All posts by Andy Walgamott

Oct. 25-28 Razor Clam Digs Scheduled At 3 Washington Beaches

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Razor clam diggers can return to various ocean beaches for a four-day opening beginning Oct. 25.

State shellfish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) approved the dig on evening low tides after marine toxin tests showed the clams are safe to eat. No digging will be allowed on any beach before noon.

RAZOR CLAMMERS WORK THE BEACH DURING AN EARLY 2010 SEASON. (JASON BAUER)

The upcoming dig is approved on the following beaches, dates, and evening low tides:

  • Oct. 25, Thursday, 7:55 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Oct. 26, Friday, 8:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
  • Oct. 27, Saturday, 9:19 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis
  • Oct. 28, Sunday, 10:08 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, recommends that diggers hit the beach about an hour or two before low tide for the best results.

Diggers want to be sure to come prepared with good lighting devices and always keep an eye on the surf, particularly in the fall when the best low tides come after dark, he added.

WDFW has tentatively scheduled another dig for Nov. 8-11, pending results of future toxin tests. More information on planned digs can be found on WDFW’s razor clam webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2018-19 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov and from license vendors around the state.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

Hunters Urged To Apply For Washington Wolf Advisory Group Seats

The next few years could be crucial ones in Washington’s wolf world, and with the Department of Fish and Wildlife putting out the call for nominations to its Wolf Advisory Group, one sportsman says they hope that “thoughtful, respectful and vocal hunters apply.”

A WASHINGTON WOLF TAKES A LOOK AROUND. (WDFW)

The individual didn’t wish to be named, but says that having sat in on numerous WAG meetings in recent years, as wolves close in on state recovery goals it’s more important than ever for hunters to participate more.

Among the discussions likely to occur is planning for the postdelisting period, how wolves may be managed in terms of impacts on big game species and possibly even through hunting.

It will mark a sharp shift in the WAG’s workload, which so far has primarily focused on dealing with wolf-livestock conflicts, a multiyear effort that was led by an outside facilitator who has since departed.

The tug-of-war between livestock producers and predator advocates led to a consensus that stressed nonlethal preventative measures and established a clearer structure for WDFW to lethally remove problem animals.

That protocol has survived two years of outsiders’ objections and this summer a judge twice shot down efforts to halt kill authorizations, though it will still have its day in court.

But it’s also meant that the conversation about wolves in Washington has been “stuck on yesterday’s cattle conflicts,” according to the observer, “with far too little attention given to tomorrow’s wolf management, the needs and values of hunters as wildlife stakeholders, and the importance of the game species we pursue.”

HUNTERS DISCUSS THE DAY AROUND A CAMPFIRE IN THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

No matter your opinion on wolves — good, bad or indifferent — they’re here to stay, so it behooves hunters to be involved in the process.

“We have to be at the table, and we have to speak up once there.”

WAG has 18 positions for those in the hunting, ranching, rural and environmental communities, and members serve staggered terms. Four current members do represent sportsman interests.

The plan is for WDFW Director Kelly Susewind to plug in new advisors as seats become available, starting with the one open now by next February.

“We are looking for candidates who can work cooperatively with others to develop management recommendations that reflect a diversity of perspectives,” Susewind said in a press release.

The group generally holds four two-day meetings each year at different locations across the state.

In their applications, prospective members are asked to address several items, including their knowledge of the state wolf plan and how they’ve worked collaboratively with those of different viewpoints.

Forms can either be emailed to Donny.martorello@dfw.wa.gov or mailed to WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello, WDFW, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

Deadline is 5 p.m., Nov. 30.

Road Show: WDFW Director To Talk Shop, Recreation At 6 Fall Open Houses

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has scheduled six open house events this fall to give the new director an opportunity to discuss the agency’s long-term plans to conserve fish and wildlife and promote outdoor recreation throughout the state.

WDFW’S NEW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND TOOK THE HELMS AT THE AGENCY AUGUST. 1. (WDFW)

“The department’s work is fundamental to people’s quality of life and livelihoods in Washington,” said Kelly Susewind, WDFW director. “Our work to conserve fish and wildlife and provide sustainable opportunities affects everyone. Whether you’re an active outdoorsperson or you’re someone that buys locally-caught seafood at the market, the public expects us to be good stewards of these resources and the public has a say in how they are managed.”

