Tag Archives: douglas county

Central Washington Pronghorn Management Subject Of 2 Meetings, Survey

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to hear from residents on how to manage pronghorns on portions of central Washington. The agency will host two public listening sessions to gather stakeholder feedback on pronghorn antelope management.

PRONGHORN WANDER ACROSS FRIGID DOUGLAS COUNTY FIELDS IN LATE 2016 FOLLOWING COLVILLE TRIBES TRANSLOCATIONS TO THE RESERVATION ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER FROM THERE. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

“Pronghorn are some of the rarest and least-known large mammals in Washington. Historically, they’ve been a natural part of our ecosystems across the flat grassland areas of eastern Washington, though loss of habitat and changes in climate have made it difficult for a sustainable population to survive,” said Rich Harris, game division section manager. “I think they’re great to have on the landscape, and we’re working with local communities to produce an effective plan to manage them.”

The first meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, June 3 at Pioneer Hall in Mansfield. The second meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at the Benton Rural Electric Association, 402 7th St, Prosser.

WDFW is seeking the public’s feedback to develop a pronghorn antelope management plan. At the meeting, WDFW staff will give a background of pronghorn in Washington, address issues and concerns, and identify opportunities for pronghorn management.

In addition to the two public listening meetings, we invite the public to provide their feedback in our online pronghorn survey (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/pronghorn-antelope-management). The survey will go live later this week.

Pronghorn antelope are small, between 70 and 150 pounds, and eat small flowering plants. They coexist with livestock, but can cause damage to crops. Unlike mule deer, pronghorns do not jump well, so fencing can cause problems when they try to escape predators.

Pronghorn antelope populations declined significantly in Washington prior to the 19th century, when they were extirpated or locally extinct in Washington.

Washington state officials previously attempted to reintroduce pronghorns on several occasions in the 1900s. In 2011, the Yakama Tribe reintroduced 99 pronghorns onto their reservation. In 2016 and 2017, the Colville Confederation Tribes reintroduced roughly 150 pronghorns onto their reservation.

Since these reintroductions, the pronghorns have migrated from the reservations onto state-managed lands. WDFW is working with local communities to create a pronghorn management plan for Washington.

RMEF Details $355,000 In Oregon Elk Habitat, Research Grants

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN ELK FOUNDATION

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided $355,128 in grants to fund nearly two dozen habitat enhancement and elk research projects in Oregon.

(RMEF)

The projects benefit 10,317 acres of wildlife habitat across Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Tillamook, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Yamhill Counties. One of the projects benefits much of eastern Oregon.

“There is a great need to gain a better understanding of the productivity of elk populations as well as movement, behavior, private versus public habitat usage and other issues that affect elk in Oregon. That, in part, is why we provided grant funding for five detailed research projects,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “The funding also goes toward prescribed burning, forest thinning, meadow restoration, noxious weed treatment and other work that enhances habitat for elk and other wildlife.”

RMEF has 27 chapters and more than 17,000 members in Oregon.

“Elk and elk country in Oregon have our volunteers to thank for generating this funding by hosting banquets, membership drives and other events. We so appreciate their time and talents as well as their dedication to our conservation mission,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO.

Below is a sampling of Oregon’s 2019 projects, listed by county:

Coos County

  • Plant native grasses and forbs within coastal forest openings across 93 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to improve forage for wildlife (also benefits Douglas and Curry Counties).

Crook County

  • Seed 455 acres of meadow, sagebrush and aspen habitat on the Ochoco National Forest. Crews will also burn slash piles created during 2018 thinning operations. The project area is utilized year-round by elk and also benefits mule deer, antelope, wild turkey, California and mountain quail, Hungarian partridge and other species.
  • Enhance about 1,345 acres of wildlife habitat on the northern edge of the Ochoco National Forest. Treatments include meadow restoration, aspen enhancement and protection, improving big game security through installing effective barriers on closed roads and reconnection of the floodplain through stream restoration and riparian improvements.

