Elk Network2022 Idaho Hunting Season: Elk Harvest Up, Deer Down

General | April 10, 2023

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

While it was another good year for elk hunter harvest, both mule deer and white-tailed deer saw drops in overall harvest and remained below the 10-year average.

Overall, big game harvests tend to fluctuate slightly from year to year due to numerous factors, including weather the prior winter and during hunting season, number of hunters, number of tags available (particularly antlerless tags), season changes and other things.

2022 was the second year that nonresident tags were limited in all elk zones and deer units. Prior to 2021, certain elk zones were capped to nonresidents, while some remained open, and nonresident deer hunters could hunt statewide.

Harvest highs & lows

For the ninth consecutive year, Idaho elk harvests came in over 20,000. Elk hunters took home 20,952 total elk in 2022, roughly a 3% boost in animals harvested compared to 2021. Roughly 88,551 elk hunters — just 1% fewer than 2021 — took to the mountains in 2022 in search of elk, with 23% of those individuals successfully harvesting an elk, which is consistent with the last four years.

A total of 79,516 mule deer hunters headed out in 2022, with 23,588 of those successfully packing out a mule deer, accounting for a 29% success rate. Last year’s nearly 9.5% decrease in total mule deer harvest is the sixth consecutive year below the 10-year average, and perhaps the biggest takeaway of 2022 was 2,498 fewer mule deer harvested by roughly the same number of hunters.

As for white-tailed deer, an estimated 47,286 white-tailed deer hunters harvested 19,182 whitetails in 2022 — still on par with a 38% percent success rate. The success of white-tail hunters has been largely on track for the 10-year average, and Fish and Game wildlife managers believe that the white-tailed deer populations are beginning to rebound after an Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak that rocked the Clearwater Region in 2020.


By the numbers

  • Total elk harvest in 2022: 20,952
  • 2021 harvest total: 20,396
  • Overall hunter success rate: 23%
  • Antlered: 11,084
  • Antlerless: 9,868
  • Taken during general hunts: 12,988 (18% success rate)
  • Taken during controlled hunts: 7,964 (43% success rate)

How it stacks up

There were about the same number of nonresidents hunting elk in both 2022 and 2021, but overall, the class of ’22 nonresident hunters were 26% successful at taking an elk back to their home state.

Although hunters harvested slightly more elk, 2022 shows to be in line with the 10-year average (21,257). Antlered elk dropped only slightly, from 11,142 in 2021 to 11,084 last year. Antlerless elk saw a slight increase (roughly 7%) in harvest numbers, from 2021 to 2022.

Overall, the numbers for Idaho elk are once again looking steady and impressive. Last year marked the ninth year in a row where elk harvest numbers eclipsed the 20,000 mark, tying the historic nine-year period of 20,000-plus elk harvested that began in 1988 and ran into the mid-1990’s. Only time will tell if 2023 will be the year that breaks the record.

Mule deer

By the numbers

  • Total mule deer in 2022: 23,588
  • 2021 harvest total: 26,086
  • Overall hunter success rate: 29%
  • Antlered: 19,596
  • Antlerless: 3,991
  • Taken during general hunts: 17,395 (26% success rate)
  • Taken during controlled hunts: 6,243 (51% success rate)

How it stacks up

The biggest headline in the 2022 hunter harvest report: Hunters harvested 2,498 less mule deer in 2022 than in 2021, a decrease of 9%. Mule deer harvest numbers across the state were about 17% below the 10-year average (28,320).

An estimated 79,516 hunters set out for mule deer during the 2022 season — a 2% increase from 2021. However, roughly 29% of those hunters went home with a mule deer, which is also a little lower than years past.

Heading in to the 2022 hunting season, Fish and Game wildlife managers were optimistic about mule deer herds and forecasted another banner mule deer harvest. The numbers indicate that both mule deer hunters and overall mule deer harvest was down.

The winter of 2021-22 was another mild one, which saw a 70% survival rate of radio-collared fawns after May 2022. Mule deer herds have continued to rebound after a tough winter in 2016-17, which resulted in a 30% harvest decline.

Fish and Game wildlife managers believe last year’s dry weather conditions may have been a key driver in the 2022 mule deer harvest.

“Little to no rain during the summer and fall can have a noticeable impact on both mule deer and mule deer hunters,” said Fish and Game Deer and Elk Coordinator Toby Boudreau. “It’s harder to walk through the woods when every step sounds like corn flakes, and it can redistribute mule deer in areas they don’t normally go.”

White-tailed deer

By the numbers

  • Total white-tailed deer in 2022: 19,182
  • 2021 harvest total: 21,418
  • Overall hunter success rate: 38%
  • Antlered: 12,928
  • Antlerless: 6,254
  • Taken during general hunts: 17,790 (40% success rate)
  • Taken during controlled hunts: 1,391 (46% success rate)

How it stacks up

An estimated 47,286 hunters harvested a total of 19,182 white-tailed deer last year — an 11% drop from 2021. A combined 38% of hunters notched their white-tailed deer tags in 2022.

Although down slightly from 2021 (39.5% success rate), the percentage of successful hunters is still in line with most years in the last 10 years.

Like elk and mule deer, white-tailed deer have still shown impressive numbers above the 20,000 mark (as shown in the chart above), still averaging 24,648 harvested in the past 10 years. And a lot of those bucks aren’t small, either.

Antlered white-tailed deer outnumbered antlerless by nearly double for yet another year in 2022. Of those 12,928 antlered deer harvested, an estimated 2,604 came in at five points or higher. Needless to say, Idaho grows some pretty massive whitetail bucks.

Overall, Idaho’s white-tailed deer population outside the Clearwater Region is looking good. Fish and Game wildlife staff will continue to monitor the EHD and CWD situation among deer and elk populations during the summer and fall, as well as evaluate fawn survival rates upon the conclusion of this winter.

Please be mindful that even as April and early May come and the snow melts and hills begin to green that deer are still energetically stressed from previous winter conditions and its effect on their bodies. Deer go into the winter with their groceries on their back in the form of fat — the less they are stressed and pushed around on the winter ranges, even during early spring, is an important factor in their survival and the health of their future offspring.

(Graphic image: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)