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Author Topic: 2017 Winter Kill  (Read 21847 times)

Offline Mr Mykiss

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2017, 11:53:14 AM »

Offline Griiz

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2017, 01:18:01 PM »
I harvested an older mature mule deer in mid-Nov. in Washington and he had zero fat and looked unhealthy. I think it was a combination of age and the rut. I would be surprised if he would have made it through the winter. Hopefully we get an early snow melt, but I have a feeling this winter is going to be hard on our deer herds.

Offline Mr Mykiss

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2017, 02:02:49 PM »
Here we go...animation of snow depth daily through the season: https://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/js_animate.html?nsteps=92&year=2017&month=1&day=1&type=nsm_depth&region=National&ts=24&large=1
If only we could zoom...

Offline DOUBLELUNG

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2017, 03:29:11 PM »
The answer to all questions (drum roll): It depends.

1.  Some areas can still be called mild.  In others there will be some significant fawn losses.  In a few areas where December had really frigid conditions and/or deep crusted snow, some dominant bucks probably winterkilled, unable to recover from post-rut stress.

2.  Yes, it really can affect populations, however, with the exception of post-rut dominant bucks, most increased mortality occurs in the fawn population.  Adult doe non-hunting mortality averages 15% annually, regardless of weather.  Average overwinter fawn mortality is 55%, December - May, but can vary from less than 5% to greater than 95%.  Since fawns make up anywhere from 25-50% of the post-hunt population, it is quite possible to lose 30-50% of the population in a bad winter. 

3.  Usually deer are affected more than elk.  In some areas, where high densities of elk are maintained year-round and the herd can be forage limited, significant elk die-offs can occur - usually due to wildfire followed by a cold early winter, or following a severe summer drought.  Like deer, the elevated mortality will occur in calves.  Unlike deer, elevated bull mortality rates almost never occur post-rut, as they have a couple of months to recover body condition and as larger animals are more robust to winter-related stress than bucks.

4.  A severe winterkill, if the game agency is on the ball, is usually followed by a drastic reduction in antlerless opportunity.  It could affect where a hunter puts in for doe or cow hunting.  Since the largest component of the buck harvest is 2.5 year old bucks under normal conditions, a high fawn die-off has the greatest impact on buck hunting the second season after the winter kill.  If we have a high winterkill in GMU xyz this winter, the buck success will tank in 2018.  It wouldn't normally affect where I put in for 2017 quality opportunities, but because general and special permit deer hunting in my quality areas sucked in 2016 - I have already decided to not put in for those usual areas. 

On another note, one of my most reliable indicators for local winterkill rates is how early in the winter I see bald eagles leaving the open water and coots of the Columbia to cruise the sagebrush foothills.  In really bad years it starts in early December; in mild years they stick to the river until early March.  This winter along the Columbia in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties, bald eagles started hitting the winter range in early January.  My eagle ball tells me the bucks didn't take a hit post-rut, but that fawns started tipping over a couple weeks ago, representing average to above average winter kill.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 03:39:45 PM by DOUBLELUNG »
As long as we have the habitat, we can argue forever about who gets to kill what and when.  No habitat = no game.

Offline packmule

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2017, 06:11:10 PM »
The answer to all questions (drum roll): It depends.

1.  Some areas can still be called mild.  In others there will be some significant fawn losses.  In a few areas where December had really frigid conditions and/or deep crusted snow, some dominant bucks probably winterkilled, unable to recover from post-rut stress.

2.  Yes, it really can affect populations, however, with the exception of post-rut dominant bucks, most increased mortality occurs in the fawn population.  Adult doe non-hunting mortality averages 15% annually, regardless of weather.  Average overwinter fawn mortality is 55%, December - May, but can vary from less than 5% to greater than 95%.  Since fawns make up anywhere from 25-50% of the post-hunt population, it is quite possible to lose 30-50% of the population in a bad winter. 

3.  Usually deer are affected more than elk.  In some areas, where high densities of elk are maintained year-round and the herd can be forage limited, significant elk die-offs can occur - usually due to wildfire followed by a cold early winter, or following a severe summer drought.  Like deer, the elevated mortality will occur in calves.  Unlike deer, elevated bull mortality rates almost never occur post-rut, as they have a couple of months to recover body condition and as larger animals are more robust to winter-related stress than bucks.

