Northwest Deer Enter the Post-Rut Phase

Image by Tom Tietz

Harvest reports are trickling in, but there’s still no clear picture of the season

Although there are scattered late-season opportunities across the Northwest, most hunters are settling into post-season routines, and deer seem to be heading toward post-rut habits.

In Montana, mule deer are beginning to form larger herds that include does and multiple bucks. You can still witness the occasional lip curl or chasing, but most of the focus seems to be on feeding more than breeding. Most whitetails are also in this post-rut phase. Daylight activity has dwindled, and many bigger bucks have vanished.

Northwestern states vary on reporting requirements, so there’s still no clear picture of the season. Hunters in Wyoming might have already received a harvest survey via email or through the U.S. Postal Service. Successful and unsuccessful Idaho hunters are required to report, but they have several weeks before the reports are due. Montana wildlife officials will begin collecting harvest data via telephone in the coming months.

Montana officials already have some data thanks to wildlife check stations across the state. In northwestern Montana, during the second-to-last weekend of the season, elk harvest was up, but deer harvest was down — for whitetails and mule deer. However, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials expected those numbers to increase because, at that time, hunters still had the final week of the season while the rut was in full swing.

In west-central Montana, check stations reported more success than in 2021 during the fourth week of Montana’s five-week general season. That was despite hunter traffic slowing down at check stations because of bitterly cold weather. Interestingly, Montana’s Augusta check station reported the fewest hunters passed through the station in 30 years and the second-lowest harvest of animals in the past 40 years. That counters the trend for the rest of the region, where officials say cold and snowy weather helped hunters post bigger harvests than in 2021.

Although more complete surveys across the Northwest will reveal better harvest statistics in the coming months, hunters are already looking ahead to the 2023 season. If you were one of the thousands of nonresident hunters hoping to take a shot at hunting deer in Idaho, buying a tag might have been more difficult than getting a shot at a deer. Idaho Fish and Game opened tag sales to nonresidents Dec. 1. The agency experienced record demand. About 67,000 hunters tried to buy tags, which caused huge delays, system shutdowns and extremely frustrated hunters. Idaho Fish and Game later apologized for the fiasco, but for the thousands of nonresident hunters who won’t get a shot at Idaho next year, it doesn’t sting any less.

(Don't Miss: Serious Sleeper States with Big Whitetails)

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Rubbing

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Scraping

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Fighting

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Seeking

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Chasing

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Breeding

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