Caribou Gear

Whitetail Elevation Question

Nambaster

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2018
Messages
268
I have been hunting Whitetails in central Idaho and I have heard that Whitetails are non migratory, meaning, they have a home range of about a couple miles. This has me questioning: will they only be at low elevations due to the snow levels in the winter?

Is the whole non migratory thing a hoax?

If it is true, I wouldn’t even be looking for Whitetails above 7000’ due to snow levels in the winter. Can anyone confirm this? It’s definitely different from hunting mule deer all the way up to 10,000’ in the summer.
 

Perlodid

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 14, 2017
Messages
107
Location
Oregon Coast/ Upper Peninsula of MI
Whitetails will definitely migrate.They have been shown to migrate in a variety of environments with distinct summer and winter ranges. Here's a relevant excerpt from a master's thesis abstract in the 90s. Further north but still worthwhile.

"Winter habitat selection patterns of white-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus) in the Priest Lake watershed of
northern Idaho were studied during the winters of 1990-91
and 1991-92. Twenty-five radio-collared deer were monitored
on 4 geographically distinct winter ranges within the
watershed. White-tailed deer displayed a strong preference
for low elevation (< 820 m ) , densely forested sites with
mean tree ages ranging from 65 to 91 years. All study
animals avoided non-forested sites and selected stands of
mature timber with overstory canopy coverages exceeding 80%.
Preferred winter habitats of whitetails in the Priest Lake
watershed were predominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga
menziesii) and grand fir (Abies grandis) overstory trees
with an admixture of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) ,
western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and western hemlock
(Tsuga heterophylla) . Understory plant communities were
depauperate and characterized by shade tolerant species on
all winter ranges. Twenty-four of the 25 study animals were
migratory. Spring dispersals peaked in mid-March following
a period of increasing temperatures and reduced snow depths.
Spring migrations ranged from 6.8 to 59.1 km (X = 27.3 km,
S.D. = 16.4). All migrating animals moved northward to
higher elevations.

Fourteen clearcut sites were used to evaluate spring and
summer use of low elevation clearcuts by white-tailed deer
in the Priest Lake watershed. Pellet-group densities were
used as an index of deer use. White-tailed deer use of
clearcuts adjacent to winter ranges declined significantly
from spring to summer. I believe spring dispersal of deer
to higher elevation summer ranges is responsible for this
decrease in use. The structure and composition of seral
plant communities was highly variable between units and no
correlation between pellet-group densities and unit size or
age was found."

From: Secord, Mark L., "Winter habitat use migration and spring and summer use of clearcuts by white-tailed
deer in the Priest Lake watershed of northern Idaho" (1994).
Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, &
Professional Papers. 6424.
 

westbranch

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
1,193
Location
ID Panhandle
There is updated study around Priest Lake that was started a few years ago. I do not recall seeing other updates. News release:

I remember some articles in MN that talked about deer migrating 10-15 miles between their summer and winter ranges. Even in parts of the state with milder winters.
 

Libby85

New member
Joined
Oct 16, 2022
Messages
4
I have been hunting Whitetails in central Idaho and I have heard that Whitetails are non migratory, meaning, they have a home range of about a couple miles. This has me questioning: will they only be at low elevations due to the snow levels in the winter?

Is the whole non migratory thing a hoax?

If it is true, I wouldn’t even be looking for Whitetails above 7000’ due to snow levels in the winter. Can anyone confirm this? It’s definitely different from hunting mule deer all the way up to 10,000’ in the summer.
 

Nambaster

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2018
Messages
268
By the sounds of it. It would appear that they prefer lower elevations.
 

Hunter4Life78

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 4, 2022
Messages
639
I agree with the migration being a hoax. In talking with landowners it's one of the things they tell me. "You're gonna find em up high, they haven't migrated down here yet, and they will travel to get here where they got feed, water, .... usually how the conversation goes.
 

Ben Long

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Messages
1,311
Location
Kalispell, MT
Some Radio collared wtd in NW Montana regularly move 20-30 miles, one up to 40 miles, between summer and winter range. Others live in my backyard until they grow old and die.
In the Idaho panhandle, one of the biggest booners I ever saw was at timberline at 7000 feet. No way he was up there past November, as snow there was 10 feet deep at least. MOST whitetails live within a mile of where they're born. That's the trouble with generalizations, there are always exceptions. Sounds like you've found one of the exceptions.
 

Nambaster

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2018
Messages
268
I am planning on hunting above 6000’ this weekend and I’ll be looking to fill an elk tag. I am just curious if the Whitetail will be up that high. I see Muleys at all elevations but the Whiteys are kinds spotty. If my elk Tag is not notched by the weekend I had better drop a bit in elevation.
 

westbranch

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
1,193
Location
ID Panhandle
What is central Idaho to you? Based on details provided I assume you are north of the salmon river. So whitetails above 6k feet would be normal. More whitetails than mule deer as you head north.
 

Nambaster

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2018
Messages
268
Unit 14… I have been taking advantage of all the CWD surveillance hunts. I usually hunt Mulies, but I can’t turn down all the extra tags.
 

Nambaster

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 23, 2018
Messages
268
Thanks to all who chimed in. I found the sweet spot and filled both tags.
 

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Salmonchaser

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 12, 2019
Messages
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Whitetails will definitely migrate.They have been shown to migrate in a variety of environments with distinct summer and winter ranges. Here's a relevant excerpt from a master's thesis abstract in the 90s. Further north but still worthwhile.

"Winter habitat selection patterns of white-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus) in the Priest Lake watershed of
northern Idaho were studied during the winters of 1990-91
and 1991-92. Twenty-five radio-collared deer were monitored
on 4 geographically distinct winter ranges within the
watershed. White-tailed deer displayed a strong preference
for low elevation (< 820 m ) , densely forested sites with
mean tree ages ranging from 65 to 91 years. All study
animals avoided non-forested sites and selected stands of
mature timber with overstory canopy coverages exceeding 80%.
Preferred winter habitats of whitetails in the Priest Lake
watershed were predominated by Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga
menziesii) and grand fir (Abies grandis) overstory trees
with an admixture of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) ,
western red cedar (Thuja plicata), and western hemlock
(Tsuga heterophylla) . Understory plant communities were
depauperate and characterized by shade tolerant species on
all winter ranges. Twenty-four of the 25 study animals were
migratory. Spring dispersals peaked in mid-March following
a period of increasing temperatures and reduced snow depths.
Spring migrations ranged from 6.8 to 59.1 km (X = 27.3 km,
S.D. = 16.4). All migrating animals moved northward to
higher elevations.

Fourteen clearcut sites were used to evaluate spring and
summer use of low elevation clearcuts by white-tailed deer
in the Priest Lake watershed. Pellet-group densities were
used as an index of deer use. White-tailed deer use of
clearcuts adjacent to winter ranges declined significantly
from spring to summer. I believe spring dispersal of deer
to higher elevation summer ranges is responsible for this
decrease in use. The structure and composition of seral
plant communities was highly variable between units and no
correlation between pellet-group densities and unit size or
age was found."

From: Secord, Mark L., "Winter habitat use migration and spring and summer use of clearcuts by white-tailed
deer in the Priest Lake watershed of northern Idaho" (1994).
Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, &
Professional Papers. 6424.
Thank you, I just really enjoy this stuff.
 
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