Douglas County

  • Provide funding for lab analysis of forage clippings taken in spring and fall as part of a study examining multiple native seed mixes to determine the best mix for elk forage based on consumption and nutritional content. Provide funding for six GPS collars to be placed on bull elk as part of a study to define elk ranges in western Oregon including habitat use and movements, survival rates and mortality causes. The findings will assist with improved overall elk management (also benefits Coos, Linn and Lane Counties).
  • Provide funding for a study to determine whether sampling and extracting DNA from fecal pellets is a reliable way to estimate elk populations. Currently, biologists conduct counts via helicopter surveys but they lack effectiveness due to heavy, dense forests (also benefits Coos, Linn and Lane Counties).

Grant County

  • Complete seeding of 100 acres that were heavily encroached by junipers and previously treated via cutting, piling and pile burning as part of a continuing effort to improve elk and deer range in the Sage Brush Basin. Treat 400 acres of winter range for elk. mule deer and antelope on the Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Management Area through chemical control of invasive annual grasses followed by drill seeding with a desirable perennial grass mix.
  • Restore aspen stands by removing encroaching conifers covering 155 acres along streams and meadows on the Malheur National Forest. This marks the first phase of a project encompassing 17,500 acres 14 miles south of John Day.

Harney County

  • Provide funding for a holistic approach to increase the quality of elk habitat across 3,280 acres on the Malheur National Forest and BLM land. Crews will refurbish five water guzzlers, improve elk security, distribute native grass and mountain shrub seed and apply noxious weed treatment.
  • Remove juniper from 288 acres of BLM land to improve the health and vigor of aspen stands and riparian areas used by elk, mule deer and greater sage grouse in the Little Bridge Creek drainage.

Klamath County

  • Provide funding to assist with the construction of a wildlife crossing under a new bridge along U.S. 97 at milepost 180. Specifically, RMEF funds will go toward the installation of 10 miles of fencing to help funnel elk and deer to the undercrossing.

Lake County

  • Treat 891 acres of elk summer range in the North Warner Mountains on the Fremont-Winema National Forest. This is the fourth year of a seven-year effort to restore aspen on a landscape-scale while also improving wildlife habitat and creating both natural firebreaks and local jobs.

Lane County

  • Use mechanical mowing, chain saws and other means to improve 180 acres of meadow habitat on the Siuslaw National Forest. Annual maintenance prevents the incursion of invasive vegetation and benefits elk, black-tailed deer and other bird and animal life (also benefits Lincoln and Douglas Counties).
  • Prescribed burn 100 acres to trigger the growth of native vegetation and improve overall forest health on the Willamette National Forest. The treatment is part of the multi-year Jim’s Creek Restoration Project to return the area to its historic state of scattered Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and Oregon white oak stands with a dense bunchgrass understory.
  • Apply a variety of treatments to benefit wildlife habitat across 161 acres in the McKenzie River Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest. Specific approaches include noxious weed treatment, prescribed burning, mulching, planting seed and wetland enhancement.

Linn County

  • Apply a combination of forest thinning, prescribed fire, seeding and other treatments to restore meadow and wetland habitat at three sites in the Western Cascade Mountains on the Willamette National Forest (also benefits Lane County).
  • Apply a combination of treatments to enhance and restore six mountain meadows over 157 acres where non-native species and encroaching conifers are affecting habitat in the Sweet Home Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest.

Marion County

  • Restore and maintain a 38-acre large mountain meadow on BLM land northeast of Gates that is a migration corridor and provides summer forage.

Tillamook County

  • Maintain and restore 135 acres of meadows in the Hebo Ranger District on the Siuslaw National Forest. Crews will institute a combination of noxious weed, forest thinning and planting treatments to expand existing meadows by removing competing vegetation (also benefits Lincoln and Yamhill Counties).

Umatilla County

  • Provide funding for research to provide biologists a better understanding why elk are shifting their range from public to private lands in the Blue Mountains. Crews will capture and place GPS collars on 50 cow elk so biologists can monitor their migration and use of summer and winter range while also aiming to reduce private land damage and increase hunting opportunity (also benefits Morrow County).
  • Treat 555 acres on the Bridge Creek Wildlife Management Area to control invasive weeds and stimulate the growth of desirable grasses and forbs.

Union County

  • Thin 600 acres of young, overstocked conifer stands on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest followed by slash treatment and pile and burning. Improving habitat will increase the quality of forage on yearlong elk habitat and reduce elk damage on nearby private land.
  • Treat 2,000 acres across the Grande Ronde and Catherine Creek watersheds on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the Blue Mountains to remove noxious weeds that degrade the quality and quantity of elk forage.

Wallowa County

  • Prescribe burn 500 acres on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to remove decadent grasses and shrubs as well as stimulate regrowth in open grasslands and the understory of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir stands. The project is part of a10-year effort to burn more than 5,000 acres within the Chesnimnus Wildlife Management Unit to improve elk distribution and draw them away from private property where damage complaints are common.

Eastern Oregon

  • Provide funding for research to gain a better understanding why elk populations are declining across wide areas of the northwestern United States. Researchers will apply a time series approach across three different landscapes to analyze population responses to several disturbance agents such as forestry, fire and grazing.

WDFW Looking For Comments On 9 Proposed Fish, Wildlife Acquisitions

Washington fish and wildlife managers are looking for public comment on whether they should acquire 4,000 acres of land for salmon, forage fish and critter habitat and public recreation.

WDFW IS LOOKING FOR PUBLIC COMMENT ON WHETHER TO SEEK FUNDING FOR NINE LAND BUYS, TRANSFERS AND DONATIONS ACROSS THE STATE TO PROTECT HABITAT AND ENHANCE FISHING AND HUNTING OPPORTUNTIES. (WDFW)

The nine projects would primarily pad state wildlife areas in Okanogan and northern Douglas Counties and protect estuaries on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Hood Canal and Grays Harbor.

“This is an opportunity to comment on these proposals in the early stages of our strategic thinking,” said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager, in a press release.

Comments will determine if the agency goes ahead and seeks funding from the legislature and other sources.

The largest is a proposed 2,180-acre land buy around the Central Ferry Unit of the Wells Wildlife Area west of Bridgeport.

“Acquisition will complement and protect area habitat and species including, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage grouse and mule deer, while providing hunting, wildlife viewing, and other recreational opportunities,” a WDFW PDF states.

The buy has the support of Douglas County Commissioners, according to the agency.

On the other side of the Upper Columbia are proposed additions to the McLoughlin Falls (730 acres), Scotch Creek (220 acres) and Golden Doe (110 acres) Units of various wildlife areas in the Okanogan, Sinlahekin and Methow Valleys, respectively.

All would preserve deer and other wildlife habitat from development, while the Scotch Creek deal would be a trade, swapping for 80 acres of state wildlife area being leased for farming.

The three have the support of Okanogan County Commissioners, with the Colville Tribes also on board with the McLoughlin Falls deal along the Okanogan River between Tonasket and Riverside.

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In Western Washington, WDFW would be transferred 300 acres on the lower end of Big Beef Creek, “one of the largest, most intact watersheds in Kitsap County.”

“Ownership of this property would support continuation of a current restoration project,” an agency write-up states. “Additionally, Big Beef Creek is the only system in Hood Canal where state and tribal fishery managers have enough annual coho salmon out-migrants to mark wild coho salmon for marine survival and harvest forecast.”

It has the support three local tribes, county, DNR, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and others.

On the southern shore of Grays Harbor, WDFW would accept a 257-acre donation, protecting habitat and recreational opportunities, and link two other state-managed parcels.

A proposed 216-acre acquisition at the mouth of West Twin River would protect, enhance and restore over half a mile of saltwater shoreline between Port Angeles and Sekiu, including important eel grass beds and spawning areas for surf smelt, and 14,000 feet of riparian habitat in the stream, “one of the most important coho and steelhead systems in the strait.”

Federal researchers found that wild winter-run steelhead in West and East Twin Rivers have 18 different life histories.

A DNR SHORELINE PHOTO SHOWS THE MOUTH OF THE WEST TWIN RIVER. (DNR)

Two others are located on the Duckabush delta (.76 acre) and Lake Lenore (160 acres from state parks).

To learn more about the projects, go here .

Written comments are being taken through Feb. 25 by emailing lands@dfw.wa.gov.

 

OSP Looking For Tips In Whitetail, Elk Poaching Cases

Oregon state troopers are looking for information on whomever killed three deer and an elk in different parts of the state recently.

