Due to the file size and restrictions, we are unable to upload the pictures and charts with this file. If you are interested in a full copy of the report please e-mail Chelsea at Chelsea@bountyrealestate.com.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to the members of the Western Montana Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation for their support in helping to fund mule deer surveys in the Dry Creek Survey Unit from 2010 through 2012. We really appreciate their commitment and dedication in encouraging and supporting scientific research related to mule deer management.

Special thanks to eagle eyes Gene Foster and Ray Rugg for their help participating in the surveys. Having additional observers on board really helped improve our survey results. Also, thanks to Ray for allowing us to use his land as a staging area. And of course, thank you to our pilot Joe Rahn for getting us all home safely.

  

Gene Foster, observer during a.m. survey on 4/10/10

MFWP Pilot Joe Rahn and Ray Rugg, observer during p.m. survey on 4/10/10


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) manage mule deer populations in Hunting District (HD) 202 and throughout the rest of the State “for the long-term welfare of Montana’s deer resource, and to provide recreational opportunities that reflect the dynamic nature of deer populations” (MFWP, 2001).

HD 202 is located in the Lower Clark Fork and encompasses 724 square miles (463,041 acres) of rugged, mountainous terrain. Ninety-four percent of the hunting district is in US Forest Service (USFS), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Plum Creek Timber Company ownership/management. Although the majority of the district is heavily forested, it has an extensive network of logging roads resulting in 82% of the land area of the district within one mile of a road (MFWP, 2001)—hunter access is good within the district.

HD 202 is one of 16 statewide Mule Deer Special Management Districts. Since 1996, there have been no legal antlerless mule deer harvests, and since 1998, the area wildlife biologist has implemented restrictive harvest regulations during the 6-week special archery season and the 5-week general rifle season, with limited entry, buck-only permits and no antlerless B-tags (see Table 1). Hunting opportunity and buck harvest is limited in order to

a)  reduce the harvest of antlered bucks;

b)  to increase post season buck:doe ratios, and

c)   to meet demand for a limited number of people to harvest an older aged buck in an area with good access (MFWP, 2001).

Table 1: HD 202 hunting success with limited-entry mule deer permits (1998-2009)

Year

No. of buck
permits issued

No. of bucks
harvested

Percent
success

1998

150

23

15

1999

150

23

15

2000

150

41

27

2001

200

83

42

2002

200

29

15

2003

200

75

38

2004

200

77

39

2005

200

68

34

2006

200

50

25

2007

200

56

28

2008

200

41

21

2009

150

38

25

 

Data obtained from annual hunter harvest surveys.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

From 1998 through 2005, excluding 2001, MFWP’s wildlife biologist conducted winter classification surveys to obtain buck:doe ratios, as well as spring population trend surveys, which continued through 2006. Biologists conducted these counts in the Dry Creek Survey Unit covering Cold Creek southeast to Cedar Creek.

Thanks to the financial support of the Western Montana Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, MFWP personnel were able to re-implement spring population trend count surveys within the Dry Creek Survey Unit starting in 2010 and continuing through 2012. Below are the results from the 2010 survey.

SURVEY METHODS

To ensure consistency of data collection with the 1997 – 2006 surveys, MFWP personnel followed the MFWP Mule Deer Monitoring Guidelines. These guidelines include:

> Conducting aerial surveys in a helicopter.

> Flying in the early morning or evening to avoid mid-day bedding periods when deer use dense timber for cover.

> Trying to schedule flights during optimal weather conditions, with overcast skies producing flat, bright light and calm air.

> Recording survey conditions such as cloud cover, temperature, wind, snow depth/cover, flight time, and deer behavior. GPS all deer groups and map. For each group, record total number, number of adults, and number of fawns. Number of mule deer observed and fawns:100 does will be computed. Also, surveyors will document observations of other species, including other ungulates, coyotes, bears, mountain lions, and wolves.

2010 SURVEY DETAILS, RESULTS AND ANALYSIS

Date survey conducted: April 10, 2010

Pilot: Joe Rahn

Observers: Vickie Edwards, Gene Foster (a.m.), Ray Rugg (p.m.)

Helicopter: MFWP JetRanger

Total flight time: 7 hours

Cost for flight time: $4,025 ($575/hr)

Weather: There was low lying fog in the morning that dissipated quickly to clear skies. In the morning the temperature was ~ 38˚F and in the evening ~57˚F. Winds were calm in the morning and ~ 5 mph during the evening. In the higher elevations, there was a skiff of snow in the morning. Because of the fog, there was morning frost in the lower elevations.


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Flight Summary

Total number of mule deer counted: 309 (see Figure 1 for locations, and Figure 2 for comparison with previous years)

Fawns:100 adults = 38 (see Figure 2 for comparison with previous surveys) Total white-tailed deer counted: 379

Total number of turkeys counted: 50

Total number of black bears counted: 1

Total number of elk counted: 184 (calves:100 cows = 27, bulls:100 cows = 17)

Figure 1: Locations of all mule deer counted in Dry Creek Survey Unit on 4/10/10


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Figure 2: Total number of mule deer observed and fawn:adult ratios (1998 – 2010).

 

Figure 2 reflects the population trend over the last 10-years for mule deer in the Dry Creek Survey Unit. There was an increase in the total number of deer counted from 2006, and the fawn:adult ratios were up as well from 2006. The total number of deer counted in 2010 was higher than those counted in 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2006. The 2010 datum looks promising since we saw a sharp decline from 2004 to 2005 and 2006.

The level of fawn overwintering survivability and potential recruitment into the population (38 fawns:100 adults) is encouraging. For Northwest Montana habitat types, long-term average and recruitment greater than 30 fawns:100 adults is one indicator of a healthy, huntable (in terms of antlerless harvest, but HD 202 is managed for trophy bucks) population (MFWP, 2001). The trend data we collect over the next two years will give us a better idea if the 2010 levels truly are reflective of the current trends in the population.

LITERATURE CITED

MFWP (2001). Adaptive Harvest Management: Mule Deer Population Objectives, Hunting Regulation Strategies, Special Management Districts, Monitoring Program, Population Modeling, Deer Management Policies. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana. Pp.67.



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