Tag Archives: hunting

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.

Just 7 Days Left To Comment On WDFW 2018-20 Hunting Reg Proposals

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on proposed recommendations for the 2018-20 hunting seasons.

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

Through Feb. 14, WDFW will accept comments from the public to help finalize proposed regulations for hunting seasons that begin this year. To review and comment on the proposals, visit the department’s website starting Jan. 24 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/.

Developed after extensive public involvement, the proposed hunting season rules are based on the objectives and strategies contained in the new 2015-21 Game Management Plan, said Anis Aoude, WDFW game manager. The plan is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01676/.

“We appreciate the input we’ve received over the past months and encourage everyone interested in the 2018-20 hunting seasons to review and comment on the proposed rules before final action is taken,” Aoude said.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, will also take public comment on the proposed recommendations at its March 16-17 meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Wenatchee. Final commission action is scheduled to take place at the April 12-16 meeting.

WDFW Sets 3-day, Jan. 6, 10, 13 Skagit Co. Brant Hunt

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced a restricted three-day hunting season for brant geese in Skagit County, but has revived hunts in two other counties where brant counts have been increasing.

AN IMAGE FROM A PAST ARTICLE IN NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN SHOWS BRANT HUNTERS HUNKERED BEFORE DEKES ON THE BAY. (MAYNARD AXELSON)

This year’s brant season in Skagit County will occur on Jan. 6, 10, and 13, based on criteria set when the season was adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in April.

Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl section manager, said the restrictions were scheduled after aerial bird counts conducted in Skagit County indicated numbers fell short of the 6,000 birds required for a full eight-day hunting season for high arctic brant.

Spragens said surveys conducted over Padilla, Samish, and Fidalgo bays tallied 3,044 birds, then 4,793 birds, triggering this year’s three-day season.

“The number of hunting days is directly related to how many brant are counted during those surveys,” he said. “These low counts require us to prioritize conservation responsibilities for this distinctive, coastal species, while providing harvest opportunity when appropriate.”

Spragens said annual counts in Skagit brant numbers can vary widely, noting that this is the second restricted brant season in the past three years.

Meanwhile, stable populations of brant that do not return to western high arctic breeding regions have allowed for new hunting opportunities in other parts of the state. For the first time in decades, brant hunting will open in Clallam and Whatcom counties.

This year’s brant season in Clallam and Whatcom counties will occur on Jan. 6, 10, and 13. Counts in those two counties have increased in recent years and have remained above the 1,000 brant threshold for the past three years, the state criteria required to consider seasons in each area.

Also, the traditional 10-day brant season in Pacific County will open Jan. 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 21.

WDFW reminds hunters to familiarize themselves with local regulations and boundaries. Specifically, hunters in Clallam County are advised to consult the closed zones of Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge (https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Dungeness/visit/rules_and_regulations.html) and hunters in Whatcom County are advised to review boundaries relevant to Bellingham and Lummi Bays (https://www.lummi-nsn.gov/Website.php?PageID=39).

Information on brant seasons is available in WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/. Brant hunters are reminded they must possess a valid migratory bird authorization and brant harvest report card.

Longtime Spokane Hook-and-bullet Writer Retires, But Will Continue Reporting

The Northwest hook-and-bullet world is losing another important voice in a key market, though one that fortunately won’t entirely disappear into the Palouse behind his faithful bird dogs either.

Last Friday afternoon, Rich Landers retired as the outdoor editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, where he’s been writing since before I even could scrawl my A-B-C’s.

RICH LANDERS (CENTER) LISTENS AS WDFW’S BOB DICE TALKS ABOUT THE 4-0 RANCH UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA DURING A TOUR OF THE 10,000-ACRE PROPERTY IN MAY 2015. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Across 41 years, thousands of deadlines and countless words, Landers has covered hunting and fishing, wildlife and water issues, along with a host of other outdoor subjects such as skiing and hiking for much of the Inland Northwest.

And he’s going out on a high note as this year’s winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America’s 2017 Jade of the Chief award, the organization’s highest conservation honor and which “represents an affirmation of OWAA adherence to, and support of, the principles of conservation.”

He will continue to freelance for the paper, but in the meanwhile, Eli Francovich, who’s been covering schools, youth and breaking news at Spokane’s daily, has been named the new outdoor editor.

There was an outpouring of appreciation late last week on Facebook where Landers publicly announced his retirement, but his final Sunday column wasn’t about himself or a compilation of greatest hits more vainglorious writers might have self-assigned.

Rather, it was on efforts to save the critically endangered South Selkirk caribou herd, which occasionally wanders into Washington.

He wrote that volunteers are gathering lichen to feed pregnant cows that will be herded into a 19-acre maternity pen built in southern British Columbia to protect them during calving from resurgent wolf populations, as well as other predators.

It’s that sort of crossover story that Landers has been writing for ages, while also providing plenty of pieces on hunting and fishing prospects and more, making his space an important bridge between user groups.

You could see that in the comments on his farewell post, as well as in the response from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Rich Landers’ coverage of all things fish and wildlife has been most significant to us at WDFW because his readership includes everybody who recreates in some way in the Northwest’s great outdoors; that means those who don’t hunt or fish are exposed to hunting and fishing stories, and vice versa,” notes the agency’s Madonna Luers, a 33-year veteran of its Public Affairs team and based in the Lilac City. “Rich has kept us on our toes and helped us be responsive, serving as both a watchdog and a scientific ally. I am grateful to have worked with him all these years.”

Dave Workman’s been writing about WDFW and hunting for about as long as Landers, and says he particularly enjoyed Landers’ recent pieces on working with his gun dog Ranger and a profile of an elk hunting partner.

“We haven’t always agreed on fish and game management issues, but he’s managed to turn a passion for the outdoors into a paying job. Can’t beat that!” Workman says.

Over the years Landers and I have traded emails on each other’s work, commiserated on WDFW’s proclivity for 4:55 p.m. wolf news press releases, and the best way to prepare Bolivian llama, among other topics, and finally got to meet each other above the Ronde in the state’s southeastern corner in May 2015.

I’ll readily admit that I’ve also ruthlessly stalked him, checking in on him multiple times a day to see what he’s writing and blogging and Facebooking and tweeting about.

Beyond the competition for scoops and stories — mostly won by Rich, occasionally by me — I’ve paid particularly close attention to his level-headed reporting on wolves.

For this blog I’ve shared more than a few cogent quotes from Landers as he’s given the howling fringes the what-for while accurately and honestly covering wolves’ recolonization and all that comes with it. (And if he’s provided inspiration for a little levity with the overwrought subject, more power to him.)

Indeed, he might as well be secretary-treasurer of the Cooler Heads Club.

Not that members are in demand much in these modern times. Or us.

If Landers and fellow pens were as furry or had fins like some of the critters they write about, they’d be a candidates for Endangered Species Act protections themselves.

True, Mark Freeman’s going strong at the Medford Mail-Tribune, but while Bill Monroe and Wayne Kruse are still freelancing for The Oregonian and the Daily Herald of Everett, they along with Alan Liere at the Spokesman-Review are getting up there in age.

And in recent years we’ve seen Mark Yuasa move on from The Seattle Times and Jeff Mayor from the Tacoma News Tribune, Al Thomas retire from The Columbian, Henry Miller from the Salem Statesman-Journal and Tony Floor from his monthly Northwest Marine Trade Association fishing newsletter, while Scott Sandsberry left the Yakima Herald for health reasons and Greg Johnston and the Seattle PI parted ways long ago.

Last spring the Bellingham Herald discontinued Doug Huddle’s column in favor of outdoors coverage along the lines of:

The wild road to Crystal Mill, a photographer’s dream;
Call of the wild: Minnesota women explore public lands, by bicycle;
Three basic stretches to help you do the splits
Colorado’s Waldo Canyon, a place for serious adventure;
Washington’s Lopez Island in the fall: Hikes, farm stands and fine dining

I’m not going to sit here and say that topics like those don’t have a place, because this no longer is 1957, papers are struggling to catch readers’ eyes, variety is the spice of life, and Landers has done his share of writing those pieces or scanning the AP wire for similar because the press — it needs to be fed.

But our ranks are increasingly as thin as the hair on our heads. The days when a magazine like Fishing & Hunting News could spawn an entire generation of outdoor writers are further and further back.

When one newspaper in a very important location for people like us recently looked to replace their veteran outdoor reporter, they got fresh-out-of-college kids who couldn’t tell the difference between a springer and a summer-run and who equated the job title to mean writing environmental stories.

The latter in itself is not a bad thing, because as Landers recently wrote, “Regardless of the politics, a sportsman who isn’t an environmentalist is a fool, or at least uniformed.”

But more and more, that particular style of reporting aims to tear down fish and wildlife agencies rather than thoughtfully challenge or detail the thinking and methods behind biologists’ and managers’ decisions.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen the expansion of radio and forums and blogs and pages, where sportsmen, experts and bios — retired and otherwise — can debate things.

And all is not lost on the print side.

Amidst our ranks there’s Jordan Nailon — he of the fine coverage of Southwest Washington poaching and Cowlitz steelhead issues — at the Centralia Chronicle, Eric Barker at the Lewiston Tribune and Ralph Bartholdt at the Couer d’Alene Press. Replacing Al Thomas at The Columbian is a Northwest Sportsman alumnus, Terry Otto.

It’s great that local newspapers and editors still put an emphasis on coverage of hunting and fishing. I do appreciate that.

But at the same time, 20 percent of all salmon and steelhead anglers in the state of Washington in 2015 lived in Fairview Fannie’s hometown and backyard, King County, pointing to the importance of a landed hook-and-bullet reporter in major metro dailies.

According to The Seattle Times’, the end of everyday fishing and hunting coverage “was not an easy decision, but one that was necessary considering our evolving readership and limited resources.”

The editors there haven’t done much to show me they still consider our brand of outdoors relevant, however, and that’s disappointing. They’ve been running a steady diet of ski stories this fall instead.

Skiing’s great; I love to ski and haven’t done enough since getting Real Jobs. And I love hiking and photography and mountains and all things outdoors too.

But what I like most of all is an outdoor writer with their head screwed on straight, who knows his or her way around a rod and reel, shotgun and rifle, who has longterm, institutional knowledge of the Northwest fishing and hunting world, and who can see the big picture and transmit that to the masses.

That’s where Landers shines.

Enjoy your retirement, Rich, but don’t let those pups take you too far from the keyboard.

CORRECTION 10:30 A.M., DEC. 7, 2017 Previous reports of Greg Johnston’s “long gone” status were incorrect. While his former paper, the Seattle PI, is a shell of its former self, Johnston is very much still alive and recently published a book coastal anglers may be interested in.

2018 Northwest Sportsmen’s And Boat Show Schedule

The countdown’s on: The first of 2018’s Northwest fishing, hunting and boat shows is not that far down the road.

SEATTLE BOAT SHOW GOERS PROWL THE AISLES AT THE CENTURYLINK FIELD EVENT CENTER. (SEATTLE BOAT SHOW)

Here’s the schedule for shows being held in January, February, March and April in Idaho, western Montana, Oregon, southern British Columbia and Washington:

Jan. 5-7 Great Rockies Sport Show, Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds, Helena; greatrockiesshow.com

Jan. 10-14 Portland Boat Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com

Jan. 17-21 Vancouver International Boat Show, BC Place, Granville Island; vancouverboatshow.ca

Jan. 19-21 Great Rockies Sport Show, MetraPark ExpoCenter, Billings; greatrockiesshow.com

Jan. 19-21 Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show, TRAC Center, Pasco; shuylerproductions.com

Jan. 20-Feb. 10 Spokane Valley Boat Show at Elephant Boys 2018, Elephant Boys, Spokane Valley, spokanevalleyboatshow.com

Jan. 24-28 Washington Sportsmen’s Show & Sport Fishing Boat Show, Puyallup Fair & Events Center; otshows.com

NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN HEAD FOR THE BLUE GATE ENTRY INTO THE WASHINGTON SPORTSMEN’S SHOW IN PUYALLUP. (O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

Jan. 26-Feb. 3 Seattle Boat Show, CenturyLink Field Event Center and South Lake Union, Bell Harbor, Seattle; seattleboatshow.com

Feb. 2-4 KEZI Eugene Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, Lane County Convention Center, Eugene; exposureshows.com

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

Feb. 7-11 Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show & Sport Fishing Boat Show, Expo Center, Portland; otshows.com

Feb. 16-18 Central Washington Sportsmen Show, SunDome, Yakima; shuylerproductions.com

Feb. 16-18 Servpro Douglas County Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Douglas County Fairgrounds, Roseburg, Ore.; exposureshows.com

Feb. 16-18 Victoria Boat and Fishing Show, Pearkes Recreational Centre, Victoria, British Columbia; victoriaboatshow.com

Feb. 17-18 Willamette Sportsman Show, Linn County Expo Center, Albany, Oregon; willamettesportsmanshow.com

Feb. 23-25 Great Rockies Sport Show, Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, Bozeman, Mont.; greatrockiesshow.com

A HAPPY READER OF NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN CHATS WITH JENNIFER STAHL AT OUR BOOTH DURING 2013’S SNOW-STORM-LASHED PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPORTSMEN’S SHOW IN PORTLAND. (BRIAN LULLCIFER)

Feb. 23-25 KDRV Sportsmen’s & Outdoor Recreation Show, Jackson County Expo, Medford; exposureshows.com

Feb. 23-25 The Wenatchee Valley Sportsmen Show, Town Toyota Center, Wenatchee; shuylerproductions.com

Feb. 24-25 Saltwater Sportsmen’s Show, Oregon State Fairgrounds, Salem; saltwatersportsmensshow.com

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

March 1-4 Central Oregon Sportsmen’s Show, Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, Redmond; otshows.com

March 1-4 Idaho Sportsman Show, Expo Idaho, Boise; idahosportsmanshow.com

March 2-4 BC Boat & Sportsmen’s Show, TRADEX, Abbotsford; bcboatandsportsmenshow.ca

March 9-10 Northwest Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo, Linn County Expo Center, Albany; nwexpo.com

March 15-18 Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show, Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, Spokane; bighornshow.com

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

March 16-18 Great Rockies Sport Show, Adams Center, Missoula, Mont.; greatrockiesshow.com

April 19-22 Mid-Columbia Boat Show, Columbia Point Park & Marina, Richland, Washington, midcolumbiaboatshow.com

April 20-22 The Monroe Sportsman Show, Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Monroe, Washington; monroesportsmanshow.com

Expect A Mixed Bag For Washington’s 2017 Rifle Elk Seasons

Washington riflemen will find fewer spikes in some herds, but more bulls in others as seasons open later this month and next.

Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of an article that appears in the October 2017 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine.

By Andy Walgamott

There are high notes and lows in this season’s Washington elk forecast for fall’s modern firearms seasons.

On the plus side, the North Willapa Herd is cranking out lots of bulls and the Mt. Rainier herd is increasing.

On the negative, the Yakima, Colockum and Blues Herds have fewer spikes due to drought and winter conditions in recent years.

Here’s what state wildlife biologists have to say about this fall’s hunting:

Kalee Brown, then 19, bagged her first elk and game critter on 2015’s Eastern Washington elk opener, this spike. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

SELKIRK MOUNTAINS

Washington’s whitetail heartland also holds a fair-sized elk herd – just don’t come here armed with tactics from elsewhere in the 509 or think it’s a slam dunk.

Official word from state biologists Dana Base and Annemarie Prince is that hunting this thickly wooded corner of the state is “no small challenge,” words they actually bolded in their annual game prospects. Backing that assertion is a table they created showed that rifle hunters harvested between .02 and .05 elk per square mile in most units in recent years, and as few as .002 in the westernmost unit of their district, Sherman.

Thomas Jimeno of Spokane gave up on elk hunting about 10 years ago after six unsuccessful seasons, but last year a friend wouldn’t take no for an answer, so they hit Pend Oreille County’s woods where but he managed to hit this six-by-seven on the move, dropping the bull within 50 yards. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

If there’s good news, it’s that the small, scattered herds weathered last winter, so hunters should see similar numbers of elk and kill around 200 or so this year, half during the general rifle hunt.

By harvest stat, Selkirk, 49 Degrees North and Huckleberry account for three-quarters of the modern firearms take and all three units offer good amounts of actively managed timber and locked gates, which create refuges from pressure for elk but don’t bar walk-in access.

Douglas might be worth a sniff too, as the unit between Colville and Northport featured the fewest days per kill (45.6) of all the district’s units last year and highest hunter success of the past three (8.8 percent).

Wherever you hunt, beating the thicker, heavier, marshier cover may pay off better than watching clearcuts in hopes of catching a bull out in the open at this stage of the season.

2016 general season harvest: 240 (rifle: 115, archery: 81; muzzleloader: 32; multiple weapons: 12); Top rifle: Huckleberry, 29; top success percentage: Douglas, 8.8; lowest days per kill: Douglas, 45.6

More info: District 1 Hunting Prospects

MT. SPOKANE, PALOUSE

It’s easy to dismiss the Palouse and Spokane area for elk – at least until you look at the harvest stats and realize that District 2 gave up more wapiti than all but one other Eastern Washington zone, Yakima and Kittitas Counties.

No, it’s not your average week at Elk Camp, but last year, 171 general season modern firearms hunters tagged out on bulls and cows, a 13.2 percent success rate. Granted, there’s very little public land overall, but in Mt. Spokane and Mica Peak there’s some access through state and Inland Empire Paper lands.

A small herd of elk roams across a marsh portion of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. (TURNBULL NWR)

Elsewhere, it boils down to farmers and ranchers signed up through the state’s various private lands programs. Elk numbers are said to be expanding in Almota and Steptoe, in south Mica Peak and northwest Mt. Spokane, so establishing a rapport with landowners experiencing crop damage might pay off. Also consider looking into the Columbia Plateau Wildlife Management Association’s hunting program.

2016 general season harvest: 287 (rifle: 171; muzzleloader: 77; archery: 35; multiple weapons: 4); Top rifle: Mica Peak, 59; top success percentage: Mica Peak, 19.6; lowest days per kill: Steptoe, 19.1.

More info: District 2 Hunting Prospects

BLUE MOUNTAINS

The Blues are the traditional elk hunting grounds for many Southcentral and Southeast Washington residents, especially those from Tri-Cities, and undoubtedly many will return this fall. Unfortunately, the prognosis is not all that good for wapiti season, no thanks to the same long, snowy winter those same citizens suffered through.

According to biologist Paul Wik, it caused a “significant decline” in elk numbers, especially among calves. Surveys this spring turned up just half the five-year average of young elk, an estimated 466 versus 998, meaning there will likely be half the number of spikes roaming between Walla Walla, Pomeroy and Asotin for general season hunters. Branch bulls were down too, and that could affect coming years’ permit levels, Wik adds.

A snowfall covers the wall tent at the Blue Mountains elk camp known as Scoggin Hole in late October 2009. The extended Scoggin family has set up on the east side of the range since, you guessed it, 1937. (LARRY SCOGGIN)

Though elk do roam out into the wheatfields all the way to the Snake River Breaks, the public lands units are where state managers want to keep the herd. Dayton and Tucannon on the northwest and northern sides of the Blues are the primary producers, followed by Mountain View and Lick Creek. They’re yielding between .11 and .22 spikes a square mile for rifle hunters in recent years, and Mountain View had the quartet’s highest success percentage in 2016, 6.6, as well as 2015’s, 10.2. How well that holds up this year remains to be seen.

Tucked on the south side of the famed fall steelhead river, the eponymous Grande Ronde Unit offers an even higher success percentage and good amounts of public land but very tough access. It’s pretty much all straight up, whether you try and tackle it from the Snake, Ronde or Joseph Creek Road.

Whichever unit in the heart of the Blues you hit, Wik has three key pieces of advice: Bulls typically will move to “north aspect, mid-slope timbered hillsides” right after the opener; scour topo maps and glass the breaks for benches elk will lay up on during the day; and don’t overlook walking gated roads on open lands.

And tuck this away for future years: Where 2015’s Grizzly Bear fire in the wilderness Wenaha Unit burned more lightly may have helped clear out rank forage, improving the quality of elk feed.

2016 general season harvest: 112 (rifle: 56, archery: 39; multiple weapons: 9; muzzleloader: 8); Top rifle: Mountain View, 14; top success percentage: Grande Ronde, 16 (small sample); lowest days per kill: Grande Ronde, 22

More info: District 3 Hunting Prospects

NORTHCENTRAL

There aren’t many elk in the northern half of the east side of the Cascades or the Okanogan Highlands, but those that do reside here can mostly be found at either end of the region, where the Selkirk and Colockum Herds bleed over.

The Mission Unit of southern Chelan County produces a harvest on par with the best of the Blues units, 26 last year for riflemen, for a 7 percent success rate. Biologist Dave Volsen says the animals roam throughout Mission, but you’ll probably have better success in the rugged wooded uplands around Blewett Pass and southeast of Mission Peak in the headwaters of Stemilt and Colockum Creeks.

This fall a large herd has been causing issues near Havillah, but unfortunately this is mostly private land and the elk were primarily cows in this any-bull country.

2016 general season harvest: 58 (rifle: 35; muzzleloader: 12; archery: 11); Top rifle: Mission, 26; top success percentage: Wannacut, 15.8 (small sample); lowest days per kill: Wannacut, 14

More info: District 6 Hunting Prospects
More info: District 7 Hunting Prospects

Michelle Schreiber at Verle’s in Shelton tagged out in 2012 with this special permit bull near White Pass. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WESTERN YAKIMA COUNTY, COLOCKUM

There’s trouble in the Eastside’s top elk district, a double whammy from two successive years of bad weather for wapiti. The drought of 2015 left elk in poor condition going into that winter, resulting in higher mortality, and last winter of course was rough in not only the Blues but the South Cascades too.

Two years ago also saw a harvest of nearly 2,000 cows, highest of the past 10 years, undoubtedly depressing fecundity. Year over year surveys saw the Yakima herd decline from 10,856 to 8,326 in early 2017, the Colockum from 5,087 to 4,672.

As you can imagine, the calves took the brunt of the weather beating, leading to the “the lowest numbers ever seen in the district,” reports biologist Jeff Bernatowicz in his game prospects. “This does not bode well for general season spike hunters, as fewer calves seen on February/March surveys means fewer legal elk in the fall.”

Antlerless tags have been dramatically reduced for this year in western Yakima County, where Kylie Core, 15, of St. Maries, Idaho, toppled this cow last November with a single shot from her .30-06-caliber Ruger bolt action. Her family has been hunting the area for four generations. (DAVE WORKMAN)

Still, there will be spikes running around out there, and, no, the Yakima herd doesn’t all skip across the Cascades to get away from hunters with Eastside tags. Bernie reports that most elk stay on the 509 side and his hunting prospects this year includes the peregrinations of several radio-collared cows, which the spikes tend to run with, during fall’s seasons. The data does show many locations up where the Pacific Crest Trail treads, including the Norse Peak Wilderness, which saw a big fire this summer, and the William O. Douglas Wilderness to the south.

A WDFW map shows the locations of Yakima Herd collared cow elk in early to midfall. (WDFW)

But there’s also plenty of activity on either side of the border between the Bumping and Nile and Bumping and Bethel Units, southeast side of Rimrock, southwestern corner of Cowiche and the central portion of the border between Little Naches and Manastash.

Locations in the Colockum strongly cluster on the northern edge of Naneum, its central core in the canyon, and along its edge with Quilomene and throughout the upper two thirds of that unit.

A photo collage from Matt Paxton shows he and friends enjoyed a good hunt in the Little Naches Unit during 2013’s season. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

As ever, the key to elk hunting this country is the weather. No matter what happens, higher units’ harvests are typically stable, the biologist reports, but get some heavy weather and that can push the herds in a hurry to the feeding grounds, opening up opportunities. The timing of the rifle season and recent autumns haven’t been too conducive for that, however.

2016 general season harvest: 1,226 (rifle: 571; archery: 522; muzzleloader: 98; multiple weapons: 35); Top rifle: Quilomene, 122; top success percentage: Quilomene, 9.4; lowest days per kill: Quilomene, 46.7

More info: District 8 Hunting Prospects

SOUTH CASCADES, COWLITZ BASIN

Just like elsewhere across the southern belt of Washington, elk here suffered through a long, cold winter, and biologists estimate that the Mt. St. Helens Herd declined 30 to 35 percent. That’s not a small drop – bios say the elk here don’t typically have the fat reserves to get them through harsher winters like we just saw. The Willapa Herd wasn’t surveyed in 2017, but it isn’t affected by winter like mountain elk are, and recent years have shown stable to slightly increasing numbers, which should probably contribute to a season not unlike last year.

Hunting since she was 8, Amber Kolb tagged out in 2015 with this big Southwest Washington bull, taken on a special permit and while hunting with her dad, grandfather and a family friend. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Between Districts 9 (Clark, Skamania and Klickitat Counties) and 10 (Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties), rifle hunters bagged 765 elk last November. Ten’s overall, all-harvest tally was just shy of 1,500, just about the same as the previous three seasons but less than half of 2012’s concerted effort to decrease the size of the Mt. St. Helens herd through special permits.

The South Cascades’ top rifle units by kill last year were Lewis River (139 bulls), Winston (112), Ryderwood (86) and Coweeman (78). The opening of the Margaret in 2015 produced an immediate windfall, but last year’s harvest tailed off to 40, though most were four-point or better animals and the 11.8 percent success rate was second only to Mossyrock (16.2 percent). That said, Margaret is entirely owned by Weyerhaueser and most of Mossyrock is as well, so you’ll need a permit (wyrecreation.com/permits; some were available at press time early last month).

2016 general season harvest: 1,790  (rifle: 765; archery: 585; muzzleloader: 347; multiple weapons: 93); Top rifle: Lewis River, 139; top success percentage: Mossyrock, 16.2; lowest days per kill: Mossyrock, 28.7

More info: District 9 Hunting Prospects

SOUTH COAST

Good numbers of bulls – not so good numbers of big ones. That might be the summary for elk in the hills above Grays Harbor and Willapa Bays.

“Both calf-to-cow and bull-to-cow ratios for the North Willapa Hills herd area are exceptionally robust, indicating a highly productive herd with great harvest opportunities,” notes biologist Anthony Novack in his game prospects.

Bobby Wilson out of Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands harvested this nice bull near Naselle early in 2014’s season. Friend Kevin Klein sent the pic. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Spring surveys found bull ratios in Fall River, Lincoln Minot Peak and North River at 20:100 cows, well above the goal of 12:100, but again trophy critters were scarce – “Only one mature bull was seen during the entire survey,” Novack reported.

Williams Creek produces one of the Westside’s best harvests – 111 mostly four-points and .436 killed per square mile last year – and does have some state lands at its northeast and southwest sides.

2016 general season harvest: 642 (rifle: 281; archery: 236; muzzleloader: 86; multiple weapons: 39); Top rifle: Williams Creek, 111; top success percentage: Long Beach, 20 (small sample); lowest days per kill: Copalis, Long Beach, 26.5 (small samples)

More info: District 17 Hunting Prospects

MT. RAINIER

Expect harvest on the lower flanks of Washington’s highest mountain to continue its upwards trajectory as elk herds here increase. Since 2008, the all-weapons kill has doubled to more than 400, according to biologist Michelle Tirhi’s preseason prospects. Note that the Muckleshoot Tribe did undertake feeding in the White River Unit this past winter.

Hunting on an antlerless tag in the Mashel Unit west of Mt. Rainier late last season, Brennon Hart bagged his first elk with a 120-yard shot from his Knight Ultralight and a 300-grain Smackdown Bullet. He was hunting with his dad, Randy. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Tirhi points to public lands surrounding Mt. Rainier National Park as prime spots to patrol for elk heading for winter range, including high-elevation roads on its north and east sides, as well as walk-, ride- and bike-in state forestlands on its southwest corner. Lower still, Hancock-managed timber in White River (permit only) and Mashel are called out as good bets. There are also increasing elk issues in the lowlands, but access is pretty tough and there may be firearms restrictions to contend with. Indeed, muzzleloaders have been doing particularly well in Thurston and central Pierce Counties.

2016 general season harvest: 404 (muzzleloader: 136; rifle: 121; archery: 120; multiple weapons: 27); Top rifle: Mashel, 35; top success percentage: Deschutes, 23.2; lowest days per kill: Deschutes, 13.8

More info: District 11 Hunting Prospects

REST OF THE WESTSIDE

Elk are increasing not only in the Skagit Valley but the Snoqualmie, with more showing up down near Duvall. The caveat is that this all farmland of one sort or another, there are firearms restrictions and the archery boys have been sniffing around the herd. Keep an eye out next year for the possibility that the Cascade Unit will open for elk – not that there are many here. On the Olympic Peninsula, bull harvest in the Clearwater and Pysht Units have been increasing, but in most others it’s been flat or declining this millennium.

Ryley Absher, then 16, bagged this bull in eastern King County during 2012’s season with a Remington 700 in .30-06. His dad reported that after four days of watching the elk, it finally gave him a shot opportunity. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

One final note on Westside elk: With confirmation of treponeme-associated hoof disease in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Mason County elk, the ban on transporting hooves from a kill site is now in effect in North Sound, Nooksack, Sauk, Issaquah, Mason and Skokomish, Units 407, 418, 437, 454, 633 and 636. That’s in addition to all units in Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston and Pierce, most of Grays Harbor and northern Skamania Counties. The idea is to try and slow or halt the spread of the disease. NS

2016 general season harvest: 347 (archery: 128; rifle: 104; muzzleloader: 99; multiple weapons: 16); Top rifle: Clearwater, Satsop, 17; top success percentage: Coyle, 20 (very low sample); lowest days per kill: Coyle, 12

More info: District 12 Hunting Prospects — King County
More info: District 13 Hunting Prospects — Snohomish County
More info: District 14 Hunting Prospects
— Whatcom, Skagit Counties
More info: District 15 Hunting Prospects — Mason, Kitsap, east Jefferson Counties
More info: District 16 Hunting Prospects — western Clallam, Jefferson Counties

Yes, There Are Fires; No, Washington Hunting Season Isn’t Closed

You can breathe easy (but not too deep), fellas: Just because Washington is the earthly equivalent of Mordor at the moment does not mean hunting seasons are closed.

NO, NOT, MT. DOOM, JUST THE UNO PEAK FIRE BURNING ON A COUPLE THOUSAND ACRES IN THE 4 MILLION-PLUS ACRES OF THE OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NATIONAL FOREST. (INCIWEB)

Yes, there are fires; yes, it’s smokey as hell; yes, the sun’s this weird pink-red orb thing; yes, the moon’s orange; yes, the gods have dandruff; yes, I’m hacking up chunks of the Norse Peak Wilderness, but …

“No Washington hunting seasons are closed due to wildfires.”

So says WDFW this afternoon after reporting Eastside offices have been getting calls from hunters concerned about the wildfires burning in the Cascades.

But as firefighters battle blazes like Jolly Mountain, Norse Peak and others, be aware that some lands have been closed to allow them to do their jobs — for which we’re all thankful for — as well as to ensure public safety.

Say, so that nice big buck, bull, bruin or blue grouse you just bagged  — along with yourself — doesn’t get barbecued on the spot.

“For example, current access closures from the Jolly Mountain fire in Kittitas County affect the Teanaway Game Management Unit (GMU 335); closures from the Jack Creek fire just to the north in Chelan County affect access to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area (where some Sept. 15-25 High Buck Hunts traditionally occur); closures from the Norse Peak and American Ridge fires affect the Little Naches and Bumping River Game Management Units (GMUs 346 and 356); as the closures expand west of the Pacific Crest Trail into Pierce and King counties, the White River GMU (653) may also be affected,” says WDFW.

The Diamond Peak Fire closures in the Pasayten Wilderness will also affect this month’s High Buck Hunt.

The agency points out that there are many other options available across the state to most hunters.

Yeah, as someone who got locked out of my woods due to 2007’s Tripod Fire and had to hunt some utterly deerless terrain in Chelan County, that sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.

“Special draw permit holders unable to access any area for which a permit is valid, due to wildfire closures, will be contacted by WDFW about possible point restoration,” the agency adds, but notes that refunds aren’t available as tags are still good in general seasons.

Best way to stay on top of the changing conditions is through Inciweb.

It’s got daily updates, maps, photos, links, you name it to stay abreast of any restrictions or lifting of them as conditions moderate as we move out of this godawfully long, hot, dry summer. Eventually, I suppose.

In the meanwhile, remember, there’s a statewide burn ban, so no campfires and for god’s sake, no fireworks!

2017 Idaho Big Game Hunting Outlook

THE FOLLOWING IS AN IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME ORESS RELEASE

2017 should be another productive hunting season despite harsh winter

Idaho big game hunters have been on a roll in recent years with a top-10, all-time deer harvest in 2016, an all-time record whitetail harvest in 2015, and a top-five, all-time elk harvest in 2015.

Overall hunting success rates over the last five years have averaged 40 percent for deer and 23 percent for elk. Word has gotten out that big game hunting in Idaho has improved because the nonresident deer tags sold out last year for the first time since 2008, and only 300 nonresident elk tags (out of 10,415 available) remained unsold.

The 2017 tags are selling faster, and at current pace, Fish and Game could sell all the nonresident deer and nonresident elk tags by the end of October to nonresidents, or to residents as second tags.

So what does all that mean for big game hunters taking to the field this fall? They will see similar numbers of elk and white-tailed deer, but fewer mule deer.

graph_deer10yrharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Mule deer

Last winter took its toll on mule deer, particularly young bucks, because most of the fawns born last year died during winter, and they would have been two-points this fall.

Most of southern and central Idaho had record, or above-average snowfall, coupled with prolonged winter weather. Deer and elk weathered repeated snowstorms and snow depths not normally found on their traditional winter range coupled with Arctic temperatures. That prompted Fish and Game officials to launch a massive feeding effort that included up to 13,000 deer and 12,000 elk.

Despite that, statewide average survival for mule deer fawns was 30 percent, which was the second-lowest since winter fawn monitoring started 19 years ago.

The big question in many hunters’ minds is how much that will affect their fall deer hunts. Deer hunters killed 66,925 deer in 2016 (mule deer and whitetails), down slightly from the previous year, but still a respectable 36 percent success rate statewide, including 34 percent in general hunts.

graph_deerbyharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Like most things related to big game hunting, it’s hard to predict what will happen during the upcoming season because there are many variables, but past hunting seasons may provide some insight.

The 2011 deer harvest – which followed the lowest winter fawn survival since monitoring started in 1998 – was 2,555 fewer deer than the previous year, or a drop of 6 percent. Last winter actually tied with 2008-09 winter for second-lowest fawn survival at 30 percent, and in 2009, the deer harvest was 1,380 fewer than the previous year, a drop of 3 percent.

How does that happen?

There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, although mule deer fawn mortality was high in those years, whitetail herds were less affected by winter kill. Whitetails have typically comprised 30 to 40 percent of Idaho’s annual deer harvest during the last decade. That means sometimes white-tailed deer harvest compensates for fewer mule deer.

While last winter’s mule deer fawn survival was well below average, it was still not catastrophic to the overall mule deer population.

Adult mule deer doe survival was 90 percent, and although Fish and Game does not radio collar adult bucks and monitor them during winter, their survival likely tracked similar to does.

Yearling bucks (two-points) typically account for a significant share of the mule deer buck harvest, but over the last 19 years, annual average survival for fawns was 57 percent. While the 2016-17 winter fawn survival was about half the average, there’s still a large mule deer population remaining, including adult bucks and breeding-age does.

Mule deer

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

With a normal, upcoming winter, the herds could quickly rebound. To aid that, Fish and Game has reduced doe permits for most hunting units in southern and central Idaho to help more of them survive into breeding season.

Another thing to consider is prior to this year, mule deer populations were trending upward for several years, so while biologists expect a drop in the harvest, there’s a good chance it will fall within the range of the last five years.

Elk 

Hunters shouldn’t see a big change in elk populations this year. Elk are hardier than deer and able to withstand the rigors of hard winters, and elk herds have increased in recent years and produced some outstanding hunting seasons.

Hunters killed 22,557 elk in 2016, which was down 1,670 animals from 2015, but still the second highest in 20 years. (For more perspective, 2015 was the fourth-highest, all-time harvest dating back to 1935.)

Elk hunters in 2016 had 21 percent success statewide, including 39 percent for controlled hunts and 17 percent for general hunts, but general hunts accounted for 62 percent of the harvest.

graph_elk10yrharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

“This is the good-old day of elk hunting,” said Craig White, F&G’s Magic Valley regional supervisor. “There was only one period when Idaho hunters were harvesting as many elk as they are now.”

However, elk herds didn’t survive winter completely unscathed. There was higher calf mortality due to the harsh winter, which means some zones will have a “blip in the recruitment of young bulls,” White said, adding that it will likely be short-term.

Adult winter survival, particularly breeding-age cows, was “bulletproof,” he said, so any decline in herds will likely be replaced next year, barring another extreme winter.

While Idaho is reliving some of its glory years for elk hunting, the location of the animals has changed. During record harvests in the 1990s, Central Idaho’s backcountry and wilderness areas were major contributors. They are less so these days, but other areas have picked up the slack.

“We grow more elk in what I like to call the front country,” White said.

top10elkzones

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Harvest results support this. The Panhandle is currently the top elk zone in the state, and the top 10 zones include the Weiser River, McCall, Tex Creek, Palouse, Boise River and Pioneer, all of which have major highways running through them.

Those zones provide accessible opportunities for many hunters, but also have unique challenges because there’s often a mix of public and private lands where the elk roam.

Elk herds are doing so well in some zones, such as the Weiser and Pioneer zones, those herds are over objectives and Fish and Game has increased cow hunting opportunities to thin the herds.

elk

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

But elk hunters in some areas will have to navigate a mix of public and private lands, such as large sections of commercial timberlands in Central Idaho that used to be open to the public, but are now closed.

For new elk hunters, or experienced hunters looking for a new place to hunt, White recommends taking a longer view than this season. Elk populations are likely to remain healthy in the foreseeable future, so now’s a good time to learn a zone where there are abundant herds.

“Be patient,” White advises. “Make it a multi-year commitment, and get to know the area.”

Idaho offers a variety of over-the-counter tags for elk hunters. Out of 28 elk hunting zones, only two are limited to only controlled hunts. Hunters should research each zone and look beyond the general, any-weapon seasons to find additional opportunity. Many archery and muzzleloader hunts provide antlerless, or either-sex hunting, and also early and late hunts.

White-tailed deer

Idaho’s whitetail deer are about as reliable as you can ask for in a big-game animal. Over the last five years, Idaho’s mule deer harvest has swung by nearly 20,000 animals, but during that same period, whitetail harvest varied by only about 10,000 animals, which included an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails harvested in 2015.

whitetail

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

Whitetail harvest dropped about 2,700 animals in 2016, but it was still in the top-10, all-time, and hunters can expect to similar numbers, or more, of whitetails this year.

“We feel we’re in pretty good shape, and it’s going to be a normal year,” said Clay Hickey, wildlife manager for the Clearwater Region.

Winter in prime whitetail country in the Panhandle and north/central Idaho was closer to average than southern Idaho, although Hickey pointed out there was more snow than usual at lower elevations. Fish and Game doesn’t monitor whitetails the same as it does mule deer, but Hickey said there’s no indication of an above-average winter kill.

It’s also been two years since Fish and Game has detected outbreaks of the lethal hemorrhagic disease that hit some local herds hard in recent years. Hickey noted many of those herds have “rebounded as you would expect,” and Fish and Game is starting to get complaints from landowners about too many deer in areas where herds were thinned by the disease.

Whitetail hunters have lengthy seasons and lots of either-sex hunting opportunities, and hunters will see a good mix of age classes, and plenty of mature bucks. Hickey said Fish and Game’s white-tailed deer plan calls for 15 percent of the harvest to be bucks with five points or more (on one side), but it’s currently higher.

“We’re averaging over 20 percent of the bucks in the harvest are five-points or more in almost all our whitetail units, and lots of units are over 25 percent,” he said.

whitetail buck

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IDFG

While the areas north of the Salmon River have the highest densities of white-tailed deer, the animals are widely distributed throughout the state and provide hunting opportunities in most places, but typically at lower densities.