There was a time that Idaho was one of the top destinations for hunters looking to punch a tag on a trophy mule deer. Unfortunately, those days are behind us as the deer herd continues its struggle to bounce back from the winter of 2016/2017. Hunter success is still down in much of the state, and in 2020, it was about 11% below the 10-year average. This was due in part to IDFG decreasing its antlerless permits in their attempt to produce and sustain more breeding-age does and help mule deer herds rebound as quickly as possible. In addition to further reductions to antlerless deer hunting quotas for 2021, Idaho has also removed statewide mountain lion harvest quotas for the 2021-22 big game season. In an effort to significantly expand the mountain lion hunt starting this summer, the hope is that this will increase lion harvest and reduce predation on deer and elk.
For the second consecutive year, the 2020-21 winter was relatively mild, and from a statewide perspective, winter survival is shaping up to be above average. Of collared mule deer fawns, 83% were still alive through the end of February, compared to 84% at the same point the previous year. These numbers are well above long-term averages and bode well for Idaho’s mule deer hunting in the upcoming seasons.
Idaho has the genetics to produce great mule deer, but like its elk hunting, the state is managed more for hunter opportunity than it is top end potential. If you are looking for an opportunity to take a 185" or better buck, you will want to focus on the controlled hunts in the central and western areas of the state. Units 36B, 40, 44, 45, and 52 turn out a few great bucks every year, and the populations in those areas are doing better than in other parts of the state. While those units are typically the best hunts in the state, most of the other late rifle hunts in November will produce 180" class bucks, but you will have to put some time in to turn one up.
Idaho offers opportunities to hunt whitetail deer as well. The whitetail population is doing a little better than its mule deer, and statewide, whitetail success rates in 2020 were about even with its 10-year average. Idaho’s highest whitetail densities are found in the Panhandle region. Most of the general seasons in the northern Panhandle close December 1st, allowing hunters the opportunity to hunt during the peak of the rut, which can make for a fun hunt. As you move south in Idaho, the whitetail densities become much lower, although the quality of bucks is still good.
Idaho is a great state to hunt deer, and with so much diverse country, you can always find a place that fits your hunting style. Most of the hunts we have listed have less than 10% draw odds, but with Idaho not having a point system, you have as good of odds as anyone else. Remember, if you were able to purchase an over-the-counter deer tag for the 2021 season, you may exchange your tag for a controlled hunt if you are lucky enough to be drawn. Take a look at the deer tables, and if you have any questions, give us a call. Good luck in the draw!
For all of the specific dates and units please consult the Idaho regulations brochure.
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The Idaho, elk, deer, and antelope application deadline is June 5, 2021. Successful applicants must purchase their tags by August 1, 2021.
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|Annual Hunting License and Access Fee||$195|
|Junior Mentored Hunting License and Access Fee||$95.75|
|Application Fee per Species||$18|
|Junior Mentored Deer Tag (10-17 years old)||$176.75|
|Wolf Tag (up to 15)||$31.75|
Idaho Deer Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine