Tag Archives: deer

WDFW, UW Set To Again Collar Deer, Elk, Wolves, Lions For 5-yr NE WA Predator-Prey Study

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

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff will start capturing deer in northeast Washington in early December and fit them with radio-collars as part of an ongoing predator-prey study that began two years ago.

EARLIER THIS YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA IN STEVENS COUNTY CAPTURED WHAT’S BELIEVED TO BE A SMACKOUT PACK YEARLING PACKING FAWN QUARTERS BACK TO THE DEN. (JEFF FLOOD)

The study, scheduled to run at least five years, will help to assess the impact of wolves, cougars, and other predators on deer and elk by monitoring the interactions of all species.

This winter, researchers hope to capture at least 30 white-tailed deer in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties – primarily on public land, but also on private land where WDFW has secured landowner permission. Capture techniques include trapping animals using bait, entangling them in drop nets, and darting them with immobilization drugs from the ground.

The study plan also calls for radio-collaring wolves, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes in Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Okanogan counties. Some wolves are already radio-collared in those areas, but researchers want to maintain collars on at least two wolves in each of the packs within the study area. Cougar capture work with the use of dogs will get underway in late November, followed by bobcat and coyote captures using box traps and foothold traps after Jan. 1.

Collaborating researchers from the University of Washington (UW) will join WDFW research scientists and field biologists to monitor radio-collared ungulates and track their movements, distribution, habitat use, diet, productivity and survival. Cougars will be monitored to learn about changes in social behavior, population dynamics, prey selection and movements in areas where wolves also occur.

State wildlife managers ask that hunters who harvest a radio-collared deer or elk – and residents who encounter a dead radio-collared animal – contact WDFW’s Eastern Region office in Spokane Valley (509-892-1001), so researchers can recover the collar and collect biological samples from the carcasses.

Funding for the five-year study comes from a 2015 state legislative appropriation, federal Pittman-Robertson funds, and state wildlife funds.The UW also secured National Science Foundation grant funds for part of the project.

New Report Paints Rough Future For Northwest Fish, Wildlife

A new report paints a rough go of it for fish, shellfish and wildlife in the Northwest.

Released over the recent long holiday weekend, the federal Fourth National Climate Assessment looks at economic and other impacts that warming and drying could have on our region by the end of this century.

It projects that Washington salmon habitat will be reduced by 22 percent under a scenario that includes continued high emissions of greenhouse gases.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM A USGS VIDEO SHOWS A SOCKEYE SUFFERING FROM LESIONS SWIMMING AROUND DRANO LAKE IN AN ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE THE HOT WATERS OF THE MAINSTEM COLUMBIA RIVER DURING A DEADLY EARLY SUMMER 2015 HEATWAVE. (USGS)

“This habitat loss corresponds to more than $3 billion in economic losses due to reductions in salmon populations and decreases in cold-water angling opportunities,” the report states.

Higher fall and winter flows and less and warmer water in spring and summer will impact Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon spawning, hatchery production and reintroduction efforts.

“Recreational razor clamming on the coast is also expected to decline due to cumulative effects of ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, higher temperatures, and habitat degradation,” it adds.

A 2016 bloom affecting Washington’s South Coast led to a 25 percent increase in the number of local families in need of food bank help due to the importance of digging dollars, the report states.

It says that deer and elk may actually thrive due to less winterkill and improving habitat because of increased wildfires, but could also be impacted by “increases in disease and disease-carrying insects and pests.”

“If deer and elk populations increase, the pressures they place on plant ecosystems (including riparian systems) may benefit from management beyond traditional harvest levels,” it states.

With droughts and more drying hitting key wetland areas, “Further management of waterfowl habitat is projected to be important to maintain past hunting levels,” the report adds.

At its heart for the region, the assessment states that what we saw in 2015 due to the Blob — very low snowpack, early meltout, high summer temperatures, large wildfires — could be a prelude of what is to come.

“Low summer stream levels and warm waters, which amplified a naturally occurring fish disease, resulted in widespread fish die-offs across the region, including hundreds of thousands of sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. And for the first time ever, Oregon implemented a statewide daily fishing curtailment beginning in July 2015 to limit added stress on the fish from fishing,” the report reminds readers.

In the ocean, that summer saw “the largest harmful algal bloom recorded” and it hyperlinks to a 2016 paper that lists cool-water species such as subarctic copepods, krill, Dungeness, mussels, salmon and groundfish as Blob losers while tropical copepods, market squid, California rockfish and tuna were winners because of the warm waters.

“This is worrisome because the [2013-15 warm water anomaly] may be a harbinger of things to come. As [sea surface temperatures] continue to rise with increasing global temperatures, many of the same scenarios observed during the WWA may be repeated, with dramatic ecological and economic consequences,” that paper in Oceanography states.

Required by Congress to be produced at regular intervals, this fourth climate assessment was worked on by 13 federal agencies with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the lead.