Susewind added, “These meetings will allow me to introduce you to my values and approach and I’m eager to hear what’s important to you.”

Specific topics will include an overview of the department’s work in each region, a summary of budget and policy proposals for the 2019 legislative session, and a discussion about how the department should position itself to address new, long-term challenges that affect fish and wildlife.

The open houses, all scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m., will take place at the following dates and locations:

  • Nov. 5 – CenterPlace Regional Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley
  • Nov. 6 – Grant County Public Works, 124 Enterprise St. SE, Ephrata
  • Nov. 7 – Selah Civic Center, 216 1st St., Selah
  • Nov. 13 – Montesano City Hall, 112 North Main Street, Montesano
  • Nov. 14 – WDFW Ridgefield Office, 5525 South 11th Street, Ridgefield
  • Dec. 12 – Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Watershed Science Center, 125 W Sunset Way, Issaquah

Last June, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to select Susewind as WDFW’s director.

“I am committed to the mission of the agency, and that means hearing from people who care about Washington’s fish and wildlife,” said Susewind. “I want to share what I have learned so far, but listening to people and their ideas is my main reason for inviting people to attend these events.”

55 Washington Lakes Being Stocked For Fall Fishing

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

With thousands of rainbow trout destined for Washington lakes before November, anglers should have plenty of places to enjoy great fishing this fall and through the holiday season.

XANDER YARNOLD AND HIS GRANDPA JIM GILBERTSON TEAM UP TO LAND A NICE-SIZED RAINBOW TROUT AT LELAND LAKE NEAR QUILCENE YESTERDAY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will stock at least 55 Washington lakes with catchable-size trout this fall. Additionally, the department stocks millions of smaller trout each spring, many of which will have grown to catchable size.

“Fall is the time to reel in a nice-sized trout, and our crews are working hard to build on a Northwest tradition of fishing through the seasons,” said Steve Caromile, WDFW’s warmwater fish program manager. “Most of the stocked trout are 13 to 15 inches long, with a few larger ones in the mix.”

Some of the lakes recently stocked include Island Lake in Kitsap County; Island, Lost, Nahwatzel, and Spencer lakes in Mason County; Lake Sylvia in Grays Harbor County; and Gibbs, Teal and Leland lakes in Jefferson County.

Dozens of additional lakes will be stocked throughout the state in October and November providing fishing opportunities into the new year.

The complete list of lakes to be stocked, and the department’s recently updated stocking plan, are available for viewing at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/.

The fall fish plants are in response to anglers’ requests to increase fall and winter trout fishing opportunities, said Caromile.

The effort also includes stocking lakes across the state for the Nov. 23 Black Friday opener, which offers anglers the opportunity to skip the shopping malls, get outside and enjoy fishing on the day after Thanksgiving.

For up-to-date stocking information this fall, anglers should follow the department on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, accessible from http://wdfw.wa.gov, or see the department’s weekly catchable trout stocking report at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

XANDER YARNOLD SHOWS OFF HIS LELAND LAKE CATCH, A PAIR OF FRESHLY STOCKED, POWERBAIT-BITING ‘BOWS TO 17 INCHES LONG. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

To participate, anglers must have a current Washington freshwater fishing license valid through March 31, 2019.

Licenses can be purchased by telephone at 1-866-246-9453, at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, or at hundreds of license vendors across the state. For details on license vendor locations, visit the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

FISHING WAS ACTUALLY SCHOOLWORK FOR XANDER, A BIOLOGY LESSON. HE READS WHILE PATIENTLY WAITING FOR MORE FISH TO BITE AT LELAND. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (10-16-18)

THE FOLLOWING WDFW FISHING REPORT WAS TRANSMITTED BY BRYANT SPELLMAN

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Mainstem from the mouth upstream to McNary Dam

  • From the Buoy 10 line upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco:
    • Closed to angling for and retention of salmon and steelhead.

IN THIS IMAGE DREDGED OUT OF OUR WAY, WAY, WAAAAAY BACK FILE, FALL SALMON ANGLERS FISH THE COWLITZ ABOVE AND BELOW THE MOUTH OF THE TOUTLE FOR COHO DURING THE 2008 SEASON. (CHRIS SPENCER)

Salmon/Steelhead:

Columbia River Tributaries

Elochoman River – No anglers sampled.

