Photo Credit: Mike Eastman
Mule deer, such a unique creature, somewhat common, as they can be found all over the western United States, yet highly revered and sought after by many. Whether you see them in your backyard with regularity, or have rarely caught a glimpse of one over the years. There is a strong chance the pursuit of these amazing animals is high atop your adventure list. Application deadlines are just around the corner and Idaho still offers solid limited entry deer hunts. No, it’s not the power packed hunt it once was, but when compared to many other western states there are still quite a few areas worth a closer look. For more detailed draw data and research be sure to check out our MRS sections in the Eastmans’ Hunting and Bowhunting Journals or by subscribing to our newest research tool; TAGHUB. Either of these sources will expand your research and application strategies and are worth the investment if you are serious about applications and hunting limited draws in the West. Good luck, be sure you let us know how you do!
Unit 40 Early velvet hunt opportunity! Solid stats, harvest odds are status quo for archery, running at 23% over the past 3 years. 50% of the bucks are 4 point or better, good public land numbers. Not an easy hunt, but has potential for the muley enthusiast willing to get after it.
Unit 44 Early velvet hunting dates, reasonable tag allocations, moderate public land and very solid harvest data make this an excellent choice. Foothills to peaks there is something for everyone.
Unit 45 Coming in at a whopping 90 points on our scoring system, this unit is definitely a chart topper. Everything unit 44 has but with less pressure, however, as to be expected, fewer tags and harder draw odds. Worthy of a closer look, but a tough nut to crack for NR applicants with tag allocations being so low.
Unit 30A High country rut hunt with 88% public land! Sign me up! Harvest odds are low due to the extreme nature of this hunt, but those willing to get after it will likely find themselves standing over a mature buck. Low permit allocations make this another tough one for NR hunters, nonetheless, this is a unit worth a closer look.
Unit 45 Excellent data as mentioned in the archery section, however, for muzzleloader we see much better NR tag allocations. Early October dates will make for a tougher time finding bucks, however, they are yet to be pushed too hard by this season and therefore have great potential for getting in close with a smoke pole.
Unit 21A Small unit, BIG country! This area lies just north of Salmon, ID. History tells a story of big bucks and even bigger country. However, over the years the hunting isn’t what it once was. Excellent hunt dates, low tag allocations, yet reasonable draw odds. If you are after extreme muzzleloading for the grey ghost, this is an excellent starting point. 100% 4 point or better and excellent harvest stats.
Unit 52 Late, yet another option, newer to the hunt list, we only have data going back a couple years, but the past two years are showing it as a strong contender. Season dates run Nov 1st-November 14th which are solid rut dates most years. 68% public land offers a place to get back and away from the roads. Draw odds are tough as there are only 23 tags.
Any Weapon Hunts
Unit 28 This hunt is located just west of Salmon, ID. And is 97% public land. Big country, ranking 5 out of 5 for terrain difficulty! Mostly composed of steep mountains and thick cover making for difficult spotting. There are quite a few roads throughout this unit. Therefore, a good look at a forest service map would help to see what roads are open or closed for more accurate planning. Either way this hunt takes place during the prime time for mule deer. Early October when bucks are relaxed and fattening up, or late November. Hard to go wrong with these season dates. Harvest odds are very high and consistent.
36A & 36B Front country to backcountry! Due to the limited tags these areas may not be a first choice for the NR, but they are top notch otherwise. Very high public land percentage, perfect harvest stats and nearly all the bucks harvested are 4 points or better. The terrain is rugged but not as aggressive as unit 28. Open foothill country to giant alpine peaks, there is truly something for everyone within these units.
Unit 40 Hunters have their work cut out for them on this hunt. Draw odds are tough, public land percentage and access are excellent. Hunter density is okay, then again, there are over 170 permits given out and this is a rut hunt! A person with some extra get-up-and-go will likely find themselves successful. This hunt is also at the top of the archery list. The Owyhee Mountains and Wilderness areas are more than meets the eye, offering a rugged backcountry experience for those raring to get after it.
Unit 55 (early) Early is the key word here, with season starting in mid-August, this is a truly unique any-weapon hunt choice. Rifle hunting muleys in the velvet is not something just anyone can say they have done. Draw odds are par for the course, harvest success is holding steady and percentage of bucks harvested 4 points or better is about as good as it gets. Trophy quality is also top notch, 160-180 class deer are achievable.