Tag Archives: mule deer

Record $1.02 Million Raised Through ODFW Raffle, Auction Tags; Money Goes To Access, Research Programs, Conservation Groups

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

ODFW’s 2018 auctions and raffles for 26 special Oregon big game hunting tags grossed a record $1,019,730 this year, breaking the previous record of $882,787 set in 2017. Winners of these tags can hunt during an extended season and in an expanded hunt area.

PATRICK WHEELER FROM HINES WITH A DEER TAKEN IN THE MALHEUR UNIT WITH HIS 2012 SE OREGON DEER RAFFLE TAG. (VIA ODFW)

A total of 145,105 raffle tickets were sold, grossing $380,730 and breaking previous records for raffle sales. Raffle winners were drawn at the Oregon Hunters Association state convention on May 12 at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville. See the list of winners at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/auctions_raffles/raffle_winners.asp

The auction of 13 special big game tags grossed $639,000. The Governor’s combination deer/elk tag went for $78,000, breaking the previous record of $70,000 set in 2016. See the list of auction events and winning bids at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/auctions_raffles/current_auction_sales.asp

The funds raised for deer and elk tags sold at auctions and raffles go to ODFW’s Access and Habitat program, which opens millions of acres of private land to hunting access and improves wildlife habitat. Proceeds from the pronghorn, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat tags help fund research and management of those species.

The sportsmen conservation groups that sponsored the auctions at fund raising banquets of their organizations in the past few months also get to keep 10 percent of the auction proceeds ($63,900). Those groups include local, state and/or national chapters of the Wild Sheep Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Oregon Hunters Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, and National Wild Turkey Federation.

Washington Special Permit Application Period Now Open

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

Hunters have through May 23 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington.

HUNTING ON A LATE KLICKITAT TAG IN 2013, BUZZ RAMSEY BAGGED THIS NICE BUCK ON DAY SIX OF HIS EIGHT-DAY SPECIAL HUNT WITH SON WADE. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in June. Special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

To apply for a special permit, hunters planning to hunt for deer or elk must purchase an application and hunting license for those species and submit the application with their preferred hunt choices.

Applications and licenses are available from license vendors statewide or on WDFW’s website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. Applications must be submitted on the website or by calling 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.

If purchasing and applying online, hunters must first establish an online account by creating a username and password. Information on how to create a username and password in the WILD system can be found at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/content/pdfs/WILD-Account-Instructions.pdf. Hunters can also click the “Customer Support” link on the WILD homepage for additional assistance.

Hunters who already have a username and password can login to purchase and submit their applications.

Most special hunt permit applications cost $7.10 for residents, $110.50 for non-residents, and $3.80 for youth under 16 years of age.

The exception is the cost for residents purchasing applications for mountain goats, any bighorn sheep ram, any moose, and “quality” categories for deer and elk. Those applications cost $13.70.

Instructions and details on applying for special permit hunts are described on pages 12-13 of Washington’s 2018 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet, available at WDFW offices, license vendors, and online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

Additional information is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/faq.html.

Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager, reminds hunters to update their phone number, email, and mailing address when purchasing their special hunting permit applications and licenses. Updates can be made by logging into the WILD system. Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned due to invalid addresses.

Results of the special permit drawing will be available online by the end of June at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/. Winners will be notified by mail or email by mid-July.

Big Game Habitat, Hunting Get Boost With Secretarial Order

Western big game got a boost today with the signing of an order to improve habitat, migration corridors and winter range.

Expanding hunting opportunities are also included under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decree that benefits mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere.

A HERD OF MULE DEER MOVE ACROSS WINTER RANGE. (DOI)

The order aims to use “best available science” and improve collaboration between the many landowners where our herds roam.

“American hunters are the backbone of big game conservation efforts, and now working with state and private landowners, the Department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat,” said Zinke in a press release. “For example, this can be done by working with ranchers to modify their fences, working with states to collaborate on sage brush restoration, or working with scientists to better understand migration routes.”

He signed Secretarial Order 3362 at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake, and it was praised by major hunting organizations.

“The goal of this effort lies at the heart of our conservation mission, ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. In order to do that we must maintain a focus on winter range and migration corridors for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation chief conservation officer, in the press release. “We support stronger collaboration between landowners, agencies, conservation groups like RMEF and all others seeking to enhance habitat for the benefit of our wildlife populations.”

The Mule Deer Foundation similarly praised the order.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Land Tawney was encouraged and said he was interested to see how it would play out.

“We commend the secretary’s decision but likewise urge him to apply the same rigorous approach to other resource management challenges, such as our Western sagebrush steppe, home to hundreds of species of wildlife and offering access to top-notch hunting and fishing,” the president of the Missoula-based organization said in a press release. “These unique public lands and waters deserve no less. Theodore Roosevelt would no doubt agree.”