As for what to do to head off the changes, the report states:

“Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”

2nd Weekend: Some Deer Taken Despite Dry, Warm Weather

Editor’s note: Updated at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 25, 2018, with information on deer hunting in Klickitat County.

How warm and dry was it for the second weekend of rifle mule deer season in Northcentral Washington?

“It was so warm and dry the Crescent Mountain Fire flared back up and has burned an additional 3,000-plus acres,” reports WDFW’s Okanogan County district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.

DAYN OSBORN, 9, SHOWS OFF HIS FIRST BUCK, A DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASHINGTON, MULE DEER, TAKEN WITH A 60-YARD SHOT FROM HIS REMINGTON 700 IN .243. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

He says that given the conditions it wasn’t surprising how slow hunting was the final Saturday and Sunday.

The check station that Fitkin and fellow bio Jeff Heinlen run at Winthrop’s Red Barn saw 65 hunters bring in 12 deer, nearly as many critters as the first weekend (13) but by fewer riflemen (82).

Still, this year’s overall harvest saw an increase, at least as measured at the game check.

“For the season we checked 147 hunters and with 25 deer,” Fitkin notes. “Both of these numbers are up from last year — 131 hunters with 15 deer — suggesting a modest increase in hunter success in 2018 despite the mildest general season weather in recent memory.”

Indeed, it was a far cry from 2017’s hunt, when yours truly and my dad rolled into Deer Camp before opening weekend to find a skiff of snow, then a much heavier fall blanketed western Okanogan County during the second.

But despite the warmth and crackle of twigs, needles and cones underfoot and the haze from the aforementioned fire burning up the Twisp River, we gave it a pretty good go this October, and I had my chance at bringing home a buck. It was also pretty amusing to have two deer run through camp at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the final day of the 11-day season.

Hunting continues, however, through tomorrow, Oct. 26, in Northeast Washington for whitetails.

District biologist Annemarie Prince runs the Deer Park check station and she reports checking 81 hunters with seven bucks and seven does, all flagtails.

On last year’s second Sunday, 75 came into Deer Park with 15 bucks and 10 does, as well as one antlered muley.

WDFW also had a station at Chewelah, where another 11 whitetails were brought, including six bucks and five does, by 38 hunters, Prince reports.

The late rifle season for whitetails in Game Management Units 105-124 is Nov. 10-19, which includes two full weekends.

In the opposite corner of Eastern Washington, Klickitat Wildlife Area manager Susan Van Leuven says the general season was “very poor” this year.

“I only checked two legal bucks the first weekend. I heard of a couple other deer that were taken on or near the Soda Springs Unit, but that is all,” she says.

Van Leuven says it’s the fourth consecutive October with “near-nonexistent deer harvest” and she worries that the herd’s recovery will be more of a gradual one than a quick response.

Some of that is likely due to the hard 2016-17 winter in these parts, but her wildlife area is also primarily winter range and there hasn’t been any weather to speak of that would push deer down to it. There was also an adenovirus outbreak here in summer 2017.

Reports Van Leuven’s hearing from western Klickitat County aren’t much better.

In Western Washington, blacktail hunting runs through Halloween, and many units open up again Nov. 15-18 for the late season.

Next month and December also see numerous bow and black powder opportunities for those with unnotched tags and archery, muzzleloader or multiseason hunting licenses.

For a roundup of photos of successful hunters and their deer, check out this thread on Hunting Washington.

And feel free to send your pics and stories to Northwest Sportsman for our annual Bucks and Bulls feature in our February issue! Email the editor at awalgamott@media-inc.com with details! All photos are automatically entered in our Browning Photo Contest.

Here Are Oregon’s Rules For Salvaging Roadkilled Deer, Elk

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

The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted administrative rules for the salvage of roadkilled deer and elk during its meeting in Klamath Falls today. The new rules are due to the passage of SB 372 by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature and take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

ELK STEAKS FROM ONE OF THE FIRST ROADKILLED ELK SALVAGED WHEN WASHINGTON’S PROGRAM BEGAN SEVERAL YEARS AGO. (RANDY HART JR.)

Highlights of the new rules include:

·        Deer and elk accidentally stuck by a vehicle may be salvaged for consumption only. Intentionally hitting a deer or elk in order to salvage it remains unlawful.

·        Anyone who salvages a roadkilled deer or elk must complete a free online permit within 24 hours of salvaging the animal and provide information including their name, contact info, where and when salvage occurred, species and gender of animal salvaged, and if they were driver that struck animal.

·        Antlers and head of all salvaged animals will need to be surrendered to an ODFW office within 5 business days of taking possession of the carcass. This rule will meet the requirements of SB 372 and will contribute to ODFW’s surveillance program for Chronic Wasting Disease.

·        The entire carcass of the animal including gut piles must be removed from the road and road right of way during the salvage.

·        In cases where a deer or elk is struck, injured and then put down to alleviate suffering, only the driver of the vehicle that struck the animal may salvage the carcass and law enforcement must be immediately notified. (This is a requirement per Oregon Revised Statute 498.016 and SB 372.)

·        Any person who salvages a deer or elk will consume the meat at their own risk. ODFW/OSP will not perform game meat inspections for any deer or elk salvaged under these rules.

·        Sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transfer to another person will be allowed with a written record similar to transferring game meat. 

·        The state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.

 

The Commission also approved the purchase of 214 acres of property adjacent to the Klamath Wildlife Area and the 560-acre Edmunds Well property near the Summer Lake Wildlife Area.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in Oregon. Its next meeting is a joint meeting with Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission on Nov. 1 in Vancouver, Wash.

Oregon Fish And Wildlife Commission Set To Adopt Road-kill Salvage Rules

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

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, Oct. 12 in Klamath Falls at the Running Y Ranch Ponderosa Room, 500 Running Y Road.

The meeting starts at 8 a.m. and follows this agenda, https://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/18/10_oct/index.asp

The Commission will be asked to adopt administrative rules to allow the salvage of roadkilled deer and elk beginning Jan. 1, 2019. The new rules are due to the passage of SB 372 by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature. Highlights include:

·        Deer and elk accidentally stuck by a vehicle may be salvaged for consumption only. Intentionally hitting a deer or elk in order to salvage it remains unlawful.

(ERIC BELL)

·        Anyone who salvages a roadkilled deer or elk must complete a free online permit within 24 hours of salvaging the animal and provide information including their name, contact info, where and when salvage occurred, species and gender of animal salvaged, and if they were driver that struck animal.

·        Antlers and head of all salvaged animals will need to be surrendered to an ODFW office within 5 business days of taking possession of the carcass. This rule will meet the requirements of SB 372 and will contribute to ODFW’s surveillance program for Chronic Wasting Disease.

·        The entire carcass of the animal including gut piles must be removed from the road and road right of way during the salvage.

·        In cases where a deer or elk is struck, injured and then put down to alleviate suffering, only the driver of the vehicle that struck the animal may salvage the carcass and law enforcement must be immediately notified. (This is a requirement per Oregon Revised Statute 498.016 and SB 372.)

·        Any person who salvages a deer or elk will consume the meat at their own risk. ODFW/OSP will not perform game meat inspections for any deer or elk salvaged under these rules.

·        Sale of any part of the salvaged animal is prohibited, but transfer to another person will be allowed with a written record similar to transferring game meat. 

·        The state of Oregon is not liable for any loss or damage arising from the recovery, possession, use, transport or consumption of deer or elk salvaged.

 The Commission will consider the purchase of 214 acres of property adjacent to the Klamath Wildlife Area and the 560-acre Edmunds Well property near the Summer Lake wildlife Area.

The Commission’s agenda for Oct. 12 originally included plans to adopt rules related to the destruction of forfeited firearms from wildlife law violations, but that agenda item has been delayed until a future meeting.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, The Commission will also tour several projects in the Klamath Falls Area including the Green Diamond Travel Management Area and Klamath Fish Hatchery. Members of the public can join the tour but must provide their own transportation and lunch. Meet at the Running Y Resort front lobby at 8 a.m. to join the tour. See the tour agenda at https://bit.ly/2yf9ZJ7

A public forum will be held on Friday morning at the start of the meeting. Anyone seeking to testify on issues not on the formal agenda may do so by making arrangements with the ODFW Director’s Office, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, by calling 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.

Deer Tag? Check. Bullets? Check. Oregon Fire Restriction Update?

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

Oregon’s most popular hunting season (centerfire deer) opens Saturday, Sept. 29 statewide with warm, dry weather still in the forecast.

A BLACK-TAILED BUCK IN WESTERN OREGON. (KEITH KOHL, ODFW)

“We have had a very tough fire season with the number of human-caused wildfires well above average,” says Oregon Department of Forestry’s Tom Fields. “Fire danger remains high in many areas and the slightest spark still carries a great deal of potential to turn into a large fire.”

Fire restrictions and closures are still in effect in some areas. It is each hunter’s responsibility to know access conditions and restrictions before heading out. Here are some places to find that information:

Here are some of the most common fire restrictions according to ODF:

  • Campfires are either prohibited or only allowed in approved campgrounds in many areas.
  • Exploding targets, tracer ammunition, smoking and off-road driving (incl. motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles) are prohibited in most areas.
  • Vehicles must have either a gallon of water or a fully charged and operational 2½-pound fire extinguisher and shovel (except when travelling on state highways or county roads).
  • ATVs must have a charged and operational 2½ pound fire extinguisher.

Fields with Oregon Department of Forestry also notes these other fire prevention measures to keep in mind:

  • Keep vehicles in good working condition. Hot particles exiting exhaust systems through faulty catalytic converters can ignite multiple fires along roadways.
  • When towing, keep chains from dragging and generating sparks.
  • Where campfires are allowed (approved campgrounds), be sure and fully extinguish the fire before leaving or going to bed.
  • In lieu of campfires, use portable cooking stoves that use liquefied fuels (check local restrictions).