4.  A severe winterkill, if the game agency is on the ball, is usually followed by a drastic reduction in antlerless opportunity.  It could affect where a hunter puts in for doe or cow hunting.  Since the largest component of the buck harvest is 2.5 year old bucks under normal conditions, a high fawn die-off has the greatest impact on buck hunting the second season after the winter kill.  If we have a high winterkill in GMU xyz this winter, the buck success will tank in 2018.  It wouldn't normally affect where I put in for 2017 quality opportunities, but because general and special permit deer hunting in my quality areas sucked in 2016 - I have already decided to not put in for those usual areas. 

On another note, one of my most reliable indicators for local winterkill rates is how early in the winter I see bald eagles leaving the open water and coots of the Columbia to cruise the sagebrush foothills.  In really bad years it starts in early December; in mild years they stick to the river until early March.  This winter along the Columbia in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties, bald eagles started hitting the winter range in early January.  My eagle ball tells me the bucks didn't take a hit post-rut, but that fawns started tipping over a couple weeks ago, representing average to above average winter kill.

Great summary Beau, thanks for the good information!

Offline crabcreekhunter

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2017, 01:18:42 AM »
Doublelung, been watching the deer around us here and most seem pretty healthy, glassed a few winterkills up when the cold hit.  Just came through town at 1 am and seems like alot more deer in the yards this week now.  I think last years winter was worse in our area.  Looks like warmer temps mid next week.
"Courage is simply fear that has said its prayers"

Offline Mr Mykiss

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2017, 06:41:52 AM »
Thanks DL!!
You dropped some good knowledge on us there!! I've never freaked out over winter kill, much less thought about it. Apparently you have, thanks.
It begs the question...what is a 2.5 year old deer?
Answer: It depends. :)

Mr Lung please continue to stay on board this thread as conditions change!!

Offline theleo

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2017, 09:58:31 AM »
Just when Idaho was getting good Im afraid two steps back.  Arghhhh
:yeah:
What few animals that remained that the wolves hadn't killed are now dead from the snow. Idaho is a complete loss now. :'(

Offline 2MANY

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2017, 10:24:48 AM »
Oh my.

Offline muzzlebuck

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2017, 11:26:15 AM »
Here is another good weather resource, you can graph the weather data from specific areas.


http://weather.wsu.edu/

Offline meatwhack

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2017, 06:55:44 PM »
I think this winter has the potential to be bad as it's been quite a bit colder in many areas than the last several years. Most areas went into the first part of winter though with unseasonably warm conditions with great feed so I feel like things will be alright unless the current conditions persist into march then I think we might be in trouble. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this winter plays out.

Offline Mr Mykiss

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #26 on: January 12, 2017, 07:54:13 PM »
:yeah:
What few animals that remained that the wolves hadn't killed are now dead from the snow. Idaho is a complete loss now. :'(
I could not agree more. In fact THE LAST THING a guy would want to do this coming year would be to put in for the draw tags in Idaho!!

Offline bobcat

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2017, 10:27:09 PM »

Offline bobcat

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Offline DOUBLELUNG

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Re: 2017 Winter Kill
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2017, 03:09:00 PM »
Doublelung, been watching the deer around us here and most seem pretty healthy, glassed a few winterkills up when the cold hit.  Just came through town at 1 am and seems like alot more deer in the yards this week now.  I think last years winter was worse in our area.  Looks like warmer temps mid next week.
I've seen some rough-looking fawns, but also some good-looking fawns and most of the adults look good too.  I've been watching that forecast, would really like to see things open up and warm up.  On the bright side, the extended cold has minimized crusting, and snow depths aren't limiting deer to the crucial winter ranges (<2,500' approximately) - there are still deer up to 4,000' at least in some areas.  East of the Columbia, the wind has been keeping wheat and other crops accessible.  I definitely agree last winter was tougher in a lot of north-central Washington.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 03:20:12 PM by DOUBLELUNG »
As long as we have the habitat, we can argue forever about who gets to kill what and when.  No habitat = no game.

 

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