As nice as it is to see habitat and hunting prioritized, Zinke’s recommendation to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah and pro-mining and drilling stances on federal lands have left some unsettled. Energy develoment in Wyoming was seen as a risk to the 150-mile migration of one Wyoming mule deer herd. Today’s decree was termed “bureaucratic window dressing” by a left-leaning think tank.

Zinke was the subject of an informative interview and article by former Outdoor Life editor Andrew McKean last month.

He has also recently called for moving land managers to the West from DC and reorganizing regions around watersheds instead of political lines.

IDFG Looking For Tips In Poaching Of Big Buck East Of Boise Last Weekend

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

Fish and Game is asking the public for information regarding the recent poaching of a large mule deer buck. The poaching incident likely occurred during the weekend of January 6th.

(BEN CADWALLADER, IDFG)

Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) is offering a reward for information in the case and callers can remain anonymous. Contact CAP at 1-800-632-5999 twenty four hours a day.

Responding to the initial report, Fish and Game conservation officer Ben Cadwallader found the carcass of a large buck mule deer just one-half mile east of Arrowrock Dam off of the Middle Fork Boise River Road. “Based on the condition of the carcass, the deer was likely shot either this past Friday or Saturday,” Cadwallader said. The deer hunting season closed more than two months ago in this area.

Evidence was collected at the scene, but Cadwallader hopes to learn more about the case from an eyewitness or others who have knowledge of the poaching incident. “I am very interested in visiting with anyone who has information regarding this poached deer,” Cadwallader noted.

In addition to the CAP hotline, persons with information regarding this case may also contact the Fish and Game Nampa office at 208-465-8465 weekdays and Idaho State Police at 208-846-7550 on weekends.

 

OSP Looking For Suspect(s) Who Shot 3 Mule Deer, Drove Over 2

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

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division in Baker City is asking for the public’s assistance in locating the person(s) responsible for the unlawful taking and waste of three mule deer (one buck, two does) that were discovered on private property off of Hunt Mountain Lane.

(OSP)

A Fish and Wildlife Officer responded to the call on Saturday November 25th and believes this happened after dark on Friday night November 24th. The officer located two mule deer does that were shot, driven over by a vehicle, and left to waste. The officer also located a buck that was shot, had the antlers removed, and was left to waste.

A reward is being offered by the Oregon Hunters Association through the Turn-In-Poachers (T.I.P.) program for any information leading to an arrest in this or any other wildlife case. Callers can remain anonymous. The T.I.P. program number is 1-800-452-7888.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact either the TIP hotline or by calling Sergeant Cyr at the Oregon State Police Worksite in Baker City at 541-523-5867 extension 4170.

WDFW Buys More Habitat, Hunting Ground In Simcoe Mountains

Washington fish and wildlife overseers signed off on the purchase of another 1,050 acres in eastern Klickitat County last weekend.

WDFW is buying the rich mix of timberlands and open ground in the Simcoe Mountains from Western Pacific Timber for an appraised price of $851,000.

A VIEW ACROSS PART OF THE SIMCOE MOUNTAINS OF EASTERN KLICKITAT COUNTY. (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

When the multiphase buy is completed, the agency will own 18,745 acres of the timber company’s land northeast of Goldendale and southeast of Satus Pass, in the headwaters of Rock Creek.

Land manager Cynthia Wilkerson called it “prime wildlife habitat” that’s home to mule deer, among other critters, and will continue to be grazed and logged, which won support from the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners.

Funding comes from the legislature’s Capital Budget, and the state Recreation and Conservation Office lists the project among its most highly ranked in terms of critical habitat.

All said and done, it will more than double the size of the Klickitat Wildlife Area.

A WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE IMAGE SHOWS PART OF THE SIMCOE MOUNTAIN PROJECT. (RCO)

After WDFW began buying the property a couple years ago it was initially open for general season deer hunters, but this season went to permit only, with three buck tags available for rifle, muzzleloader and archery hunters (nine total), plus two antlerless permits for modern firearms.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission also authorized the purchase of 142 acres in Kittitas County between the Wenas and LT Murray Wildlife Areas for $1,000 an acre.

And it returned 2 acres of land in Chelan County to the Douglas County Public Utility District as PUD takes over control of the Wells Hatchery from WDFW in the wake of an investigation into poor behavior by state employees there.

Second Weekend Of Rifle Deer Decent In NE WA, Snowy, Poor In Okanogan

If you’re one of the lucky few with a special permit to hunt the Okanogan’s big migratory bucks next month, this might be a good year.

An apparently very low general rifle season harvest and the second weekend’s “unusually heavy” snowfall could find more deer on the winter range in November.

STATE WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS HOLDING DOWN THE FORT AT THE WINTHROP CHECK STATION DIDN’T SEE TOO MANY DEER THIS YEAR, BUT AMONG THOSE THAT CAME THROUGH WAS THIS FINE SPECIMEN. (WDFW)

That is about the biggest positive you can take away from this fall’s hunt in some of Washington’s most famous mule deer country.

By check station data, it was a woeful season.

“For the season we checked 131 hunters and with 15 deer,” reports WDFW district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin. “Both of these numbers are down from last year and below the long-term average.”

For comparison’s sake:
2016 saw 145 hunters come through with 45 deer;
2015 saw 245 with 106;
2014 saw 101 with 39;
2013 saw 252 with 78;
2012 saw 253 with 49.

The score coming out of the first weekend was 83 with seven, one of which was actually shot down in Douglas County.

“This likely reflects a real drop in success, but fewer hunters through the check station is likely a factor of the poor weather the second weekend,” the biologist reported.

All day Saturday and into the wee hours of Sunday, snow fell heavily from the mountaintops down to Winthrop, where it took down two shelters Fitkin and friends had set up behind Winthrop’s Red Barn to check hunters over opening and the second weekends.

A HUNTER RETURNS TO SHELTER AFTER HUNTING IN FALLING SNOW LAST SATURDAY AFTERNOON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Well to the east, hunters in the state’s upper righthand corner did relatively better than 2016.

Dana Base, WDFW’s district wildlife biologist, reports reports 75 hunters with 25 whitetails (15 antlered) and one mule deer buck stopping at the Deer Park station on Highway 395 last Sunday.

At the same point of season in 2016, 137 hunters stopped by with 27 whitetails (15 antlered) and two mule deer bucks.

For this season, 249 hunters brought in 61 whitetails (37 antlered) and three mule deer bucks.

Last year saw 238 hunters with 48 whitetails (34 antlered) and five mule deer bucks.

While the general rifle mule deer season is done for the year, late whitetail season opens in November, and blacktail hunting continues through Halloween and reopens in many units in mid-November.

Not Much Left Of Hunter’s Deer After Bear-glar Raids Garage

This was not your average break-in, nor your average burglar.

Bear-glar is more like it.

THAT WASN’T WHERE I LEFT DAD’S DEER LAST NIGHT, ANDY LARSSON MIGHT HAVE SAID TO HIMSELF THIS MORNING WHILE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW THE DOE WENT FROM HANGING IN HIS GARAGE TO LAYING ON THE GROUND. (ANDY LARSSON)

“I had a bloody, hair-covered golf cart this morning to clean up,” says Andy Larsson, a Northwest Montana resident who awoke this morning to find a hole in his garage door and what was left of his dad’s deer laying outside on a pile of leaves.

The whitetail doe was harvested yesterday and had been hanging inside Larsson’s garage to be cut up tomorrow.

But one of the many bears roaming his property and surrounding lands on the Flathead Reservation apparently had other plans.

Sometime in the night, one busted through the thin garage door and helped itself to venison by using a golf cart Larsson had parked next to the deer.

“He used it as a platform to eat and chew on the carcass. He pulled it off the gambrel, down through the roof of the golf cart and out through the side,” Larsson says.

This time of year, bears experience hyperphagia, which is a fancy way to say they eat as much as possible to fatten up for their winter hibernation.

“There’s a little bit of meat left on the hindquarter,” notes Larsson. “He ate almost the whole thing.”

When he called a tribal game warden about it, he was told to “remove all attractants.”

“It’s my garage!” he replied.

Bear hunting isn’t allowed on the reservation. For many tribes, bruins are sacred animals.

Larsson says he didn’t hear a peep during last night’s entire episode.

“It was 60 feet from my bed. I sleep pretty soundly.”

He makes and sells gun sights — full disclosure: Skinner Sights advertises in Northwest Sportsman and other titles — and says with strong sales, he’s been putting in 12- to 15-hour days.

Still, it was tough breaking the news to his 88-year-old father, Bob.

“He just harvested that doe. He was sure proud of it,” he says.

BOB AND ANDY LARSSON POSE WITH BOB’S WHITETAIL DOE, HARVESTED YESTERDAY AND UNFORTUNATELY MOSTLY DIGESTING IN A BEAR’S STOMACH TODAY. (ANDY LARSSON)

Bob’s a lifelong hunter and 60-plus-year hunter ed instructor for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“I called him this morning and he said, ‘Well’ and kinda laughed, ‘I’ve never had that happen before,'” Larsson says.

I think we can all second that.

Game Pole Starting To Sag With Nice Eastern Washington Muley Harvest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasons For Hope Inside 2017 Buck Hunting Forecast For The 509

Though some Eastern Washington mule deer and whitetail herds took a hit last winter, hunters shouldn’t see much of a dropoff overall this fall.

Editor’s note: The bulk of this article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine.