2018 Washington Deer Hunting Prospects: A Better Hunt This Fall?

Following Washington’s worst deer season in 20 years, there are signs the harvest may rebound.

By Andy Walgamott

On the bright side, Washington deer hunters have nowhere to look but up after 2017, one of the worst falls in 20-plus years.

That might be the most positive way to look at this season’s prospects across the Evergreen State, where bowhunters took the field earlier this month, muzzleloaders at the end of September and riflemen give it a go starting the second Saturday of October.

A BIG HARVEST IN 2015 AS WELL AS DROUGHT, WINTERKILL AND THE SECOND LOWEST NUMBER OF HUNTERS AFIELD LED TO AN ABYSMAL HARVEST IN 2017 FOR WASHINGTON SPORTSMEN. DESPITE IT ALL, HUNTERS LIKE CHUCK HARTMAN WERE ABLE TO TAG OUT AND CAN LOOK FORWARD TO A POTENTIAL REBOUND THIS FALL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

There actually are some good signs out there – solid postseason buck escapement numbers in places, an easy winter that should mean more available deer in previously hard-hit units, and a liberalized bag limit in a key area for certain weapons types.

But it will be interesting to see if the hangover from 2017, when only 23.6 percent of general season hunters tagged out – the second lowest this millennium – has worn off.

Indeed, following 2015’s decade-high overall harvest of 37,963 deer, nearly 11,500 fewer whitetails, muleys and blacktails were killed during 2017’s general and special seasons, the fewest in more than 20 years.

Part of that was probably due to a near-new low number of hunters last year – 106,977, down 46,000 from the last year of the 20th Century – but also lingering aftereffects of 2015’s harvest as well as drought and harsher recent winters that depressed deer production and numbers.

Still, crying in our beer ain’t gonna fill a tag, so here’s what biologists around Washington are forecasting for this season:

A SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON MULE DEER BUCK PUTS DISTANCE BETWEEN ITSELF AND PHOTOGRAPHER-HUNTER CHAD ZOLLER LAST FALL. POSTSEASON COUNTS FOUND GOOD NUMBERS OF BUCKS IN COLUMBIA BASIN UNITS, BUT LOWER FIGURES IN CHELAN AND OKANOGAN COUNTIES. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

NORTHEAST

In terms of sheer numbers, with all its whitetails and good habitat, harvest in the upper righthand corner of the state will always be hard to beat. And for this year, bowmen and muzzleloaders will again be able to take any whitetail, which hopefully produces an uptick in the take.

“My goal is to keep steadier harvest regulations,” says district biologist Annemarie Princee.

Following the windfall of the end of the four-point whitetail minimum in two key game management units in 2015 and bucks-only rules for the aforementioned weapons types the past two seasons, harvest declined by nearly 3,000 deer, or 37 percent.

But even as those two GMUs (Huckleberry, 49 Degrees North) saw sharp declines, other units – Kelly Hill, Douglas, Aladdin and Selkirk – have kept on keepin’ on, producing near-similar harvests year after year from 2013 to 2017, with generally steady days-per-kill needed to notch a tag.

OPENING DAY WAS GETTING A LITTLE LONG IN THE TOOTH IN PEND OREILLE COUNTY WHEN THIS WHITETAIL POPPED OUT IN FRONT OF KYLIE CAREY, WHO MADE GOOD ON THE SHOT. IT WAS HER FIRST TIME HUNTING. “AWESOME EXPERIENCE!” EXCLAIMS HUSBAND LEVI. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

In the region’s core, Stevens County, longterm deer counts show fawn numbers getting back to about average of the past 10 years after a new low in 2016, and that should mean more forked horns and spikes on the landscape. Buck numbers are about average, or at least were going into last season.

In their 2018 prospects document, Prince and assistant biologist Ben Turnock rank the Douglas and Huckleberry Units as best for modern firearm hunters. Those two yielded 1.38 and 2.23 deer per square mile last year, with 36.7 and 38.2 percent success rates.

They’re on the lighter side in terms of public land, but it’s a much different story with Kelly Hill, Aladdin, 49 Degrees North, Sherman and Selkirk. The bios rank the first two units higher than the others, but the third actually has a better harvest per square mile than either.

As a reminder, youth and disabled riflemen can take whitetail does the first two weekends of general season. Senior hunters nobly opted out to provide more opportunity for others.

Prince is also making a special plea to youth and disabled hunters who take a doe this fall to stop by the check station so that biologists can extract their animal’s jaw bone to study body conditions and monitor for chronic wasting disease.

