faster by the year. This is always an exciting time for those of us throwing our names in the hat for big game hunt applications each year. Over the next few months, draw results for some of the western states will be posting once or twice a week. Lucky applicants with tags in their pockets in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada will be hunting a banner year for antler growth. With the type of spring green up expected in these southwestern high desert states, bucks and bulls hitting their prime may stack up another 10%-15% of antler growth than they would on a dry year, and we should be seeing some absolute giants hitting the dirt this fall.
That being said, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and after three straight years of drought, we’ve gotten too much winter precipitation in areas in Western and Southcentral Wyoming, Northwestern Colorado, Northern Utah, Northern Nevada, and Southeastern Idaho. As I write this in early April, we are already seeing above average winterkill in many of these areas. With April and early May being the months that account for most winterkill mortality, the stage has been set for the possibility of historic winterkill numbers. Mortality rates in some areas are expected to be around 70% and possibly 100% on fawns. Disappointment may be on the horizon for applicants who aren’t paying attention.
I’m not saying that the sky is falling because winterkill events have always been part of Mother Nature’s way of keeping disease and overpopulation in check. I would just suggest that you are more thorough in your research and are aware of the potential impact that this year’s winter may have on a hunt you are considering applying for. This should be especially true for deer and antelope applicants in the areas mentioned above. If you’re sitting on a higher point total, it may even make sense to push the pause button this year if an area you’ve been waiting to draw may be severely impacted. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to keep you up to speed on winterkill reports as they come out, but we won’t truly know the extent of mortality in these areas until this summer. If you have any questions about winterkill or about a hunt you are considering applying for, give us a call. As always, good luck in the upcoming draws!