Cowlitz River – I-5 Br downstream: 59 bank rods kept 9 coho jacks and released 11 coho jacks.  26 boats/57 rods kept 8 coho, 12 coho jacks and released 2 chinook, 3 chinook jacks, 4 coho and 2 coho jacks.

Above the I-5 Br:  68 bank rods kept 1 coho, 3 coho jacks, 5 steelhead and released 36 chinook, 1 chinook jack and 2 coho jacks. 8 boats/18 rods kept 3 coho, 12 coho jacks, 1 steelhead and released 2 chinook.

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 1,225 coho adults, 2,584 coho jacks, 256 fall Chinook adults, 49 fall Chinook jacks, 210 cutthroat trout and 49 summer-run steelhead adults during seven days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power released 92 coho adults and 197 coho jacks into the Cispus River near Randle, and they released 101 coho adults and 232 coho jacks at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood.

Tacoma Power released 300 coho adults, 1,176 coho jacks, 38 fall Chinook adults, 17 fall Chinook jacks and 15 cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton, and they released 467 coho adults, 890 coho jacks and three cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa in Randle.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,560 cubic feet per second on Monday, Oct. 15. Water visibility is 14 feet and the water temperature is 53.2 degrees F. River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.

Kalama River – 28 bank anglers kept 1 steelhead.  2 boats/2 rods released 1 steelhead.

Lewis River – 105 bank anglers kept 1 chinook jack, 7 coho, 5 coho jacks and released 2 chinook, 2 chinook jacks, 2 coho, 3 coho jacks and 2 steelhead.  22 boats/55 rods kept 1 chinook, 3 chinook jacks, 3 coho, 20 coho jacks and released 1 chinook, 3 chinook jacks, 2 coho jacks and 1 steelhead.

Wind River – No anglers sampled.

Drano Lake – 3 bank anglers kept 1 chinook. 36 boats/84 rods kept 33 chinook, 35 chinook jacks, 2 coho, 2 coho jacks and released 24 chinook, 11 chinook jacks and 1 coho.

Klickitat River – 80 bank anglers kept 43 chinook and 12 chinook jacks, 3 coho and released 2 chinook and 1 coho jack.

Fishing Rule Changes:

  • Grays River:  effective October 6, 2018 until further notice, from the mouth upstream to the mouth of the South Fork:  release all Coho.
  • West Fork Grays River:  effective October 6, 2018 until further notice, from the mouth upstream:  release all Coho.
  • Cowlitz River:  Until further notice closed for Chinook retention from the mouth to the Barrier Dam including all lower Cowlitz tributaries, except the Toutle River.  Until further notice, the closed waters section below the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery Barrier Dam is 400’, at the posted markers.
  • Washougal River, including Camas Slough:  Until further notice closed for Chinook retention from the mouth to the bridge at Salmon Falls.
  • Toutle River:  effective October 6, 2018 until further notice, from the mouth upstream to the forks:  release all Chinook.
  • North Fork Toutle River:  effective October 6, 2018 until further notice, from the mouth upstream to the posted markers below the fish collection facility:  release all Chinook.
  • Wind River:  from the mouth to 400’ below Shepherd Falls, closed for steelhead retention and closed to night fishing for salmon and steelhead.
  • Drano Lake: Effective Oct. 17, 2018 until further notice. Closed to all fishing in the waters downstream of markers on a point of land downstream and across from Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery and upstream of the Highway 14 Bridge.
  • White Salmon River:  from the mouth to the county road bridge below the former location of the powerhouse, closed for steelhead retention and closed to night fishing for salmon and steelhead

STURGEON

From the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to McNary Dam including adjacent tributaries – Until further notice, white sturgeon open for catch and release fishing only. Fishing for sturgeon at night is closed.

 

WA Fish Commission OKs Willapa Crabbing Change, Talks Columbia Salmon Policy

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Sport crabbers will be able to set their pots in Willapa Bay in the fall two weeks earlier than in the past after the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the change at a meeting Monday.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), agreed to allow recreational crabbers to set pots in Willapa Bay on Nov. 15, two weeks earlier than usual. WDFW staff proposed the change to provide more opportunity for recreational crabbers and to reduce gear conflicts with commercial crabbers. 