A 320-YARD SHOT LED TO A NOTCHED TAG FOR CRAIG WESTLIN. HE WAS HUNTING NEAR POMEROY, IN SOUTHEAST WASHINGTON, WITH GUIDE JACK PEASLEY OF DEADMAN CREEK OUTFITTERS. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

UPPER SCABLANDS, PALOUSE

Where Northeast Washington hunting lives and dies by its whitetail numbers, mule deer contribute well to the harvest in Whitman, Lincoln and Spokane Counties, spreading the risk and opportunity. Unfortunately for hunters, both species are still in recovery mode from recent years’ environmental setbacks that led to a 25 percent general-season harvest decline between 2015 and 2017.

“Though the white-tailed deer population is starting to rebound from the 2015 blue tongue outbreak and 2016-17 winter, hunters should still expect to have to put in more time to be successful,” biologist Michael Atamian and Carrie Lowe write in their game prospects. “With fawn-to-doe ratios rebounding from the droughts of 2014 and 2015, mule deer numbers should also be on the increase. Hunters should still expect to put in more time than in previous years to be successful.”

Days per kill has doubled in the Roosevelt and Cheney, and Harrington and Steptoe Units versus how long it took to tag out in 2008, rising from roughly 10 and seven to 20 and 15, respectively. It’s also risen in the Almota Unit, though not as much, but it’s now taking fewer days to bag a deer in the Mt. Spokane Unit.

The far northern Palouse is very light on public land and even farms offering access through state programs, but there are many more cooperators in the heart of the loess and along the Snake River Breaks.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON! JACK BENSON, AGE 11, FOLLOWED UP ON HIS DAD JEFF’S FINE WALLA WALLA COUNTY MUZZLELOADER BUCK WITH A GREAT FIRST BUCK DURING THE RIFLE SEASON. “HE SET THE BAR HIGH FOR HIS FUTURE HUNTS,” JEFF NOTES. WE’LL SAY! (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

BLUE MOUNTAINS

Better hunting is still a year away, according to biologists Paul Wik and Mark Vekasy. They say that 2015’s drought and the heavy winter of 2016-17 knocked back fawn numbers and led to 2017’s “poor” season and unfortunately the effects will linger into this fall with reduced numbers of legal bucks. Between 2015 and 2017 general season harvest declined 20 percent.

We “do not expect a return to average harvest until the 2019 hunting season,” they write in their game prospects. “Consequently, populations available for 2018 harvest are not expected to improve much over the poor 2017 season.”

Looking at recent years’ stats, hunter success has cratered in the wilderness Wenaha Unit, and while it’s dropped everywhere, it hasn’t been as bad in some. Rimming the edge of the mountains, Blue Creek, Dayton, Marengo, Peola and Couse have seen relatively steady harvests. While the knock on them is the general lack of public ground, there is Feel Free To Hunt and other private land that’s available, along with portions of four wind energy facilities.

But if last year is any indication, the mostly public Lick Creek and half-public Mountain View Units will still yield bucks. And the almost entirely private Prescott Unit will produce the most; look to get permission to hunt Conservation Reserve Program lands and the breaks of the Snake.

Ranking all of their units by harvest, hunter density and success, and public access, the biologists rate Mayview, Peola and Couse highest, but Lick Creek the worst.

SOUTHERN BASIN

Mule deer fawn numbers didn’t dip as low in Franklin and Adams Counties as they did higher up in the Columbia Basin, but harvest declined by nearly a quarter here.

Still, last year’s postseason buck survey found a healthy 21 per 100 does, somewhat surprising given the open nature of this country. Some of those were obviously off-limits spikes and forked horns, and it’s possible the count included deer that had migrated in from the east and north, but it’s a good sign coming into this fall.

With greater than 9 out of every 10 acres privately owned, biologist Jason Fidorra points hunters to the patches of WDFW, DNR and BLM land scattered around the district, but the Kahlotus Unit has some pretty big chunks of Feel Free To Hunt and Hunt By Written Permission properties.

Muzzleloaders should be aware that, new for 2018, antlerless mule deer can no longer be taken during the late season in the Kahlotus, part of a changing strategy for managing the herd. That hunt was shifted later in the year, though, wrapping up after Dec. 8, which could mean some nice migratory bucks in the mix.

NO WORD ON WHETHER HE WAS HUNTING ON A FELLOW STATE LEGISLATOR’S MOUNTAIN RANCH, BUT REP. BRIAN BLAKE DID GET IT DONE IN THE SAME COUNTY, OKANOGAN, WITH THIS NICE MULEY. THE ABERDEEN DEMOCRAT IS THE CHAIR OF THE IMPORTANT HOUSE AGRICULTURE & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE, OF WHICH REP. JOEL KRETZ, REPUBLICAN OF WAUCONDA, IS ALSO A MEMBER. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

OKANOGAN COUNTY

If there’s good news from Washington’s best mule deer country, it might be that a relatively strong 19 bucks per 100 does were counted on the winter range coming out of last year’s hunt.

“And with almost half of those being greater than or equal to three-points, older age-class buck availability looks good,” report district biologists Scott Fitkin and Jeff Henlein in their prospects.

But while 19 per 100 is at the top end of the management objective, it’s well below the gaudy highs of late falls earlier this decade, and probably a sign of reduced recruitment.

