Elk NetworkIdaho Elk Harvest Up in 2020

General | March 9, 2021

Below is part of a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Idaho elk and deer hunters had increased harvests in 2020, and elk hunting continues to steam toward all-time highs for consecutive years of harvest above 20,000 animals. White-tailed deer harvest was also historic by topping the mule deer harvest — something that has happened just a few times in Idaho’s history.

The 2020 Idaho elk and deer harvests were up about 10 percent and 11 percent from 2019. After hunter numbers dipped between 2018 and 2019, hunter numbers also bounced back by about 4 percent for deer hunters and nearly 6 percent for elk hunters.

Total elk harvest was up about 12 percent from the 10-year average, whitetail harvest was about even with its 10-year average, and mule deer harvest was down about 11 percent.

Success rates in 2020 were steady for mule deer and elk hunters compared with 2019, while the success rate for whitetail hunters jumped more than 5 percent from 38 to 43.5 percent.

At a glance

  • Total elk harvest: 22,776
  • Overall hunter success rate: 23 percent
  • Antlered: 11,897
  • Antlerless: 10,879
  • Taken during general hunts: 15,045 (19 percent success rate)
  • Taken during controlled hunts: 7,731 (42 percent success rate)

How it stacks up

Prior to the 2020 hunting season, Fish and Game’s Deer/Elk Program Coordinator Rick Ward said the recent spate of excellent harvests — which he dubbed the second Golden Age of Idaho elk hunting — was likely to continue. Well, it’s safe to say that it did. The 2020 elk harvest in Idaho was sixth-highest of all time, and second-highest in the past decade.

The 2020 elk season marked the seventh straight year that Idaho hunters harvested more than 20,000 animals, and the current stretch of stellar elk harvests is inching closer to claiming the title of “best of all time.”

Dating back to 1935, only one nine-year period ranks higher, which started in 1988 – the first year that Idaho hunters had ever harvested more than 20,000 elk – and ran through the mid-1990s.

Harvest in 2020 increased over 2019 by 2,244 total elk, or about 11 percent, and was also about 12 percent higher than the 10-year average of 20,290. An uptick in antlerless harvest of 1,783 animals accounted for most of that increase between 2019 and 2020, but bull harvest also increased by 478 animals between the two years.

“A major contributing factor was that we saw hunter success increase for antlerless elk in southern Idaho, where elk numbers are above population objectives,” Ward said. “This is in line with our management goals for those areas. We actually increased antlerless opportunity in a number of hunts in southern Idaho in 2019, but it appears that it took elk hunters in those areas a year to get their bearings, which is where we see these increased success rates for cows in 2020.”

Go here to view detailed information about Idaho’s 2021 deer harvest.

(Photo & graphic source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)