They say three whitetails were illegally shot in Baker County and their heads and hides were dumped northeast of Keating.

It wasn’t clear when the deer were shot or their sex, but their remains were located on Mother Lode Road.

OSP is asking anyone with info to call their dispatch center (800-442-2068) or dial *OSP and ask for Sergeant Cyr.

As for the elk, the cow was shot with a rifle and left to waste the morning of Thursday, Dec. 27, in a clearcut northwest of Roseburg by Douglas County’s Wolf Creek Ranch.

(OSP)

“A vehicle of interest is a compact truck occupied by two or more adult males (late teens or early 20’s) which traveled from Bullock Road to Tyee Access Road that morning,” OSP said in a press release.

Informants are asked to call (800)-442-2068) or dial *OSP and reference Senior Troopers Stone or Weaver.

Those whose tips lead to an arrest or citation stand to collect a reward or preference points.

Home Security System Helps Oregon Troopers Track Down Alleged Buck Poacher

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

On December 6, 2018, an Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Trooper from the Roseburg Area Command responded to the report of a poaching and trespassing incident that occurred on December 5, 2018, in the Drain area.

Investigation revealed that a large black tail buck deer was shot within feet of a residence in Drain.  The event was captured on the home security system.    With assistance from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, subjects of interest was identified.

On December 14, 2018, Troopers and Sheriff’s Deputies contacted the subjects of interest at their residence. The antlers and head for a 4X3 black tail deer were recovered  The meat that was recovered from a butcher shop will be donated to a charity.

Trent M. Tinnes (25) of Drain was lodged at the Douglas County Jail for:

  • Unlawful Take of Buck Deer: Prohibited Method ( rifle during archery season)
  • Unlawful Take of Buck Deer: Prohibited Weapon ( .17 Caliber Rifle)
  • Unlawful Take of Buck Deer: Prohibited Hours
  • Hunting While in Violation of Criminal Trespass
  • Criminal Trespass with a Firearm
  • Recklessly Endangering Another Person x 2

Travis D. Tinnes (21) of Drain was criminally cited and released for:

  • Aiding/ Counseling in a Wildlife Offense
  • Driving While Suspended Misdemeanor

ODFW Biologists Spotlighting Deer For Douglas County Survey

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

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are conducting nighttime spotlight surveys of deer populations around Douglas County. All state trucks in the survey are clearly marked with large ODFW placards and flashing amber strobe lights.

(ODFW)

District spotlight surveys include county roads along the Umpqua Valley floor and remote locations throughout Douglas County foothills. Both black-tailed and Columbian white-tailed deer are counted along established roots. This data helps biologists monitor deer population trends and herd health through time.

Nighttime spotlighting in fall gives biologists an estimate of buck to doe and fawn to doe ratios. Spring spotlight surveys that begin in early March provide an indication of winter survival for fawns and yearlings.

Citizens witnessing spotlighting activity from unmarked vehicles are asked to call Oregon State Police’s TIP line at *OSP (677) or 1-800-452-7888

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. 

250 Pronghorns Wandering Central Washington

Somewhere around 250 pronghorn are roaming the open country of Northcentral and Southcentral Washington, thanks to tribal releases on two reservations in recent years and the birth of fawns.

A minimum of 118 were counted by Colville wildlife biologists during a recent aerial survey, according to a Grand Coulee Star article out last Wednesday.

A PRONGHORN WANDERS THROUGH COUNTRYSIDE. (NPS)

Surveyors counted 89 adults and 29 fawns. Fifty-one of those animals are wearing telemetry collars, and it’s likely there are more untracked antelope both on and off the Colville Reservation.

Fifty-two were set free there in January 2016 and another 99 this past October.

A number have crossed the Columbia River into largely private Douglas County and some have wandered as far as Wenatchee and Quincy, according to the Star.

Colville wildlife managers say they are trying to work with the state Department of Transportation and local farmers how to design pronghorn-friendly fences, as the speedsters are apparently not very good at jumping.

Antelope, however, can be problematic for alfalfa growers.

The northern pronghorns came from the same state as those released earlier this decade on the Yakama Reservation, Nevada.

A joint state-tribal March 2017 aerial survey of Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties yielded a population estimate of 121, and last fall Yakama biologists let 52 more loose.