“Overall, total general season harvest and success rates are anticipated to be around the 2017 numbers, somewhere above the 10-year low and below the 5-year average,” the biologists forecast.

For the record, general season hunters killed 1,966 deer here last year, including 1,201 by riflemen, numbers that were down 43 and 54 percent, respectively, from 2015, a ridiculously good year when even blundering hook-and-bullet editors could notch a tag.

At this writing, things had been hot and dry for months and months, and that may concentrate deer on north-facing slopes where moisture can stick around a bit longer, the biologists suggest. But if rains have returned since, that may green things up a bit and spread the animals back across this beautiful sprawling landscape until high-country snows drive the bruisers to the winter range, providing good opportunities for those lucky enough to have drawn special permits.

Meanwhile, glass those burns – Tripod, Needles, etc. – for bucks foraging on high-quality browse, then put a sneak on them. But be aware that the Twisp River’s Crescent Fire caused a large-scale closure that may still affect access into the Gardner and Alta Units. See fs.usda.gov/okawen and inciweb.nwcg.gov for more.

IT DOESN’T ALWAYS SNOW DURING WASHINGTON’S EARLY WILDERNESS RIFLE DEER SEASON, BUT WHEN IT DOES AND WHEN A HUNTER BAGS A BUCK, IT MAKES FOR A GREAT PHOTO. SUCH IS THE CASE WITH JON JACKMAN, WHO WEATHERED A DAYS-LONG STORM, TO HUNT SOME HIGH MEADOWS ON HIS LAST FULL DAY AT A DROP CAMP. WHEN HE TOOK A LAST GLANCE BACK TO WHERE SOME DOES HAD GONE, HE SPOTTED HIS BUCK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

CHELAN COUNTY

The story is similar to the south of the Okanogan but also more positive in part. Buck numbers declined to 18:100 does coming out of last season in vaunted Chelan County due to 2015 and winters, but across the river in Douglas County, the herd is more stable.

“Hunters should consider the Chelan population to be in a rebuilding phase for the next few years. Survey numbers in Douglas County are encouraging, with overall buck-to-doe ratios above the objective of 15 bucks per 100 does,” report biologists David Volsen and Devon Comstock.

They say that their district’s eastern herd should be bigger and provide more opportunities this season, at least to those with permission to hunt the high, open Mansfield Plateau and its nooks and crannies for generally smaller bucks on private land. The bios report that there is some 150 square miles of farms and ranches open through the Feel Free To Hunt and Hunt By Written Permission programs.

And unlike other recent large state acquisitions, the entire 21,140 acres of the Big Bend Wildlife Area – the former Grand Coulee Ranch – is open to general season hunting. Expect it to be crowded on the first rifle weekend, but a boat and a good map opens up possibilities on the upper south shore of Rufus Woods Lake. Note that this wildlife area is also the first to specifically prohibit e-bikes.

Volsen and Comstock estimated that in 2017 12,680 deer occurred in Douglas County, but the herd in Chelan County south of the big fjord declined from the 15,000 to 18,000 range to 11,000 as of two years ago. The good news is the bleeding has stopped in the latter county.

“Winter conditions in 2017-18 were more normal. Decreased overwinter mortality should allow the population to start recovering from declines,” they wrote.

In the short term they expect a “flatter” harvest of big bucks and that hunters will have to “work a little harder” to find legal animals this fall. But with a stable population, good to improving habitat and the ability of deer to repopulate fairly rapidly, the long-term outlook is good.

The district’s best unit, Entiat, was only singed by the Cougar Creek Fire, but the Chiwawa Unit had big closure areas at press time due to it. Watch the above websites for updates.

AFTER KYLIE RICE AND HER DAD RYNE SPOTTED THIS EASTERN WASHINGTON BUCK DURING THE LATE MUZZLELOADER HUNT, THEY STALKED TO WITHIN 92 YARDS, THEN RYNE TOOK THE SHOT. BUT THAT WASN’T THE END OF THE 9-YEAR-OLD’S EDUCATION – KYLIE FOLLOWED A 60-YARD BLOOD TRAIL TO THE DEER. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WESTERN COLUMBIA BASIN

Not unlike Douglas County to the north, Grant and Adams Counties’ best units, Beezley and Ritzville, are mostly private, but last fall’s posthunt survey found buck:doe ratios above what you might expect out of this sort of country: 16- and 21:100. Both were up over the previous autumn, and fawn ratios were also “favorable” last year, with 71- and 73:100, respectively – well up from 2015’s “all-time lows.”

“Given the modest escapement of bucks in 2017 and likely good recruitment of fawns, hunters should expect an average year for mule deer hunting throughout the district,” report biologists Sean Dougherty and Ella Rowan.

Between three private-lands access programs, there are 200,000-plus acres hunters can get onto through reservations, written permission or just walking on. And despite no hunting unit having more than 15 percent public lands, outside of the permit-only Desert GMU, there’s a wide variety of federally or state-owned ground to look into.

