Always looking to that next hill: Field roundup for the Western hunting season

8342802 - rifle hunter in sunsetThroughout much of the American West, backcountry visitors can make out the twang of a bowstring and the crack of a rifle — hunting season is well upon us!

As with many years, this season appears to have its ups and downs, both in terms of geographical distribution and in species numbers. And, as usual, weather patterns and natural phenomena such as wildfires have varying effects on game. All in all, it looks like a very solid year to be out in the field, though it appears parts of the West have seen some similar trends. That includes a harsh season last winter that cut down fawn survival rates in many places. Drought conditions in much of the region have also impacted deer, elk, waterfowl and other game, though that seems a little more variable.

In Utah, the Division of Wildlife Resources is reporting that the northern reaches of the state were impacted by a “severe” winter that killed off a number of would-be yearling bucks. That said, DWR big game coordinator Justin Shannon said at the start of October that the rest of the state is looking good. The Salt Lake Tribune took that assessment even further to predict that “an excellent hunt” is in the cards for Utah deer hunters.

To the northwest, Washington numbers of deer and elk appear to be in mostly fair shape, though select populations have also struggled with a severe winter that has led to subsequent reductions in herd sizes. That said, state wildlife monitors say waterfowl hunting might make up the difference with strong populations and opportunities for hunters. Elsewhere in the region, Oregon’s season opened up with some restrictions to lands impacted by wildfire. Reports seem mixed as to just how strong deer numbers are, but there might be more consensus that elk populations are looking good. Hunters and other users of public lands are still advised to check ahead to see if their usual stomping grounds are subject to any restrictions.

Finally, in the Big Sky country of Montana, the rugged southeast is looking pretty nice across the board. Mule deer numbers have mostly been trending upward there since 2012, whitetails are holding steady, and elk remain strong as they have across the state. With hunting season in full swing, we’re always thinking about what lies over that next hill! Got any great hunting stories or photos for us? We want to hear ‘em, so post away in the comments section below!