By Andy Walgamott

As last winter dragged on, and on, and on, and on some more, concerns rose that Eastern Washington’s mule deer and whitetails could take a pretty serious hit from the worst cold weather in two decades.

Some did – those on the eastern flanks of the Blue Mountains and in Klickitat County, where cold, snowy conditions lasted months longer than usual.

Overall, Eastern Washington deer hunters will find decent prospects this fall, with good hunting for muleys and whitetails expected in key districts, though some southerly portions of the 509 may see impacts from this past harsh, long winter. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

But herds elsewhere appear to have escaped the brunt of it, and they should produce decent to good hunting as seasons begin this month and continue with October’s rifle hunt and November’s late buck opportunities.

The point may be best illustrated by a survey from about as far north in the 509 as you can get without leaving the Evergreen State. Dana Base, the district wildlife biologist for the state’s best whitetail country, had just begun the 20 annual late-summer surveys he and fellow bio Annemarie Prince run at press time. He reported spotting 37 deer on the Aladdin route, up where Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties take on shades of northern British Columbia, the most since 2014 and above average since 2011.

“When we have bad winters, deer up there die,” Base notes.

Now, 37 deer spotted amongst a statewide population of an estimated 300,000 doesn’t mean very much, but when you consider that that’s above average for that survey route since 2011, and three times as many as in 2015, well, there just might be reason for hope this season. And really, that’s all a deer hunter needs.

Here’s a roundup of prospects from around Eastern Washington:

REPUBLIC, COLVILLE, NEWPORT

Admittedly, last year’s deer harvest was down up here, but there was no way 2016 was ever going to top 2015, when the four-point minimum for whitetail came off two breadbasket units. WDFW reports the all-weapons general-season harvest at 6,238 last year, well below the prior hunt’s 7,960, a fair portion of which was on the “windfall” of spikes, forked horns and three-points that were back in the bag in Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North Units.

While Base believes there will be lingering effects from 2015’s deer-killing blue-tongue outbreak, especially in the valleys, year after year, the only part of the state that can match the annual harvest here is the Mt. Spokane Unit, which is right next door. There’s no reason to believe that won’t be true again in 2017, though you might fine-tune where you hunt.

Whether you’re an archer, muzzleloader or rifleman, the key is to put in time in the field. Many of us will tag out on the openers, but those who stick to it and do lots of glassing like Logan Braaten here increase their odds of successfully tagging out. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Northeast Washington presents a mosaic of high and midelevation federal and state forests, corporate timberlands, valley-bottom ranches and farms, and large private residences. If you have or have access to land in the Colville Valley, you should be OK, but Base is advising freelancers to maybe look elsewhere than Haller Creek, Monumental and Williams Lake Road, where the deer are still in recovery mode from disease two years ago.

“You find the right places in the national forest, you’ll find deer,” notes Base. ““There are actually whitetail up at Bunchgrass Meadows – not a lot, but more than you’d expect … There are deer up Smackout – not 20 to 40 per square mile like elsewhere here, but a huntable population. An experienced hunter will get into them.”

Get ahold of his game prospects and you may notice that the Aladdin Unit scores pretty highly. Another sleeper spot may be the backside of the Selkirk Unit, at its lower, southern end, where it’s primarily national forest land shot through with logging roads. Just be sure you’re on the Washington side of the border before pulling the trigger.

It may be a bit early yet, but don’t forget that some of the mule deer country in Base’s district has also seen big fires in recent years. The Stickpin Fire in 2015 on the Kettle Crest of the Sherman Unit was a “stand replacement” blaze. That’s not the easiest place to get into, but it may bear watching as it revegetates.

One major change of note for this year is that there will be no general season antlerless opportunities for 65-and-older archers, muzzleloaders and riflemen, as in recent years. Base says that local whitetail stakeholders actually lobbied for the restriction:

“‘Hey, we’ll take the hit, we want to promote youth hunters,’” he says they offered.

On a side note, you might bring your scattergun come the Oct. 7 topknot opener. Base says he thought the snowpack would kill off the quail, but he’s been seeing “tons of broods under 3,000 feet.”

Bottom line for Northeast Washington deer hunters this fall?

“Don’t give up, especially if you’re a buck hunter in November,” says Base. “It’s not the glory days of the early 2000s or the 1980s, but there are fewer hunters now.”

Top 2016 general season harvests: Huckleberry: 2,014, all weapons (259 five-plus-pointers, 759 four-points, 412 three-points, 184 two-points, 241 spikes, 159 antlerless); Hunter success: 38.2 percent, Douglas, modern firearms; Days per kill: 12.2, Douglas, modern firearms.