During the special, half-day meeting in Olympia, commissioners also reviewed the outcomes of a 5-year-old policy that significantly changed salmon fisheries on the Columbia River.

The Columbia River Basin Salmon Management Policy, approved by the commission in 2013, is designed to promote orderly fisheries, wild salmon and steelhead conservation, and economic stability in the state’s fishing industry. Strategies for achieving those goals includes allocating more salmon to sport fisheries, promoting the use of alternative fishing gear in commercial fisheries and increasing the production/releases of salmon in off-channel areas.

Commissioners took public comment on the salmon policy and heard panel discussions that included representatives from conservation organizations as well as commercial and recreational fishing groups.

The commission’s review of the Columbia River policy will continue next month during a meeting in Vancouver with Oregon commissioners. More information on that meeting will be available online in the coming weeks at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings.html.

Hanford Reach Angler Pines For Past Years’ Larger Returns Of 5-year-old URBs

By Rick Itami

Back in the early 1990s when I first tried my luck at catching the famous upriver bright fall Chinook salmon in the Hanford Reach of the mighty Columbia River, I was amazed to see huge fish rolling all over the river.

THE NUMBER OF 5-YEAR-OLD FALL CHINOOK RETURNING TO THE COLUMBIA RIVER’S HANFORD REACH HAS DROPPED IN RECENT YEARS. PRIOR TO 2006, ONE-THIRD OF THE RUN CAME IN AS 5’S, ON AVERAGE, BUT SINCE THEN THE PERCENTAGE HAS DROPPED TO 18. DAVE SITTON CAUGHT THIS BEAST IN 2012. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

And when I say huge, I mean salmon running in the 30- to 40-pound range. The first time I hooked one of these giants, I fought it for 20 minutes before my 30-pound-test monofilament finally snapped when I tried to horse the fish into the net.

In those days, outdoor sections of newspapers often contained photos of smiling fishermen displaying monster fall Chinook caught with regularity.

Fast forward to the present and you have a totally different scenario. You simply do not see anglers landing many really large fish as before.

Toby Wyatt, owner/operator of Reel Time Fishing (208-790-2128) and who is one of the most successful guides on the Hanford Reach, says his clients land just a few fish in the 30-plus-pound range. Most of his catch ranges in the 10- to 20-pound range. He misses getting his clients into the monsters.

So what happened to the giants of the Hanford Reach?

AUTHOR RICK ITAMI HOLDS AN UPRIVER BRIGHT FROM THIS PAST SEASON, A 12-POUND HEN. A FISH’S AGE, THE LENGTH OF TIME IT SPENDS IN THE PACIFIC AND OCEAN PRODUCTIVITY DETERMINE HOW BIG A SALMON GROWS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Paul Hoffarth, Region III fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, confirms the drop in size of fish. Surprisingly and for unknown reasons, Hoffarth says that a significant shift in the age structure of fish happened all in one year — 2006.

Prior to 2006, roughly one-third (34 percent) of the upriver brights were the big 5-year-old fish and 37 percent were 4-year-olds.

Beginning in 2006, the percentage of 5-year-olds has averaged 18 percent (with a range of 10 to 28 percent) and has never recovered.

Hoffarth does not know why the decline happened so suddenly and no studies have been done to determine a cause or causes. Therefore, no one knows if the age structure will return to pre-2006 levels.

So we anglers are left in the dark as to what the future of the upriver bright population has in store in terms of the size of fish caught. Let’s hope whatever caused the flip in the age structure of these magnificent fish will just as suddenly flip the other way.

I would love to see a river full of rolling giants again.

Under-fire Idaho Game Commissioner Resigns At Governor’s Request

An Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner who came under fire in recent days after a distasteful photo of him with a dead “family of baboons” surfaced resigned today after the governor requested it.

(STATE OF IDAHO)

“I have high expectations and standards for every appointee in state government,” said Governor Butch Otter in a press release out this afternoon. “Every member of my administration is expected to exercise good judgment. Commissioner (Blake) Fischer did not. Accordingly, I have accepted his resignation from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.”

