Idaho deer and elk hunters saw better success in 2020. Despite increases in people enjoying the outdoors due to the pandemic, success rates in Idaho climbed as much as 20% in certain units. On average, statewide harvest success was up by 11% compared to 2019.
2020 was also historic for whitetail deer harvest. More whitetails were taken in 2020 than mule deer. That is a feat that has only happened a few other times in the state’s history. Whitetail hunters saw a jump of 5% success this last hunting season, taking it from 38% to 43.5%.
Elk hunting success in the state has seen a steady increase over the last few years. Currently, elk harvests are up 12% over the 10-year average. This success led Deer/Elk Program Coordinator Rick Ward to claim that Idaho is experiencing its “Second Golden Age of Elk Hunting.” The 2020 elk season ranked as the 6th highest success rate ever. Likewise, 2020’s success rate ranked at the 2nd best success in the last decade. Only one nine-year-period ranks better for elk harvest success than the last 10 years. Those 9 years ran from 1988-1997, during that time Idaho saw its best elk hunting success ever dating back as far as 1935.
Mule deer have had a rough go of it lately in Idaho. Droughts and tough winters in the past had hurt the total population of deer in the state. Mule deer harvest saw very low percentages in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 hunters on average enjoyed better success across the state. However, due to the low success rates prior to 2020 the 10-year average for mule deer harvest success is still down 11%. While certain units saw increases of over 15% many stayed the same or only saw small increases.