More info: District 1 Hunting Prospects

ODESSA, CHENEY, COLFAX

While deer harvest was down in the units of the upper Channelled Scablands, Palouse, Snake River breaks and fields and forests north of Spokane last year over 2015, it wasn’t as sharp of a dropoff as it was to the north. Hunters hung 4,817 whitetails and muleys in 2016, compared to 5,660 the previous season. It was more of an across-the-board dropoff, likely due to widespread blue-tongue impacts. But look for the herds to bounce back this year. 

“I suspect white-tailed deer hunters will have better success this year relative to last year, but still lower than prior to 2015,” says biologist Michael Atamian. “The population is recovering, but is not back to preoutbreak levels.”

Frank Workman of Tacoma anchored this three-point Snake River mule deer buck on Oct. 22 with a single, 150-yard uphill shot from his Ruger bolt-action, chambered in .308 Winchester. Workman is the younger brother of Northwest Sportsman columnist Dave Workman. (RICK FINCH)

Some more good news:

“This winter was a hard one, but we did not see or get reports of high numbers of mortalities like we got in the severe winters of 2007-08 and ’08/09,” says Atamian. “Mule deer appear to have weathered the winter fairly well in my district, moving south and west as the winter worsened and taking advantage of winter wheat and the south-facing slopes that opened earlier. I suspect success will be similar to last year for mule deer hunters in my district.”

As you undoubtedly know, Atamian’s beat probably has the lowest percentage of public land in the state, so most of the deer harvest comes off of private farmlands, ranches and woodlots.

On Grace Smith’s first hunt she harvested this nice four-point muley on the opener using a .243 given to her by her grandfather on her 11th birthday. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

If you haven’t already secured permission to hunt those, your next best bet is to turn to WDFW’s Private Lands Hunting Access pages to scout out Feel Free To Hunt, Register To Hunt, Hunt By Written Permission and Hunt By Reservation properties.

Also scope out the agency’s Go Hunt map for scattered WDFW, Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service parcels in areas like Swanson Lakes, Lake Creek, Crab Creek, headwaters of Sprague Lake and fringing Mt. Spokane and Lake Roosevelt and the Spokane Arm’s south shore. On the peak and to the south around Mica Peak are Inland Empire Paper lands (iepco.com) that may or may not require purchasing a pass to access.

Top 2016 general season harvests: Mt. Spokane: 2,176, all weapons (295 five-plus-pointers, 581 four-points, 376 three-points, 201 two-points, 303 spikes, 420 antlerless); Hunter success: 39.8 percent, Roosevelt, archery; Days per kill: 9.2, Almota, modern firearm.

More info: District 2 Hunting Prospects

DAYTON, POMEROY, ASOTIN

Unlike elsewhere in Eastern Washington, Blue Mountains units did not see as sharp a dropoff between 2015’s and 2016’s harvests. Hunters bagged 2,758 during general seasons two years ago and just one hundred fewer last fall. Riflemen killed just seven fewer last October, 2,118, over the previous one.

That points to a pretty stable population of muleys and whitetails, but this year will probably see a bit of a turbulence.

Unlike elsewhere on the Eastside, Blue Mountains units didn’t see the sharp drop in harvest between 2015 and 2016, and things are looking good for whitetails and mule deer this year. Madelynn Olson bagged this four-by-five on private land near Waitsburg with a 200-yard shot last fall. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

“The winter definitely took its toll, especially in the Grande Ronde River drainage and other parts on the east side of the district,” says assistant wildlife biologist Mark Vekasy. “In general, deer went into winter in good condition, and that kept the situation from being truly catastrophic. We expect to see harvest declines on the east side of the district in GMUs 169 (Wenaha), 172 (Mountain View), 175 (Lick Creek) and possibly parts of 181 (Couse). Over the rest of the district, we had enough periods of snow melt-off in the foothills, and only short periods thick snow crust elsewhere, that deer generally were able to reach forage, and seemed to come out of the winter in good condition.”

Wind and rain made for tough conditions during his muzzleloader hunt near Walla Walla, but Randy Hart hunt in there and on put the smackdown on this three-pointer. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

So, unless you’ve already scouted out a buck, you might adjust away from the core and eastern side of the Southeast Washington range. That’s too bad, because Vekasy says the Tucannon and Wenaha Units had been showing signs of improved harvest. However in Lick Creek, he says hunter numbers have nearly doubled since 2001, but harvest stats are going the opposite way.

“We are likely harvesting a high proportion of the legal deer in the unit,” Vekasy reports. “There is no antlerless opportunity in the unit, except for the Youth Blue Mts Foothills East tags, so there’s not much we can do to limit harvest in this unit. The Asotin Creek Wildlife Area has had some recent land additions, and with weed treatments and other habitat work, we hope to see some response from the mule deer herd.”

A break in a week of bad weather wracking the Blues last October spurred this mule deer to get up and walk into Gary Lundquist’s sights. If you look close you’ll see a bit of a droptine off his buck’s right antler. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

On the northwest side of the Blues, the Dayton Unit’s hunter success has held above 23 percent the past two years, and he expects good hunting.

“Most of the increase in success and harvest per unit effort in this game management unit has been due to the white-tailed deer harvest, presumably indicating healthy whitetail populations. Mule deer harvest in GMU 162 has been variable with no definitive trends, but deer went into winter in good condition, and winter range conditions in that GMU were not too severe, so we’re looking for a slight uptick in harvest this year,” Vekasy says.

In the foothills units immediately ringing the Blues, he expects the consistent 30 percent success rate in Blue Creek to continue, thanks to a “stable to gradually increasing whitetail population” and stable muley herd. He notes that the harvest has held steady even as hunter numbers have climbed by several hundred.

A Blue Mountains foothills whitetail buck spots a hunter. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

The Marengo Unit in the middle Tucannon has seen a bit of a decline, possibly because of extra antlerless permits two years ago as well as bluetongue, but Vekasy says that with deer having gone into last winter in good condition, he expects harvest to tick back up.

He’s also forecasting a steady-as-she-flows harvest in the remote Grande Ronde Unit, which is tucked on the southern side of the river, with good amounts of state and federal land.

As you fan away from the Blues, deer harvest climbs while public ground fizzles out. A surge in permits in Prescott and Mayview in 2015 may have led to pruned-back success rates last year a bit, but Vekasy still expects 36 and 30 percent of hunters to score again this fall. Peola will probably hold steady at 42 percent. Those three units are his top choices for continued good hunting, but he advises getting on the Go Hunt site and checking out private land access. He reports losing some properties in Prescott that are being pulled from the Conservation Reserve Program, a trend that could intensify next year.

Jenny Cunningham, Bruce Ward and Sydney Cunningham enjoyed a good deer season on public land in Southeast Washington. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds in Lick Creek, you might head for the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

“GMU 169 has low deer densities annually, but we did see a surprising number of mule deer in the high country during elk surveys, so I’m not sure it will be that much different than usual; low densities but some good quality in the backcountry,” he says.

Consider it scouting for a few more years from now, when the Grizzly Bear Complex wildfire really starts regenerating.

“Forage conditions were difficult to assess this year during aerial surveys, and I haven’t been out on the ground yet to check the large burns in the wilderness. The burns were already looking good last year, and we expect habitat conditions will only continue to improve, as long as we get adequate moisture, and hope to see a response from the mule deer herds in the wilderness,” Vekasy says.

Top 2016 general season harvests: Prescott: 553, all weapons (95 five-plus-pointers, 222 four-points, 173 three-points, 66 antlerless); Hunter success: 51.2 percent, Mayview, muzzleloader; Days per kill: 6.9, Peola, modern firearms.

More info: District 3 Hunting Prospects

MAZAMA, TONASKET, PATEROS

Stop me if you’ve read this already, but the horrible wildfire and drought conditions that led to a stellar season two years ago were never going to return for an encore – and thank god for that – and indeed may have been a once-in-a-generation harvest under the current three-point muley min. Last fall saw a harvest of 2,717 deer in the Okanogan, down from 3,603 the previous season.

“Although a decrease from the banner harvest in 2015, this total is still right at the five-year average and about 14 percent above the 10-year average,” notes district bio Scott Fitkin in his game prospects.

“It’s all about patience and timing,” says Chuck Hartman, who followed up a whopper 2014 Okanogan mule deer with this dark-horned beaut. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

What’s more, he expects things to hold steady in 2017.

“Heavier than average fawn mortality (67 percent versus the long-term average of 53 percent) during the 2015-16 winter could potentially mean a dip in 2½-year-old buck availability,” Fitkin reports. “However, this was offset by an uptick in post-season buck escapement, as evidenced by an observed sex ratio of 20 bucks per 100 does as compared to 16 per 100 the previous year. Total harvest and success rates overall are anticipated to be near the 2016 numbers and around the 10-year average.”

The backcountry of Okanogan and Chelan Counties is known for producing bruiser bucks, thanks in part to regenerating burns but also vast escape cover. Dan Gitchell downed this muley on the edge of the Pasayten Wilderness on last year’s fifth day. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

He says the population of the state’s largest mule deer herd as well as the Okanogan’s whitetails are doing fine because of great summer range, regular fall green-up and only moderate winters up here.

While the middle ground scorched by massive conflagrations of recent years may still be a few years away from producing the points and pounds of the legendary Tripod Buck, don’t overlook hunting the backcountry burn scars of the Thirty-mile, Farewell and Needles Fires up the Chewuch River, Eightmile Creek and Lost River, the biologist advises.