I caught wind of this story just as I was getting ready to leave for Deer Camp in North-central Washington and it festered in my mind all weekend.

Essentially, Fischer went on an African safari with his wife and started off by killing four baboons and posing with them, then moved on to a giraffe as well as more traditionally hunted animals.

After he shared pictures and details of the trip with 100 others, the Idaho Statesman caught wind and asked him about it.

According to a report, Fischer initially defended his actions, saying, “I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t do anything unethical. I didn’t do anything immoral.”

In his resignation letter Fischer states, “I recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested.”

Last month I did a big article about how relatively few Washington fish and wildlife overseers hunt, so it bothers me to see an actual hunter on a game commission behave this way.

We all have done and will continue to do stupid things, but this is a self-inflicted wound that didn’t need to happen.

Fischer needed to go, and now he has.

Washington Game Wardens Work Through Night To Save Bull Elk

A pair of Washington game wardens pulled an extra shift this past weekend, and it had nothing to do with the very busy rifle deer opener.

Rather, it was to untangle an elk — then make sure the heavily sedated animal didn’t die afterwards.

WDFW OFFICER BLAKE TUCKER TENDS TO A BULL ELK THAT GOT ENTANGLED IN FENCING, THEN WENT INTO HEAVY SEDATION AND REQUIRED PROPPING UP TO KEEP BREATHING. (WDFW)

It all started Saturday afternoon when Sgt. Danyl Klump got a text from a Wenatchee-area landowner that a bull had wrapped itself in barbed wire up in the Stemilt Basin, so he tasked Officers Blake Tucker and Will Smith, who had been on duty since that morning, with freeing the animal.

“It had gone through a fence, ripped out a handful of fence posts and wrapped around a tree,” says Klump.

It’s believed it could have been tangled up for as many as two days.

“The timing was horrible, but you can’t leave a bull elk like that,” Klump says.

Tucker and Smith arrived on the scene and drugged the seven-point — “You don’t want a massive bull elk thrashing its antlers” — and were able to get the wire off by 9 p.m., when they texted their boss that they should clear the incident in 45 minutes.

So Klump was a little surprised to wake up early Sunday morning and see they’d just sent him a follow-up email that they were still with the elk.

WDFW OFFICER WILL SMITH HOLDS THE BULL’S ANTLERS. (WDFW)

It had gone into heavy sedation, requiring Tucker and Smith to stay with it.

“They maintained its breathing through the night. They used logs and sticks to prop it up,” Klump said.

If they hadn’t, its lungs could have been crushed and collapsed, killing it, he says.

“When you sedate something, you take responsibility for it,” Klump says.

He says that sometimes very large bears will react the same way, even when the recommended dosages are followed.

Smith and Tucker took turns being with the elk and warming up in their rigs as coyotes howled through the night.

“None of us expected it to be that long into the evening,” says Klump.

He says that at one point the officers thought they’d lost the elk. The bull exhaled and didn’t inhale for a long while, but then took a shallow breath.

THE OFFICERS WORK TO FREE THE ELK FROM WIRE. (WDFW)

As the elk came out of it, the officers helped it stand, then gave it a slap to get moving.

“It slowly walked off, then ate some grass,” says Klump.

It was a successful end to a workday that had begun the morning before.

“They had basically a 23-hour shift,” he says.

For the sergeant the rescue fit right into part of WDFW’s mission — “(to) preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems …” — even if it came at the most inopportune moment, the opening weekend of modern firearm deer season, the most popular single hunt in the state.

“Often we get the call too late and the animal dies or the coyotes get it,” Klump says.

Not this time, thanks to two dedicated public — and wildlife — servants.

“They went way above and beyond,” he says of Smith and Tucker. “I’m very proud of these guys.”

Editor’s note: Our apologies for misspelling the last name of Sgt. Dan Klump in the initial version of this blog.

Decent 2018 Washington Rifle Deer Opener–Check Station Numbers

Opening weekend of Washington’s rifle deer season was “good” in the state’s northeast corner and average in the Okanogan, according to results from check stations.

“We heard mostly positive comments about how the season is going so far,” reported Annemarie Prince, the WDFW district wildlife biologist in Colville.