WASHINGTON’S TEANAWAY’S STILL GOT IT FOR BIG BUCKS, IF BART OLSON’S BRUISER IS ANY INDICATION. HE BAGGED THIS MULEY DURING A RAINY DAY NEAR THE END OF THE OCTOBER HUNT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

YAKIMA, KITTITAS COUNTIES

If you’re looking for a place to hunt with good road access, plenty of public land and loooooooow pressure, these two South-central Washington counties just might be for you. That’s also assuming you have little interest in notching a tag.

Indeed, there may be no grimmer district hunting forecast than the one issued by biologist Jeff Bernatowicz: “Wolves ate ’em all.”

Just kidding. He actually writes that last year’s harvest was the worst on record, the success rate was just 5 percent – two mountainous units produced just seven deer between them for 800 riflemen – and the age-class of bucks that should be on the landscape now is “missing.”

“No rebound is expected for 2018,” Bernie reports.

It’s actually pretty sad because this herd has been really struggling since the early 2000s. Recently things appeared to be slowly improving, thanks to three years of good fawn recruitment that helped spike the harvest to 1,019 deer in 2015, but that production fell off a cliff due to the aforementioned drought and winterkill, and last year only saw 499 taken.

NEW RESEARCH BY STATE WILDLIFE MANAGERS IS PROVIDING CLUES ABOUT WHERE TO LOOK FOR WESTSIDE BLACKTAIL BUCKS, LIKE THIS COWEEMAN UNIT THREE-POINT TAKEN BY BRANDON WILLIAMS DURING LAST YEAR’S LATE RIFLE HUNT. “IF A HUNTER SEES SIGNS OF DEER IN AN AREA, BUT NO DEER, THEY NEED TO BE PATIENT OR CHANGE THEIR APPROACH,” THEY COUNSEL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

KLICKITAT

The harsh, lingering winter of 2016-17 and an adenovirus outbreak added up to “very low” success rates last fall on Washington’s side of the eastern Columbia Gorge, with lowest-in-a-decade-at-least harvests in the West and East Klickitat and Grayback Units.

But biologist Stephanie Bergh believes that things will begin to turn around this fall, and, even better, fawn survival coming out of last winter was back to historic levels for these units.

As a reminder, the Simcoe Wildlife Area is permit only. And new this year, Stevenson Land Company has closed two areas, Snowden and Gilmer, to the general public.

But another 65,000 acres of Western Pacific Timber lands west of Highway 97 is open for walk-in hunting, as are Hancock lands, for the time being.

HUNTING THE SAME NORTH CASCADES HILLS AS HIS FATHER GREW UP HUNTING WITH HIS GRANDFATHER, DIEGO DEL NAGRO MADE THE FAMILY PROUD WITH THIS OPENING-MORNING BLACKTAIL, SHOT AT 150 YARDS WITH THE 10-YEAR-OLD’S NEW .243. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WESTSIDE

Last year’s harvest dropoff wasn’t just limited to Eastern Washington units – it was statewide, with all districts declining. Pacific and Grays Harbor County biologists Anthony Novack and Scott Harris report nearly 600 fewer deer were harvested in 2017 than 2016, which they termed “surprising and without an obvious biological cause.”

Part of that could be due to the aforementioned low hunter turnout, but a table the bios produced doesn’t show that much of a decline in South Coast numbers between the years. (More troubling is the long-term drop here, from 7,000 in 2008 to 4,500 in 2017, probably indicative of hunters aging out and the rise of access-fee policies).

For those who venture out for blacktail here or elsewhere on the Westside, they offer this advice based on deer collared in the Capitol State Forest:

“None of the deer monitored in WDFW’s study used an area larger than 0.38 square miles (243 acres). The average home range size was 0.14 square miles (86 acres). Some deer used an area no bigger than 45 acres in size during an entire year. If a hunter sees signs of deer in an area, but no deer, they need to be patient or change their approach.”

For more on WDFW’s deer studies, see the October issue’s South Sound column.

In Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Lewis Counties, biologists Eric Holman and Nicholle Stephens expect hunting to be “good” this season, thanks to a mild winter.

Target regenerating clearcuts near taller second- and third-growth on state and private timberlands. Don’t have a trespass pass? WDFW’s Hunting page (wdfw.wa.gov/hunting) now has two different maps to help you find public land here and across the state.

But know that some huntable parcels may not be so readily visible, requiring extra work to sniff them out. For instance, some community forests on various Puget Sound islands are open under varying rules. Westside biologists’ online hunting prospects provide some details. 

Arrow Removed From Roseburg Deer; OSP Looking For Culprit

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE DIVISION

Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Officers are asking for the public’s assistance in locating and apprehending the person(s) responsible for shooting a female deer in the head with an arrow on July 4, or July 5, 2018.