You can say that again and again! Chad Smith, center says that he and friends Kyle McCullough and Kiel Hutchinson enjoyed “a great opening weekend in Okanogan County.” Two of their muleys were shot on Saturday, one the following morning, and all were on public land. “Great weekend I’ll never forget,” Smith adds. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Those pastures, if you will, as well as those on the divide between the Chewuch and Okanogan drainages, are good bets. Otherwise, bucks tend to be a bit scattered in the early bow and general rifle seasons, not moving towards the lowlands till late in October or even November.

Rob Clarey reports his buddy Brent Antonius is now hooked on hunting, thanks to finding success on just his third day afield. Clarey, who also bagged a four-point, accompanied Antonius on a hunter ed deferral. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

In a bit of a contrast to elsewhere in the state, the public-land units compete pretty well, including Chewuch, Pearrygin, Sinlhakein and Chiliwist. Tops of all is Okanogan East, which does include a large percentage of ranches and hay farms but also a lot of national forest, BLM and some state ground. It’s also home to a 50-50 split between muleys and flagtails. In that unit, as well as across the river in the Pogue and Chiliwist, Fitkin says WDFW is managing towards a stable to slightly declining deer herd to keep it in line with available winter browse.

If there’s a wild card for this season, it was the extended hot, dry conditions of summer. From the vantage point of early August, it’s hard to predict October, but there’s a whiff of 2015 in the air, and not just smoke from the Diamond Creek Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness.

As snow fell on Washington’s opening deer, Jeff Boulet notched his tag with this Winthrop three-point. (JEFF BOULET)

“If this weather pattern continues, expect the high country to be drier than usual,” says Fitkin. “If so, then deer might start moving toward winter range early – tail end of the general season – similar to what hunters saw in 2015.”

Yep, boss, I’ll again be gone through that second Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Top 2016 general season harvests: Okanogan East: 739, all weapons (128 five-plus-pointers, 254 four-points, 196 three-points, 42 two-points, 47 spikes, 72 antlerless); Hunter success: 29.2 percent, Chiliwist, muzzleloader (low sample size); Days per kill: 15, Pogue, muzzleloader (low sample size)

More info: District 6 Hunting Prospects

CHELAN, PLAIN, WATERVILLE

Whether it’s payment coming due after a string of good seasons or something else, you may not have as easy of a time finding a legal buck on the Chelan County side of WDFW’s District 7, but the Douglas County quarter should continue its productive pace, thanks to a stable population.

The agency reports last year’s general season harvest was 1,691 (1,148 for modern firearms hunters) in the North-central Washington neighbors, down from 2,275 (1,631).

Brian “Ought-Six” Johnson and hunting partner and brother Drew “Sticks” Johnson teamed up to take down this symmetrical muley five-point Douglas County, Wash. Brian bagged it with just 15 minutes of shooting light left in season, with his Winchester 30-06. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

If there’s good news, it’s that the coveted upper Entiat Valley is once again open after being closed by the Forest Service’s district ranger for the past two High Buck Hunts due to fires and burn-scar safety concerns. The bad news, however, is that you’ll need to bring your levitating boots to get around downed timber on trails.

Biologist Dave Volsen says that last fall’s postseason surveys south of Highway 2 in Douglas County found 20 bucks for every 100 does, including some dandies. That part of the Waterville Plateau contains more public land than you might imagine, though a lot of it is wide open or steep and rocky talus, making hunting more difficult.

“Once we moved into the portions of the county with high road densities, open habitat, and increased access, the majority of the bucks observed following hunting season were spikes and two-point bucks,” he notes.

Volsen reports high fawn production last year, and good foraging conditions probably helped most make it through the heaviest winter here in about seven years. That’s good news for 2018’s 21/2-year-old bucks, assuming this coming cold season isn’t a doozy.

Odd years are for pink salmon, and evens are for Bill Waite and Brock Boyer to bag nice Chelan County muleys, we guess! They appeared in our 2014 yearbook with two studs. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Over in Chelan County, spring surveys south of the fjord found fewer deer this year than last, 11,000 versus 15,000. Why that was is hard to say, and while last winter didn’t come close to the bad winter of 1996-97, which drove implementation of the three-point minimum, it was “more significant” than any in the past half decade, says Volsen.

“This past winter, snow depths were higher, they extended farther downward onto winter range, and their duration into spring much longer. As a result, there was a decrease in the mule deer population in Chelan County,” he reports.

It comes after a good string of years.

“That fact, in combination with the fact that we harvested a larger portion of the older aged class bucks accumulating in the population, means that we will have to work a little harder to find bucks this year in Chelan County,” says Volsen. “We cut back on antlerless opportunity this fall to allow the population to rebound faster, minimizing any additional decrease in the productive part of the population.  We also reduced this year’s late-season buck permits, not for the purpose of recovery, but because these are quality hunts, and if hunters are going to use their points on a permit, it gives those hunters drawn the potential for increased success.”

