Tag Archives: mule deer

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.”

2017 Oregon Big Game Hunting Prospects

As they do each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has compiled hunting prospects from its biologists for deer and elk herds across the state.

Here’s what ODFW is forecasting for 2017’s hunting seasons:

By ODFW

The winter of 2016–2017 was one for the books. According to NOAA, in parts of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, it was the fourth most severe winter on record in terms of days of snow and daily temperatures. ODFW observed higher than normal mortality in deer and pronghorn herds in Baker, northern Harney and Malheur counties, and some parts of Union County, which led to emergency tag reductions in these fall 2017 hunts. Hunters in these units should expect to see fewer yearling animals (spikes and 2-points) this fall.

A PAIR OF MULE DEER ON THE ELKHORN WILDLIFE AREA. (NICK MYATT, ODFW)

Despite the winter, in most areas of eastern Oregon, deer and elk survival was at or slightly below average. Plus, winter’s snow provided the moisture for a spring green-up and increased forage production when the weather finally warmed up, which should provide some long-term benefits to wildlife.

It could also change typical hunting techniques early in the season for archery hunters in the desert region. “There is a lot of water on the desert and forage is as good as it will ever get,” said Lake County wildlife biologist Craig Foster about conditions in August. “There are many water sources available now so big game are dispersed and don’t have to use a waterhole with a blind on it. My advice is if you get a shot opportunity, take it, as there may not be another one.”

In Western Oregon, the winter was also generally colder and wetter than normal. Several areas set record monthly moisture amounts. Winter conditions also stuck around much later than in recent years. Deer and elk survival rates were also at or slightly below the five-year average in western Oregon.

Unfortunately, the state’s wet weather did not continue into the summer. Most places are currently very dry—which is typical for the start of fall hunting seasons. Several large fires are burning, which will create great big game habitat in the years to come. However, in the short term, hunters are advised to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and stay out of the very recently burned areas.

BAKER DISTRICT (Sumpter, Keating, Pine Creek, Lookout Mt.)

Recent wildfires this summer have remained small and contained throughout the district. Fire conditions are extreme and hunters should check with the land manager (Wallowa-Whitman National Forest or BLM) to find out the latest conditions, as they can change rapidly.

DEER

Over-winter survival was poor in all units with average fawn ratios of 9 per 100 adults counted in the spring. This was much lower than last year’s count of 33 fawns per 100 adults. Adult doe mortality was just above 35% determined from GPS collared deer. The yearling buck component will be reduced drastically this season as a result of the lower survival from this winter. Dry conditions at mid to lower elevations this year will make hunting difficult early in the season. Animals will be the most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon when temperatures cool off. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in areas of good forage near north slopes that provide good bedding cover.

ELK

Elk herds in Baker County came out of the winter in good shape. Bull ratios are at management objective for all units. Calf ratios were above the average in all units. Elk populations in the Keating and Pine Creek units and Lookout Mountain units continue to grow and offer good opportunity for hunters. For the best chance at tagging an elk, get as far away from roads as possible, perhaps by hunting in one of the cooperative Travel Management Areas. Dry conditions this year could make hunting difficult. Animals will be the most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon when temperatures cool off. Hunters should concentrate their efforts in areas of good forage near north slopes that provide good bedding cover.

CROOK DISTRICT (Maury, Ochoco, Grizzly)

DEER

Buck ratios remain above management objective (MO) for the Maury and Ochoco units and below MO in the Grizzly unit, with a district-wide average of 19 bucks per 100 does. Last year’s severe winter took a toll on fawn numbers, reducing over-winter fawn survival rates 30% across the district. As a result, there will be fewer yearling bucks available for harvest. Spring and summer conditions have been great, with the heavy snowpack leading to plenty of water available on the landscape. Hunter harvest of deer last fall was about average throughout the district. Throughout the district, deer populations continue to be lower than management objectives due to habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, predation, disease, and road kill.

Archery hunters are reminded that the Maury unit is now a controlled deer archery unit requiring archers to possess a controlled entry buck tag. Hunters can expect to see larger, older age class bucks as a result of these tag reductions. Reminder to pick up a motor vehicle use map for the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forests so you know what’s open vs. closed.

ELK

Elk populations and bull ratios are at or just below management objectives in all three units. Hunter harvest last fall was about average throughout the district. Calf ratios took a bit of a dip due to the severity of last winter, which is to be expected. The abundance of water on the landscape this spring and summer has been great for wildlife. Elk are in good body condition and highly mobile across their range. Depending on weather conditions, hunters should expect to find elk on north-facing and moist drainages and high elevations during archery season and more scattered during rifle seasons. Typically, elk hunting improves as you get further away from open roads. Reminder: Elk bow hunters must now have a controlled Maury Unit bull tag to hunt elk in the Maury Unit.

The Maury and Ochoco units offer the best opportunities for bagging an animal on public land, while the Grizzly unit is mostly private land where access can be difficult. Ochoco unit rifle hunters are reminded the Rager and South Boundary TMA motorized vehicle restrictions will be in effect. Maps of those areas are available on ODFW’s website and from ODFW and Ochoco National Forest offices, as well as signboards as you enter the TMA’s. A majority of public land cow elk tags have been eliminated in the Ochoco unit due to declining elk populations on national forests. Private land hunts for the Ochoco unit are intended to increase elk use on the national forest and eliminate elk staying on private land throughout the seasons.

DESCHUTES DISTRICT (Upper Deschutes, Paulina, North Wagontire, Northwest Fort Rock, Metolius)

DEER

There should be decent numbers of both mature and yearling bucks available in most units relative to the population size. Tough winter conditions resulted in a drop in over-winter survival. Spring fawn ratios are down district wide with a ratio of 27 fawns per 100 does. Buck ratios are near, or above, management objective district wide with a ratio of 18 bucks per 100 does. Last year, both rifle and archery harvest was average. Heavy winter precipitation resulted in more dispersed available water that should help distribute wildlife throughout the district.

ELK

Relative to the number of elk, branch antlered bull opportunity will be decent in the Paulina and East Fort Rock units. Herds are at relatively low densities and cover a lot of country, so hunter success is typically low.

Elk numbers continue to grow slowly in the Cascade units. The Upper Deschutes, Metolius and West Fort Rock units are managed under the general season ‘Cascade’ hunt. Elk densities are moderate, but hunter densities are high in the roaded portions of the Cascade units. For solitude, seek more remote wilderness and roadless areas in the Cascades.

Elk numbers in the North Wagontire (High Desert hunts) are quite variable due to large movements these animals make. The elk are most consistent in their daily patterns near alfalfa fields. Hunters are advised to select their target animal carefully when elk are in open country in large herds to avoid wounding or hitting multiple animals.

GRANT DISTRICT (Murderers Creek, Northside, Desolation)

While the Grant District experienced a harsher winter than past years, deer and elk populations fared well. Throughout the summer, the area saw prolonged temperatures above 90 degrees so animals will be attracted to green forage on north slopes, springs and wet meadows.

DEER

Although deer populations remain below management objectives in all units, we have seen a slight increase over the past 5-6 years. