Tag Archives: hunting

2017 Saw New Lows For Washington Deer Harvest, WDFW Stats Show

Washington deer hunters had one of their worst seasons last fall, harvesting the fewest animals in more than 20 years.

Part of that was probably due to nearly a new low number of sportsmen who hit the field in pursuit of blacktails, muleys and whitetails, and it could also be a lingering hangover from 2015’s relatively high harvest as well as recent drought and harsher winters.

SNOW FALLS HEAVILY ON THE WALGAMOTT-BELL DEER CAMP IN NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON LAST OCTOBER. THE WEATHER SENT THE HUNTERS HOME WITH TWO AND A HALF DAYS OF SEASON STILL IN HAND — A RECKLESS WASTE OF PRIME TIME THAT LED TO VERY DESERVING SERVINGS OF TAG SOUP THE WHOLE WAY AROUND. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW’s recently released 2017 Game Harvest Report shows that Evergreen State hunters killed just 24,360 deer during the general season, 26,537 when special permits are included.

Both are the lowest harvests since 1997, as far back as state agency’s online records go.

Next closest low marks are 2011’s general season harvest of 26,638 deer and 29,154 when special permits are included.

High marks are 2004’s 39,359 and 44,544, respectively.

Riflemen, who make up the bulk of the state’s hunters, killed 17,113 bucks during September, October and November 2017’s various general seasons.

That’s also a new cellar dweller, and is nearly 2,000 antlered animals fewer than the next closest fall, 2011, when 19,007 tags were notched.

It’s also nearly 13,000 less than the high mark, 30,058 in 2004.

As for overall hunter numbers, those nearly set a new low; 2017’s 106,977 was only a couple hundred more pumpkins than 2006’s 106,751.

It’s actually more remarkable that 2006’s turnout was so low —  I wonder if it might actually have been due to bad data entry — as the number of hunters has been declining for decades in Washington and across most of the country as Baby Boomers age out of the sport.

Looking at five-year averages, WDFW’s stats show a loss of over 30,000 deer chasers since the late 1990s — and nearly 50,000 since 152,840 headed for the woods in 1999.

FIVE-YEAR AVERAGES
1998-2002: 145,000
2003-2007: 132,000
2008-2012: 126,000
2013-2017: 114,000

Other factors in play include more and more private timber companies charging entry fees to access their sprawling acreages, as well as increasing numbers of wolves.

So far the latter hasn’t been shown to be impacting deer populations, according to a WDFW assessment, but perhaps the perception of packs as well as reality that the predators are moving deer around to different areas are affecting hunters.

As for why 2017 was so poor, WDFW game manager Jerry Nelson said it was possible that 2015’s high general season and special permit harvest of 37,963 deer played a role. That was the most since 2005.

A recent presentation he made to the Fish and Wildlife Commission shows a decline of 3,000 deer killed in Northeast Washington’s whitetail-rich District 1 between 2015, the year the four-point minimum came off two key units, and 2017.

“Some speculate about the drought of 2015 being followed by the above average winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17 as being a factor in some locations,” Nelson added.

The latter winter was particularly strong across the southern tier of Eastern Washington.

Bluetongue also hit far Eastern Washington whitetails in 2015, adenovirus muleys in South-central Washington last year.

Nelson said that fewer special permits were issued last year, though not enough to affect the overall harvest.

Still, he didn’t have any good ideas why so relatively few general season hunters went out.

Poking around the numbers myself, I see that sharp drops in hunter numbers can occur two years after really good seasons.

For instance, following 2004’s huge kill, 2006 saw nearly 40,000 fewer hunters head out, if that year’s statistic is to be trusted.

Following 2015’s, 10,000 fewer went out in 2017.

If there are any positives to be had in the data, it’s that general season rifle success percentages have actually been relatively strong in recent years.

The three best deer seasons since 1997 were 2015 (30.6 percent), 2016 (28.8) and 2014 (28.2).

And five of the top six have occurred since 2012, with only 2004’s standout 27.7 in the mix.

On the flip side, 2017’s 22.5 percent was fifth lowest since 1997, with 1998’s 18.7 percent the worst of all, followed by 1999’s and 1997’s 21.2 and 21.6 percents, respectively.

Those three bad years in the late 1990s followed hard on the heels of a very bad winter and new three-point minimums for mule deer.