Featuring a largely migratory herd, the public-land-rich county’s top units are actually in the front country, the well-roaded Entiat, followed by Swakane and Mission. The more forested Chiwawa Unit kicks out fewer bucks, but a higher percentage are five points or better.

Chad White’s harvested his share of Westside blacktails, but in 2016 he tried his hand hunting muleys — “I am hooked,” he reported after anchoring this nice buck. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

In Douglas County, Big Bend has a fair amount of state land and produces the most bucks, but the knock on it and most units here is the overwhelming amount of private land and roads around many sections. Still, there are a fair number of access options to consider on Go Hunt.

Top 2016 general season harvests: Entiat: 296, all weapons (29 five-plus-pointers, 88 four-points, 108 three-points, 71   antlerless); Hunter success: 57.2 percent, Moses Coulee, muzzleloader; Days per kill: 4.9, Moses Coulee, muzzleloader

More info: District 7 Hunting Prospects

TROUT LAKE, GOLDENDALE, BICKLETON

Few places in Washington saw the winter that the eastern flanks of the Southern Cascades did, and that along with a confirmed adenovirus outbreak this summer will have ramifications this season and in coming ones.

“Success may be lower this year mainly due to our severe, prolonged winter on both sides of the Cascades,” predicts biologist Stefanie Bergh. “Klickitat County saw snow on the ground December through March, which is unheard of and very hard on all wildlife species, including deer. We had more calls than normal about winterkill, so success in the next couple of hunting seasons could be lower.”

Buzz Ramsey scored the Northwest trifecta in 2016, killing muleys in Oregon, Idaho (ask him about his little adventure in the canyon in the dark) and Washington, with this healthy specimen that yielded 130 pounds of meat to pack out. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

That’s unfortunate, because the three units here are something of sleepers. In 2015, West Klickitat, Grayback and East Klickitat yielded 1,214 deer (798 for riflemen), though last year saw fewer tags notched (828 and 612, respectively).

West Klickitat has the most public or publicly accessible ground, but the Klickitat Wildlife Area in western Grayback is popular too. Bergh warns that this fall will see some logging in its largest unit, Soda Springs. How that will affect access or deer movement remains to be seen. 

Also be aware that the new Simcoe Mountain Unit, which was open for all hunters last year, is now a draw-only opportunity.

Top 2016 general season harvests (east of Cascade Crest): East Klickitat, all weapons (30 five-plus-pointers, 101 four-points, 184 three-points, 24 antlerless); Hunter success: 33.6 percent, East Klickitat, archery; Days per kill: 12.7, East Klickitat, modern firearm

More info: District 9 Hunting Prospects

THE REST OF EASTERN WASHINGTON

Benton, Franklin counties, per WDFW Biologist Jason Fidorra’s District 4 Hunting Prospects: “In northern Benton County (GMU 372), spend some time scouting for deer in the Thornton and Rattlesnake units of the Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area. Deer Area 3372 -Sunnyside (Benton and  Yakima counties) was created in 2016 to provide additional general season opportunities along the Yakima River from Prosser to Union Gap, including an early muzzleloader season and late archery and late muzzleloader seasons. In southern Benton County (GMU 373), there are small groups of deer available to hunters on land in the Horse Heaven Hills, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, scattered tracts of DNR, and private property in our access programs. The USFWS’s Umatilla NWR Deer Areas 3071 (Whitcomb) and 3072 (Paterson) units provide 80 special permits required to harvest deer on the NWR, including two archery periods in October and three muzzleloader hunts from November into December. Youth, buck, and antlerless permits are available on both units. Please consult the current hunting regulations for more details.”

Adams, Grant, Counties, per WDFW Biologist Rich Finger’s District 5 Hunting Prospects: “Most deer harvest occurs in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 284 (Ritzville), where 10-year average post-hunt buck:doe ratios from ground surveys are 13:100 and 15:100, respectively. Fawn: doe ratios rebounded in 2016 after all-time lows in 2015. The rebound is likely in response to favorable weather conditions that helped increase fawn survival and will help to increase hunting opportunities over the next couple of years.”

Kittitas, Yakima Counties, per WDFW biologist Jeff Bernatowicz’s District 8 Hunting Prospects: “Deer harvest in District 8 has been down from historic highs for a number of years. The average hunter success the last five years has been eight Percent compared to a statewide average of 28 percent. Following a sharp decline from 2004-2006, the harvest has been relatively static. There was an increase in harvest in 2015 following three mild winters with good fawn recruitment. Unfortunately, the hot, dry summer of 2015 was followed by a two relatively hard winters, which has decreased the herd. Much of the harvest is likely 2-3 year-old bucks. Fawns lost the winter of 2015-16 would comprise a large portion of the 2017 harvest. Harvest will likely decline in 2017 through 2018.”