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.
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.
“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.
Got success pics? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with details on the who, where, when and whatnot and we’ll fold them into this blog!