But now with 2018’s seasons less than five months away, what do Washington deer hunters have to look forward to?

“On the plus side, we have had a mild winter this year, so deer over-winter survival should be good,” Nelson noted.

A WDFW press release out after the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved hunting seasons for this and the next two years notes that “Hunters will be allowed to take antlerless white-tailed deer in game management units 101-121 in northeast Washington. Special permits will be available to seniors and hunters using modern firearms, while other hunters can take antlerless deer during general hunting seasons.”

Commissioners also retained the 11-day general season mule deer hunt in Eastern Washington.

ELK HARVEST, HUNTER NUMBERS ALSO LOW

WDFW stats also show that 2017 elk season was the second worst in terms of harvest since 1997, and it also saw a new low for hunter numbers afield.

As with deer, the two stats point to a correlation — fewer hunters afield are naturally going to kill fewer animals, but permit levels and weather conditions also play a role. The low snow year of 2014-15 may have subsequently impacted elk productivity, and last year saw over antlerless permit levels for the Yakima and Coluckum hunters reduced by more than 2,500. Prime portions of the Yakima Herd range were also under area closures in September due to forest fires.

During last year’s general seasons, 54,638 wapiti chasers killed 3,011 bulls and 1,224 antlerless elk, for a total of 4,235. Add in special permits, and the 2017 harvest was 5,465 animals.

Except for the number of hunters, all those figures are second only to 1997, when 59,015 hunters bagged 2,586 bulls and 1,127 antlerless elk during the regular season for a total of 3,713 animals. Including special permits, that year’s take was 4,919.

High marks over those years include 2000’s 86,205 hunters, 4,519 and 2,260 general season bulls and antlerless elk, and 2012’s regular and permit harvest of 9,162.

2018 Northwest Spring Turkey Forecast

Prospects look good, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s regional turkey biologist. Here are her forecasts for Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

By Mikal Cline

Oregon’s wild turkeys continue to thrive, despite some mortality during the winter of 2016-17. We may notice a missing cohort of 2-year-old toms in the field this year, but in general the populations are quite healthy.

TACOMA CLOWERS OF THE BEND AREA GOT INTO THE DOUBLE BONUS DURING THE 2015 SPRING GOBBLER HUNT IN EASTERN OREGON, A PAIR OF ELK ANTLER SHEDS. HIS UNCLE CARL LEWALLEN SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Oregon primarily offers Rio Grande wild turkey hunting, though some Merriam’s still persist in the Cascades. Oregon’s core populations exist in the southwest portion of the state, in the vicinity of Roseburg and Medford. The scattered oak savannas and transitional pine forests offer excellent habitat. Mild winters and early springs contribute to high survival and productivity.

OREGON’S “GOOD OLD” DOUGLAS COUNTY PAID OFF FOR JAYCE WILDER DURING THE 2016 SPRING HUNT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Take advantage of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Access & Habitat Program (dfw.state.or.us/lands/AH) if you are struggling to find good hunting access in this area. The Jackson Travel Management Area near Shady Cove is a personal favorite.

Wild turkeys also thrive on Forest Service land from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in the northeast corner of the state, over to the Ochocos. The Malheur National Forest is one of my favorite spots to hunt turkeys in Central Oregon, thanks to healthy populations and excellent public access. Wild turkey density starts to thin out in the Central Cascades, but the White River area continues to be a big producer.

SHHH, DON’T TELL THE TRUANT OFFICER, BUT KEVIN KENYON SKIPPED SCHOOL DURING LAST YEAR’S TURKEY SEASON, BAGGING THIS BIRD WHILE HUNTING WITH HIS UNCLE. “TOOK ALMOST 3 HOURS BUT WHEN YOUR TURKEY HUNTING PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE,” NOTED KEVIN’S DAD, MARK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW made a concerted effort to trap and transplant overstocked birds this past winter. I believe we can expect some emerging opportunities in South-central Oregon (think Klamath to Lakeview), thanks to this effort. The Ochocos and White River Wildlife Management Unit populations will also benefit from ODFW’s efforts.

The south Willamette Valley, particularly Lane County, is another emerging opportunity for wild turkey hunters, should they be able to secure hunting access.

JACOB HALEY NOTCHES HIS YOUTH TURKEY TAG FOLLOWING A SUCCESSFUL MORNING WITH “GUIDE” TROY RODAKOWSKI IN THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

IDAHO BUMPS BAG

Spring turkey hunters in the Gem State can now take two bearded birds a day, thanks to a rule change from the Fish and Game Commission earlier this year. 

It’s yet another sign that gobblers are doing well in much of their range across Idaho.

“They’re overrun,” jokes NWTF’s Mikal Cline. It’s going to be a great turkey season in Idaho.”

Commissioners also increased fall hunting opportunities in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions, and added youth spring and fall controlled hunts in the Salmon district.

However, the general spring turkey season was closed in Unit 70, in Southeast Idaho.

The annual limit is still two bearded turkeys per spring.

WASHINGTON’S EASTSIDE TURKEY populations are robust, prompting the Department of Fish and Wildlife to propose more liberal fall seasons in some locations. The core population of Washington’s turkeys occurs in the northeast corner of the state, consisting primarily of the Merriam’s subspecies. Colville is the epicenter of spring turkey hunting in Washington, boasting high hunter success rates and a turkey harvest that is an order of magnitude greater than any other turkey management unit in
the state.

HOW JEREMY RACE CORRALLED THREE LITTLE BOYS TO SIT STILL FOR ANY PERIOD OF TIME DURING THIS SPRING TURKEY HUNT IS ANYBODY’S GUESS, BUT HIS NEPHEW CARTER MADE GOOD ON HIS SHOT OPPORTUNITY. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

We are seeing increased nuisance and damage complaints coming from the suburban fringes of Spokane and Cheney, but hunter access remains a constraint. We are also seeing increasing hybridization between Rio Grande and Merriam’s in this area.

JOHNNY HONE DOWNED HIS FIRST GOBBLER WITH A SINGLE SHOT FROM HIS 20-GAUGE SHOTGUN AT 25 YARDS AFTER HIS DAD JOHN CALLED HIM WITHIN RANGE. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The foothills of the Blue Mountains in Southeast Washington are also a world-class destination, with the towns of Dayton, Pomeroy and Walla Walla serving as gateways for excellent Rio Grande turkey hunting.

The Klickitat River watershed offers the best turkey hunting closer to the west side of the state. Check with WDFW for access opportunities on wildlife areas and industrial timberlands in the area.

THE HARSH WINTER OF 2016-17 MAY HAVE LINGERING EFFECTS ON HOW MANY TURKEYS SPRING HUNTERS SEE IN SOME PARTS OF THE NORTHWEST, BUT OVERALL PROSPECTS ARE GOOD. RICH AND MATT OAKLEY OF VANCOUVER BAGGED THEIR FIRST EVER GOBBLERS IN KLICKITAT COUNTY ON THE SECOND DAY OF LAST YEAR’S HUNT. FRIEND GREG ELLYSON SENT THE PIC. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Turkey hunting in Southwest Washington for the eastern subspecies continues to be a challenge. These flocks have never thrived, but do persist in certain areas, including Lewis County. Tapping into local knowledge is the best way to complete your Washington turkey slam, but you will have to work for it.

KEITH MOEN, THE SUBJECT OF A BIG ARTICLE IN OUR PAGES LAST FALL, HARVESTED THIS SPRING TURKEY A COUPLE SEASONS BACK IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

From Goldendale to the Methow, the east slope of the Cascades continues to hold pockets of wild turkeys, which do seem to be increasing, though there are not rigorous surveys in this area. Again, local knowledge from your district wildlife biologist will help you locate these birds.

MCKENNA RISLEY SHOWS OFF HER FIRST TURKEY, TAKEN IN THE METHOW VALLEY LAST SPRING WHILE HUNTING WITH HER DAD ROB. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

On an interesting note, we have heard evidence that wild turkeys have crossed Snoqualmie Pass and have been seen around North Bend.

Also, WDFW is in the process of updating its wild turkey management plan, including the trap and transplant operational guidelines. Until the plan is approved, T&T operations are on hold. 

Editor’s note: For more on how to hunt Northwest gobblers, check out the April issue of Northwest Sportsman!

2018 Oregon Spring Bear Hunting Forecast Out

Oregon spring bear hunters will find generally good prospects when seasons open in April, with many parts of the state seeing a lower snowpack than usual and bruins likely active earlier than last year.

Those are among the highlights from ODFW’s annual forecast for the year’s first major big game hunts.

HUNTING MIGHT BE BETTER LATER IN THE SPRING SEASON, BUT BARRETT PROCK DIDN’T WASTE ANY TIME LAST YEAR, BAGGING THIS BRUIN IN THE COAST RANGE WITH A 350-YARD SHOT ON 2017’S OPENING WEEKEND. FRIEND AND PACK MULE CARL LEWALLEN TOOK THE PIC, THEN LOADED UP FOR THE PACK OUT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The agency posted the document this week ahead of the April 1 and April 15 openers for controlled and sold-out first-come tags, though hunting tends to improve as the May 31 end of the season nears.

In Southwest Oregon, where the 4,400 available tags sold out back in January, ODFW reports “stable and relatively high” bear numbers, with the thickest densities “closer to the coast in the Coast Range.”

“This winter has been significantly different that last year,” the agency reports. “While last year was quite wet and winter-like weather persisted well into the spring. This year has been much milder and relatively dry. If this pattern persists bears may become active earlier than in previous years. Typically bear activity increases as the season progresses due to the fact that the bear rut is in late May and June. This should still be the case even if the spring continues to be milder than some other years.

THE NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE’S LATEST SNOWPACK MAP SHOWS SNOW WATER EQUIVALENTS BELOW AVERAGE ACROSS ALL OF OREGON, AND RECENT WARMING TRENDS COULD HELP GREEN UP HILLSIDES AS BEARS EMERGE FROM HIBERNATION. (NRCS)

In the northern Cascades, black bear densities are “good” with best hunting from mid- to late May.

“With snow pack in the northern Cascades at 50 – 69 percent of normal this year, hunters should expect to have access to mid-elevation habitats earlier than normal. However, many of the higher elevation and north facing road systems are expected to remain snow covered and may limit access until late May. Hunters should check road conditions and access before heading out, especially early in the season,” ODFW advises.

In the South Blue Mountains, things are starting to green up in the valleys and hillsides facing south.

” Bear populations are stable or increasing but this hunt is still challenging due to the heavily forested terrain which makes it difficult to spot bears,” the state says. “Hunters can find bears widely distributed through all units but harvest in the spring has been highest in the Desolation unit.”

On the west side of the Blues, in Umatilla County, ODFW reports best bear densities north of I-84, but that’s also where winter arrived late, so it may not be entirely accessible till May. Still, bears will be lower down where there’s fresh greens.

In Wallowa County, home to “high” numbers of bears, glass the canyons, which is where boars will be foraging.

For more information, including hunting tips, good locations and what to watch out for, check out ODFW’s spring bear forecast here.

Puget Sound’s Last Weekly Outdoor Reporter Retires

The last regular hook-and-bullet writer for a large daily newspaper in the Puget Sound region is retiring.

Wayne Kruse announced it was time to “hang up my hoochie” with a farewell column in Sunday’s Everett Herald.

Kruse has been at the Snohomish County paper of record since 1976, contributing fishing and hunting reports that prepped sportsmen for the weekend as well as provided a heads up on management and legislative issues.

Tom Nelson, cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line, lauded him as “truly a regional treasure.”

“I consider myself very fortunate to call this man an inspiration, a mentor and a friend,” Nelson posted on Facebook. “Mr. Kruse, you will be truly missed.”

Before hiring on at the Herald, Kruse freelanced for local and national outdoor publications, including the Western Washington edition of F&H News, as well as worked as a middle school teacher in the Edmonds district.

WAYNE KRUSE’S MUG SHOT (THIRD FROM LEFT) APPEARS IN THE OCT. 4, 1975 ISSUE OF WESTERN WASHINGTON FISHING & HUNTING NEWS, IN WHICH HE HAD STORIES ON RABBIT HUNTING IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS AND DUCKS ON THE SKAGIT FLATS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Kruse wrote that advising folks on how to get kids into fishing, sharing how-tos for smelt jigging up at La Conner or the number for a good guide, and where they could go to see wildlife or pick mushrooms made his the “best job in the world.”

It’s an increasingly rare one too as newspapers shrink to stay afloat or fold.

His exit, at the age of 80, was preceded by last spring’s decision by The Seattle Times to end regular fishing coverage, which led to Mark Yuasa’s departure (he’s now with the Northwest Marine Trade Association).

True, you can still find some weekly outdoor coverage in these parts — Bob Brown at the weekly Eatonville Dispatch, Michael Carman in Port Angeles’ Peninsula Daily News — but where once news about where the fish were biting, clams were being dug and ducks flocking to were staples in Thursday sports sections of the Bellingham Herald, Tacoma News Tribune, The Olympian, Kitsap Sun, and the now-defunct Seattle PI, among others, nowadays the sporadic stories that do appear either online or in print are mainly geared towards controversies.

Other recent retirements in Washington’s outdoor reporting world have included Rich Landers and Al Thomas at the Spokane Spokesman-Review and The Columbian last year. While those papers laudibly replaced the longtime pens with Eli Francovich (he of last week’s 197-pound cougar scoop) and Terry Otto, a former columnist for this magazine, it wasn’t immediately clear what the Everett Herald planned to do with Kruse’s space.

But all is not lost for ensuring Snohomish County and North Sound sportsmen’s voices are heard.

Kruse (no relation to John Kruse, the Wenatchee-based outdoor radio show host) had some comforting words in his goodbye.

“I think one of the most encouraging things I’ve watched in my 43 years on the beat is the change in the level of expertise being wielded by recreation interests in Olympia — clubs, associations, other organizations. These days they’re smart, prepared, organized and ready to fight. They know who to see and what to say, and they deserve your support, particularly in a state with issues as complex as those we have here,” he wrote in his adieu.

Hear hear!

And in the meanwhile, hats off to a fine career helping spread the news on fishing and hunting!

2018-20 Hunting Regs, Columbia River Policy, Wolves On WA FWC Agenda

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

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will invite public comments on 2018-2020 hunting season proposals, Columbia River fisheries policy, and other issues during a public meeting March 15-17 in Wenatchee.

WITH MOOSE IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON HAVING EITHER PEAKED AND STABILIZED OR BEGINNING TO DECLINE SOMEWHAT, WDFW IS RECALIBRATING HARVEST LEVELS FOR THE UPCOMING SEASONS. (HOWARD FERGUSON, WDFW)

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will convene in the Wenatchee and Chelan rooms of the Red Lion Hotel, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave., in Wenatchee.

The meeting begins at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 15, with Commission workshops that include no public input but are open to the public. Meetings scheduled Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 16, begin at 8 a.m., with a review of hunting season proposals on Friday and Columbia River fisheries policy review on Saturday.

An agenda for the meeting is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.

The hunting season setting public process began last summer with surveys and meetings to develop proposals. They include:

  • Changes to Yakima and Colockum elk hunting permit allocations.
  • Adding unmanned aircraft (drones) to the list of prohibited hunting equipment.
  • Requiring black bear hunters to complete a bear-species identification test in areas with threatened grizzly bears.
  • Prohibiting night hunting of bobcats in areas with endangered lynx.

The commission will hear final public input at the March meeting, with decisions scheduled for the April meeting.

Last month the commission directed WDFW staff to review the Columbia River policy, adopted in 2013 in collaboration with Oregon to guide management of commercial and recreational salmon fisheries in the lower Columbia River. The policy is designed to promote conservation of salmon and steelhead, prioritize recreational salmon fishing, and shift gillnet fisheries away from the river’s main channel.

SPORTFISHING BOATS TROLL FOR FALL CHINOOK ON THE WASHINGTON SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA ABOVE THE ASTORIA-MEGLER BRIDGE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The current Washington policy also calls for increasing hatchery releases in the lower Columbia, expanding the use of alternative fishing gear by commercial fishers, and implementing strategies to reduce the number of gillnet permits. The commission will be briefed, take public comment, and possibly make decisions at the March meeting.

The Commission will also hear public comment on proposed amendments to hydraulic project approval (HPA) rules on Saturday.

The Commission is set to make decisions on a proposal to require use of LED fishing lights in the coastal commercial ocean pink shrimp trawl fishery and a permanent rule to clarify the limits of keeping salmon for personal use during and open commercial fishery.

The commission will also be briefed by WDFW staff on forest management in wildlife areas, 2018 federal Farm Bill reauthorization, and the department’s annual wolf report.

WDFW WILL UPDATE ITS 2016 YEAR-END WOLF PACK MAP THIS MONTH WITH 2017’S KNOWN PACKS. (WDFW)

2017 Idaho Elk, Whitetail Harvest Up, Mule Deer Down, Hunt Managers Report

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Hunters took more elk and white-tailed deer in 2017 than in 2016, but mule deer harvest was down. With a much milder winter so far, Fish and Game biologists expect the drop in mule deer harvest to be short lived as herds recover from last year’s difficult winter across Central and Southern Idaho.

The 2017 elk harvest was about 17.5 percent above the 10-year average, and despite the dip in the mule deer harvest, 2017’s overall deer harvest was still slightly above the 10-year average.

(IDFG)

Elk harvest

Elk hunters are enjoying some of the best hunting in recent history. Harvest was up by 1,242 elk in 2017 over 2016, which was largely an increase in cow harvest. The bull harvest dropped 341 animals between 2016 and 2017.

Fish and Game increased cow hunting opportunities to reduce herds that are causing damage to private lands in parts of the state.

Idaho’s elk harvest has exceeded 20,000 elk for four straight years, which hasn’t happened since the mid 1990s.

Idaho’s elk herds have grown in recent years thanks in part to mild winters, but elk don’t typically suffer the same fate as mule deer when winter turns colder and snowier.

“Elk are much hardier animals and less susceptible to environmental conditions,” Fish and Game Deer and Elk Coordinator Daryl Meints said. “It has to be a tough winter to kill elk.”

(IDFG)

Deer harvest

The 2017 deer harvest dropped by 11,426 animals compared with 2016, which included a slight increase in white-tailed deer harvested, but 11,574 fewer mule deer harvested.

In response to last year’s hard winter, Fish and Game’s wildlife managers reduced antlerless hunting opportunities for mule deer in 2017 to protect breeding-age does and help the population bounce back more quickly. That resulted in 2,517 fewer antlerless mule deer harvested.

Fish and Game’s mule deer monitoring last winter showed only 30 percent survival for fawns, which was the second-lowest since winter monitoring started 20 years ago. Those male fawns would have been two-points or spikes in the fall had they survived, which typically account for a large portion of the mule deer buck harvest. Harvest statistics showed hunters took 3,709 fewer two points or spikes in 2017 than in 2016.

Mule deer tend to run on a “boom and bust” cycle, and “every few years, you’re going to have a winter when this happens,” Meints said.

However, it tends to be fairly short-lived unless there are consecutive winters with prolonged deep snow and/or frigid temperatures. While mule deer hunting was down, whitetail hunting remains solid and stable, and hunters took more whitetails than mule deer last fall, which is rare for Idaho.

TONEY GRIFFITH BAGGED HER FIRST WHITETAIL LAST NOVEMBER WHILE HUNTING IN NORTH IDAHO. MANAGERS THERE SAY THE 2017 HARVEST WAS NOT FAR BELOW 2015’S RECORD. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The whitetail harvest in 2016 and 2017 hovering just below the all-time harvest record of 30,578 set in 2015.

Northern Idaho had an average winter last year, and whitetails in the Panhandle and Clearwater continue to thrive after a series of mild-to-average winters there.

“We don’t have as much telemetry-collar data like we do with mule deer, but there’s no reason to believe we haven’t had higher-than-normal survival of whitetail fawns and adults, and the harvest data supports that,” Meints said.

Looking ahead

While last winter’s above-average snowpack in Southern and Central Idaho took its toll on fawns, it also provided a lot of moisture that grew lots of food for big game animals. Many animals went into winter in great condition, and so far, weather has been mild compared to last year.

A mild, or average, winter typically grows herds because a larger proportion of the fawns and calves survive, which is a critical time for their passage into adulthood.

Even during the difficult winter last year, more than 90 percent of the radio-collared mule deer does, and more than 95 percent of the radio-collared cow elk survived.

North-central Washington Wolf Hunt Ends With Quota Met

Tribal wildlife managers say that a wolf hunt in North-central Washington has closed now that the annual quota was recently met.

The Fish and Wildlife Department of the Colville Confederated Tribes made the announcement after a third wolf was harvested on their reservation, filling the limit, according to the Tribal Tribune newspaper.

(WDFW)

Today was the last scheduled day of the season, which began Nov. 1.

It’s also the last day wolf hunting is open on the “North Half” — that is, federal, state and other lands north of the sprawling reservation’s northern boundary.

There, the quota is also three wolves, but any removed by state wildlife managers for livestock depredations count towards that. The Sherman Pack male was killed in late summer for attacking cattle in the Kettle Range. It wasn’t immediately clear if tribal hunters had taken any others.

The Colville Tribes opened its first wolf hunt in 2012 but it wasn’t until November 2016 that an animal was reported taken. The original quota was 12, but that was subsequently reduced to three  on the reservation.

In other Washington wolf news:

* A rancher in northern Ferry County shot a wolf attacking calves in late October. The case only recently came to light in the Capital Press. It’s the third case of legal use of lethal caught-in-the-act provisions in the federally delisted eastern third of the state, two of which have involved ranchers and the other a dog owner at his cabin in the Blue Mountains.

* The Cattle Producers of Washington protested after the organization was denied grant funding for wolf work in the state’s northeast corner. More from the Press.

* Rep. Joel Kretz’s wolf translocation bill stalled in the state Senate after it passed the House on an 85-13 vote.

* And we should learn the latest minimum estimated number of wolves in Washington in the coming weeks, when WDFW releases the 2017 year-end count. It will likely show an increase over the 115 known wolves in 20 packs and 10 breeding pairs observed at the end of 2016. The agency’s next Wolf Advisory Group meeting is March 21-22 in Ellensburg.

ODFW’s Take A Friend Hunting Contest Winners Announced

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

A deer tag that’s good for three months statewide and a Leupold rifle scope valued at $690 are among the prizes 22 lucky hunters have won for taking part in the 2017 Take a Friend Hunting Contest.

A GRAPHIC SUPPLIED BY THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE FOR THE AGENCY’S NEW “TAKE A FRIEND HUNTING” CAMPAIGN, FEATURING SOME GREAT PRIZES. (ODFW)

The contest was launched in spring of last year to encourage experienced adult hunters to take out other adult friends and family members who had never hunted before or hadn’t gone in several years. (While ODFW has a variety of programs encouraging hunters to mentor youth in the sport, the contest was a way to incentivize mentoring among adult hunters.)

A total of 1,546 people signed up for the contest (773 entries of two hunters, the mentor and the mentee).

Outdoor businesses Cabela’s, Bi-Mart, David Kurt Handmade Knives, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Leupold, Nosler, SITKA Gear, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Weatherby all donated prizes. Sportsmen conservation groups Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Wild Sheep Foundation also donated prizes. (More details on prize donations below.)

“We thank all the hunters who signed up to participate, and all the vendors and groups that donated a prize,” said Chris Williard, ODFW Retention and Recruitment Coordinator.

The contest was part of larger ODFW efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of hunting among Oregonians and encourage more participation in the sport. Through their purchase of hunting licenses and equipment, hunters fund wildlife management, research, habitat restoration and other work that benefits both game species and wildlife species that aren’t hunted

ODFW is planning to host a similar contest in 2018. Look for details to be announced and registration to open sometime this spring at www.MyODFW.com

A list of winners of the 2017 Take a Friend Hunting Contest follows. Winners have already been notified and most prizes delivered.

Statewide deer tag (courtesy of ODFW)
Mark Anderson, Ione

Siberian Sidekick Cooler (donated by Mule Deer Foundation)
Erik Hasselmen, Eugene

Eberlestock Me Team Elk Pack (donated by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)
Dylan Boyer, Coos Bay

Leupold Rifle Scope (donated by Leupold)
Jason Saucedo, Tualatin

Timberline Jacket, Pants and Cap (donated by SITKA Gear)
Brian Alexander, Oakland

Wild Sheep package (Sitka hat, camo pullover, scope shield, etc.) (donated by Wild Sheep Foundation)
Mark Smith, Oak Grove

DICK’S $50 gift cards (four gift cards donated By DICK’s Sporting Goods)
Alfredo Cruz, Monmouth
Gordon Bristlin, Medford
Josh Rosin, Durkee
Kellen Huddleston, Portland

Bushnell Binoculars (donated by Bi-Mart)
Jeremy Hruska (Philomath)

Alps Grand Slam Turkey Vest (donated by National Wild Turkey Federation)
James Munson, Milwaukie

David Kurt Handmade Knife (donated by David Kurt Handmade Knives)
Ryan Martin, Springfield

Sportsman’s Warehouse $300 gift card (donated by Sportsman’s Warehouse)
William Ham, Bend

TangleFree Deadzone Layout Blind (donated by Ducks Unlimited)
Rafael Friedenfels, Portland

Nosler $100 gift cards (five gift cards donated by Nosler)
Travis Rogers, Molalla
Levi Tickner, Bend
Marcus Starr, Seaside
Bob Perez, Silverton
Jeffery Birkholz, Salem

Cabela’s $500 gift card (donated by Cabela’s)
Robert Stahl, Pendleton

Weatherby Vanguard Rifle (donated by Weatherby)
Jon Blyeth, Keizer

Bills That Aim To Increase Washington Fishing, Hunting Participation Face Tight Deadline

Time is running out in Olympia to move a pair of bills meant to increase fishing and hunting participation in Washington.

Today’s the cutoff to get legislation out of one chamber and over to the other, but it’s unclear whether HB 2505 and SB 6198 will get any love from state representatives and senators before the 5 p.m. deadline.

A MAN AND BOY FISH OFF OF RICHMOND BEACH THIS PAST SUMMER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“It’s a full-court press today,” Raquel Crosier, legislative liaison for WDFW, which requested the bills, said this morning.

She says CCA and the Hunters Heritage Council are helping lobby lawmakers to move the bills.

In a nutshell, they would raise the age that kids first start having to buy a fishing license from 15 to 16; give new hunter ed grads a $20 coupon good towards their first hunting license; and allow anglers to buy a temporary license to fish the popular lowland lakes opener instead of requiring them to buy a year-round one.

Both bills made it out of their initial committee assignments, and the House version passed Appropriations, but they’ve since been mired in rules committees.

Crosier says they’ve received a “ton of support” from hunters, but are competing with a huge volume of bills introduced during the short session.

New Report Pegs Outdoor Recreation As $673 Billion Industry, 2% Of GDP

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE AMERICAN SPORTFISHING ASSOCIATION

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) today applauded the release of the first-ever government report recognizing the outdoor recreation industry as a significant economic contributor to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

OUTDOOR RECREATION IS A DAMNED BIG BUSINESS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Released by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)-the government agency responsible for reporting U.S. GDP-the report calculated the outdoor recreation industry’s annual gross output to be $673 billion, surpassing other sectors such as agriculture, petroleum and coal, and computer and electronic products. The report marks a critical step forward for the outdoor recreation industry by formally recognizing its economic influence.

“Today’s report affirms what those of us in the outdoor community already know – outdoor recreation has a far-reaching positive impact across the U.S. and our economy,” said Thom Dammrich, ORR chair and president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “As an industry, we are proud to generate millions of American jobs and be a driving economic force from coast to coast, and we are grateful that BEA and the Department of Commerce have decided to recognize that. This report is further evidence of the need for sound public policy that encourages continued growth in the outdoor recreation industry.”

“The American Sportfishing Association is a proud member of the ORR,” said Glenn Hughes, ORR Secretary and ASA’s Vice President for Industry Relations. “Recreational fishing plays a huge role in outdoor recreation and contributes significantly to jobs and the economy. We are glad that this administration sees outdoor recreation’s value and is dedicating funds to support infrastructure needs and access to quality fishing.”

ORR was formed in February 2018 with the merger of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, a coalition of America’s leading outdoor recreation trade associations, and the American Recreation Coalition, an organization of recreation interests that has had a significant and positive impact on outdoor recreation for more than three decades. ORR is committed to advancing the basic elements needed to grow this vital economic sector, including sound and sustainable management of U.S. public lands and waters, and updating infrastructure and technology on those lands to create quality experiences in response to changing recreation preferences.

In addition to reporting on the outdoor recreation industry’s annual gross output, the BEA’s initial findings report that outdoor recreation makes up 2.0 percent of the U.S. GDP. More importantly, the outdoor recreation industry’s GDP has increased an average of 4.4 percent since 2012, significantly greater than the 3.6 percent average increase in the overall U.S. GDP.

“This is a welcome signal of the critical economic role outdoor recreation plays in the United States,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, ORR vice chair and president of the RV Industry Association. “We are thrilled to represent a rapidly growing industry that helps keep America’s economy strong and brings enjoyment to millions of Americans. Given the right public policies, outdoor recreation will continue to be an American economic engine for years to come.”

The full report issued by ORSA and BEA can be found here.

Click here for the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable member list.