“There was high survival of the translocated animals, so the herd is presumably a bit larger that the spring count of 121 animals now,” said WDFW wildlife bio Jason Fidorra.

He expects the tribe to release another 48.

State pronghorn manager Rich Harris says that WDFW and the Yakama Nation will conduct an aerial survey this coming winter.

Nearly 100 Pronghorn Released On North-central Washington Reservation

Just under 100 pronghorn were let loose on the Colville Reservation in late October, according to tribal wildlife managers.

It’s the second batch of the native but extirpated species that has been released on the sprawling North-central Washington reservation in the past two years.

The Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department announced the release in a short Facebook post.

PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON THE COLVILLE RESERVATION IN JANUARY 2016 MADE THEIR WAY SOUTH ACROSS THE COLUMBIA INTO DOUGLAS COUNTY BY THAT WINTER. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

As with January 2016’s 52, the latest transplants were originally captured in Nevada, as were 99 that went to the Yakama Reservation in South-central Washington in January 2011.

Dozens of those pronghorns swam across the Columbia to Douglas County last year and were said to be hanging out on CRP lands.

At least 14 collared animals died.

Well to the south, mid-March 2017 aerial surveys in Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties turned up 116 antelope — 44 on Yakama lands and 72 outside those borders — with a population estimate of 121.

“Both the Yakama Nation and WDFW consider that the population will require at least a few more years of growth before recreational harvest should be considered,” reads a state report.

Game Pole Starting To Sag With Nice Eastern Washington Muley Harvest

Eastern Washington mule deer hunters appear to be having a decent October, if images sent to Northwest Sportsman this month are any indication.

It’s hardly the final word and it’s impossible to compare it with previous falls, but my photo files hold more than a few critters from the 509 taken by muzzleloaders and riflemen.

And with this morning’s arrival of an especially tall-tined buck in my inbox, I thought I’d share some success pics from our readers

(NOTE: If you’d like to contribute to the game pole as well as appear in our annual Big Game Yearbook in the February 2018 issue, shoot me an email with pics and details at awalgamott@media-inc.com!)

Here’s more from 2017’s harvest so far:

Never give up! On his last morning afield, Andrew Noreen spotted this beefy Okanogan County buck. He says it green scores in the 180 to 190 range before deductions, and weighed a hefty 210 pounds after gutting. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

A 320-yard shot led to a notched tag for Craig Westlin on the Oct. 14 opener. He was hunting in Southeast Washington with Deadman Creek Outfitters. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

A long drive from Grays Harbor to the Okanogan paid off for Brian Blake with this nice buck. Blake is a state representative who chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which oversees WDFW-related issues. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Two for two! Grace Smith is off to a heckuva start with her hunting career, tagging this Ritzville doe on the opener after last year bagging a good four-point. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Here’s another look at Dave Anderson’s stout Okanogan buck, taken well away from the madding crowds outside Winthrop. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Let’s not forget the muzzie guys, especially not this kid! That’s Lane Leondard, 20, with his seventh buck in seven years, four taken with a rifle and three, including this Douglas County bruiser, with a smokepole. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Hunting eastern Grant County, Michael Cook bumped into this late afternoon muley. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The Benson family is going to be eating well this winter after father Jeff tipped over this wide-racked Walla Walla County buck … (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

… And son Jack followed up with this good muley still sporting a bit of velvet. The 11-year-old was toting a .243 and had just completed hunter ed last summer. He thanked landowners for allowing youths on to hunt their property. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Nic Belisle got it done in the Okanogan on opening weekend while hunting with friend Chuck Hartman … (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

… Who in turn notched his own tag with this three-pointer the next day. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

There’s luck, and then there’s luck, and it’s never a bad thing either way. Let’s just say, John Calvert didn’t have far to cart this three-point after downing it over opening weekend. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Jeremy Jones put in a lot of effort on the opener hunting north-central Okanogan County, but it wasn’t until he was headed back to camp that he spotted this nice buck off the road and put the sneak on it to make the shot. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

No, we didn’t get ’em all this month — this big Prescott GMU buck decided against taking the usual backwards glance at Chad Zoller and his son, who was lined up for a shot if it had. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)