(OSP)

An OSP Fish and Wildlife Officer and ODFW Wildlife Biologist responded to the 800 block of San Souci Drive west of Roseburg on July 6, 2018.

The arrow was removed and the deer returned to its small fawn nearby.

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the animal was likely shot from a residence on Braunda Drive, San Souci Drive, or Bellwood Lane.

Those with information are asked to contact Sr. Trooper Stone directly at (541) 817-4472 or OSP dispatch at (541) 440-3333. Those with information can remain anonymous and a TIP reward will be offered for information leading to a citation or arrest in the case.

122 More Oregon Charges Filed Against SW WA Poaching Suspects, Others

Southwest Washington poaching suspects and others now face charges in a fourth Oregon county, in addition to many more north of the Columbia as well.

Prosecutors in The Dalles yesterday filed 122 wildlife misdemeanor charges against 11 men and women, including a combined 87 against the two men whose phones led game wardens in both states to discover a shocking amount of alleged illegal killing of wintering bucks for their antlers, as well as unlawfully chasing bear and bobcat with dogs.

BUCK HEADS AND A RIFLE SEIZED DURING SEARCH WARRANTS SERVED IN COWLITZ COUNTY IN MARCH 2017. (WDFW VIA KPTV)

Those two individuals are Erik C. Martin and William J. Haynes, both 24 and from Kelso and Longview. They were hit with 42 and 45 of the charges in Wasco County, where the case began in fall 2016.

According to reports from KOIN and The Seattle Times, others who were charged there include:

Joseph A. Dills, 31, of Longview: 12 counts

Aaron B. Hendricks, 35, of Woodland: five counts

Sierra Dills, 18, of Longview: four counts

David R. McLeskey, 59, of Woodland: four counts

Eddy A. Dills, 58, of Longview: two counts

Kimberly K. Crape, 20, hometown unknown: two counts

Wyatt Keith, 17, hometown unknown: two counts

Aubri N. McKenna, 36, hometown unknown: one count

Aaron C. Hanson, 38, hometown unknown: one count

Hendricks, McKlesky, Haynes and Joseph A. Dills also face charges in Oregon’s Clackamas County, they’ve pleaded not guilty to more in Clatsop County, and McKleskey and Dills are expected to be charged in Lincoln County too, according to news reports.

Also charged in Clatsop County was Eddy Dills, who recently appeared on Seattle news station KING-5 to take aim at Washington’s timber damage prevention bear hunts to excuse his alleged actions, which seems more and more farcical with every new charge against him, his family and acquaintances.

Eddy Dills reportedly pleaded not guilty to poaching in Clatsop County.

Haynes and Joseph A. Dills were each initially charged with 64 counts each in Washington’s Skamania County, Martin with 28, Eddy Dills with 26.

Charges against ringmembers have also been filed in Cowlitz, Lewis, Jefferson and Pacific Counties.

WILLIAM J. HAYNES IN A SELFIE AFTER ALLEGEDLY SHOOTING AN ILLEGALLY HUNTED BLACK BEAR AT CLOSE RANGE WITH A SHOTGUN. (WDFW)

It all stems from a single traffic stop during the harsh winter of 2016-17.

Oregon State Police wildlife troopers investigating a string of headless bucks shot and left on winter range near Mt. Hood matched a trail cam photo of a truck with one spotted in The Dalles and pulled it over.

Inside were Haynes and Martin, and a mountain of evidence was ultimately found on their phones and homes.

WILLIAM J. HAYNES AND ERIK C. MARTIN. (WDFW)

ODFW, OSP Team To Remove Arrows From 2 Shady Cove Does; Search Still On For Poacher

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

Two deer, illegally shot with arrows in the Shady Cove area, were successfully tranquilized yesterday and the arrows removed.

(OSP)

ODFW wildlife biologists and Oregon State Police fish and wildlife officers worked together to track and tranquilize the deer, remove the arrows and treat the wounds. The deer, an adult doe and a yearling doe, were successfully released in good health with no visible infection.

(OSP)

“Pictures of these deer stuck with arrows have been circulating widely in the media and social media, and understandably, it’s upsetting to see. We are happy to say the arrows were removed and these deer have a very good chance of survival,” said Steve Niemela, Rogue District Wildlife Biologist.

Last week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State police began receiving calls from landowners in Shady Cove who saw these deer on their properties. Niemela said this is the second time in two years deer were illegally shot with arrows.

“This is not ethical hunting, it’s a twisted act of poaching,” said Zach Lycett, board member of the Rogue Valley Chapter of Oregon Hunter’s Association. “True ethical hunters respect the animals they hunt and are grateful for the opportunities to hunt. We do not stand for these kinds of criminal acts.”

OSP Sergeant Jim Collom said OSP is investigating and encourages anyone with information to call the TIP line at 1-800-452-7888.

The Rogue Valley OHA contributed $1,500, Ashland Archers contributed $100 and Dewclaw Archery contributed $500 to add on to the Oregon Hunter’s Association’s standard $500 reward for information leading t