See how each state in the Northwestern region is shaping up for deer season
The 2023 deer season is here, and with it comes our annual Northwest deer season forecast. Although the grading is largely the same, two states fell a letter grade. Find out which ones by checking out the full reports for each destination.
Deer season is kicking off in the Northwest. Image by John Hafner
Perhaps the crowned jewel of the Northwest, Idaho is an excellent state for deer — specifically whitetails. The northern stretch of the state just might offer the best whitetail hunting in the region.
Even better, Idaho is 70% public ground, which makes it appealing to DIY hunters. Plus, a lower hunter density makes for better odds. The trophy potential isn’t bad, either.
Famous for places such as the Milk River, Montana is a bowhunter’s dream. Although it doesn’t produce a lot of Boone and Crockett bucks, it cranks out the Pope and Young-class deer. Because of that, Big Sky Country gets a good grade again in 2023.
Further, although the private land hunts are phenomenal, the public land hunts aren’t bad, either. Those who work hard and scout aplenty can find a good place to go. Study trophy records and harvest data to locate the best spots.
Once a phenomenal and overlooked destination, Oregon is now closed for business. Sure, you might draw a tag, but the odds aren’t great. Further, it only has a handful of whitetails along the eastern third of the state. The state wildlife agency isn’t even exactly sure how many there are.
“We do not have population estimates for white-tailed deer,” said Justin Dion, assistant wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “However, we know that populations of white-tailed deer in Umatilla County are still low due to AHD outbreaks. Black-tailed deer populations appear to be stable. Mule deer populations have been on a steady decline for several years in Oregon and in the Western United States as a whole.”
The eastern third of Washington offers a great deer hunting experience. About 105,000 whitetails call it home, and hunters who get tags and find a place to hunt might walk away with a great buck and awesome memory. In summary, deer season shows promise for 2023. That said, it doesn’t come without negatives.
“Several management zones have experienced declining harvest trends in the last few years,” said Kyle Garrison, ungulate specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, presumably because of environmental conditions such as winter conditions or drought. “WDFW has responded to these trends by reducing antlerless special permit opportunities in some zones to encourage population recovery. Overall, WDFW anticipates similar overall harvest levels of deer throughout the state, but environmental conditions (that is, continued drought) may negatively impact populations and concomitant harvest trends.”
Wyoming offers decent deer hunting, especially compared to some of the other Western states. That said, there are only about 50,000 whitetails here, and even some of those died during the historic winter kill of 2022-23.
“After a severe winter, in some parts of the state, hunters will observe a significant reduction in the number of deer,” said, Grant Frost, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “Licenses have been reduced accordingly. Numbers are down, and conditions will be tougher this year.”
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