MICHELLE WHITNEY SHOWS OFF HER FIRST BUCK IN 18 YEARS OF HUNTING, A NICE MULE DEER. SHE WAS OUT IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON OVER OPENING WEEKEND OF RIFLE DEER. (WDFW)

That might have been because success was up at the game check along Highway 395.

“The Deer Park check station kept us busy,” Prince said. “I think the cool/cold weather also contributed to a successful opener.”

She reports that 127 hunters had 35 whitetails, including 24 bucks, and three antlered mule deer.

That’s the same exact number of harvested deer as 2017, but last year it took 174 hunters to produce those results.

WDFW also opened a check station at Chewelah and had 49 hunters bring in eight whitetails (two bucks and six does) and two mule deer, along with a pair of cougars and two turkeys.

Northwest Sportsman Facebook reader Jason Discher posted a picture of his daughter with her first buck, a Pend Oreille County spike, taken in just her second year afield!

Further west in the Evergreen State’s northern tier, 13 deer — as well as three bears — were brought to Winthrop’s Red Barn by 82 hunters.

“These numbers suggest participation is about the same as last year but success is up — 83 hunters with seven deer last year,” reported Scott Fitkin, Okanogan district wildlife biologist.

I would not have guessed that after what felt like a very quiet opening day and a half — well, quiet except for the howl of Friday night’s winds, the crashing of trees and sound of so many needles falling on our tent I thought it might actually be raining.

Unlike last October, it doesn’t look like any actual rain or snow for that matter is in the forecast, and that might make things tough as season continues through Tuesday, Oct. 23.

WDFW BIOLOGIST JEFF HEINLEN CHECKS TOOTH WEAR ON A MULE DEER BUCK BROUGHT INTO THE WINTHROP GAME STATION ON 2018’S OPENING WEEKEND. (WDFW)

“The forecast is for drier and warmer than average weather for the rest of the general season,” reports Fitkin, “so hunters are unlikely to get an assist from Mother Nature, although the access to high elevation country will be good.”

He says that he believes deer numbers are down somewhat from where they were five years ago.

“Since then we’ve had major habitat disturbances interacting with unfavorable weather events. Over that time much of the winter shrub forage was burned off of hundreds of thousands of acres of winter range, four of the last five summers have experienced drought conditions and we’ve had a couple of modestly tough winters,” he says. “Those cumulative effects appear to be having a negative effect on both fawn productivity and recruitment.”

The rest of our camp is coming out of the hills today, but Dad and I are heading back to take advantage of the back end of the 11-day season that was implemented three falls ago and led to a good take that year.

Opening weekend 2015 saw 39 deer checked by 101 hunters.

“The harvest spike in 2015 was almost certainly the result of the later season calendar dates interacting with weather to move deer and increase harvest vulnerability, not the result of a significant change in the deer population,” Fitkin says. “And of course a modest bump in buck harvest like that does not affect productivity or have any significant impact on the overall population, it just means less carryover of older age class bucks for the following season.”

Elsewhere in Washington, Facebook reader Peter Manning shared a pic of his daughter’s very nice first deer, a flatlands muley taken with one shot early on opening morning.

JACK BENSON’S HAVING A HECKUVA 2018 HUNT. AFTER MAKING GOOD ON HIS SILVERDOLLAR ELK PERMIT, HE BAGGED THIS NICE WIDE MULE DEER OVER OPENING WEEKEND. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

TIMOTHY ZOLLER NOTCHED HIS FIRST DEER TAG WITH THIS SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON FOUR-BY-THREE, TAKEN WITH A 186-YARD SHOT ON OPENING DAY. HE WAS HUNTING WITH HIS DAD CHAD ON THE ZMI RANCH. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

BEFORE SEASON BEGAN, JAMES GARRETT WAS DIALED IN, SO WHEN THE 9-YEAR-OLD SPOTTED THIS SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON 3-POINT AT 340 YARDS, HE WAS READY TO TAKE HIS SHOT. “DROPPED RIGHT IN ITS TRACKS!” WROTE JESSICA PELISSER, WHO SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Got success pics? Send them to awalgamott@media-inc.com with details on the who, where, when and whatnot and we’ll fold them into this blog!