By Robert Lucke
There are plenty of mule deer in this part of Montana, according to Al Rosgaard, wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
"Generally mule deer numbers are up across this area," disclosed Rosgaard. "That area includes the Bear Paw Mountains, the breaks south of the Bear Paw Mountains and north Blaine County. That is where I have the trend area."
Not only that, but numbers are up in a big way.
"Adding all the numbers together, it looks like an average of 25 percent increase," added Rosgaard.
In this part of Montana, those increases can be attributed in part at least to winter conditions of the last two years.
"Mostly the numbers are up due to good fawn production the last couple of years and good survival factors for at least two years. Recruitment into the adult population is good now," said Rosgaard.
New fawns should be seen this year in early June and there again Rosgaard thinks because of the mild winter, there should be a good production of fawns.
Good fawn populations lead to good deer numbers in general for it is the fawns that are most vulnerable to adverse conditions.
"There are lots of factors from the time fawns are born until they are one year old," continued Rosgaard. "Predators, weather related things when they are really young and typically when up to a half year old they are the ones that go first in tough weather conditions. When they reach the yearling stage, most of these factors go away other than the hunter harvest."
Of all the dangers for young deer, the weather factor is the biggest. It influences vegetation, for instance. Last year was wet enough to be a good nutritional diet and fawns went into the winter in good condition and that was better for them, Rosgaard suggested.
Even though in this area, mule deer numbers have been stable lately. Over Montana in general the numbers have been down. That should be changing, Rosgaard thinks.
"I would guess the trend is upward (statewide) unless we have a terrible drought year and vegetation doesn't grow, we should be in a great shape," said Rosgaard. "In some areas we are considering making some adjustments to our hunting season - to allow for some antlerless harvest."
Even though Rosgaard has not counted white tail deer, he thinks they are level or better.
"We do some white tail trend counts on the Milk River east of here and are seeing high population levels and stable," said Rosgaard.
Want to take the family for a good view of white tail or mule deer? Rosgaard has some suggestions of when and where.
"I am seeing groups of mule deer and white tail in Beaver Creek Park," said Rosgaard. "The time of day is important. You need to be there right at daylight to an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. There are several groups of mule deer before Beaver Creek Park and two different groups of mule deer between the two lakes. You can see white tail there too."
And, added Rosgaard, for good white tail viewing the Milk River Valley is great between Havre and Harlem, but remember the time of day is important.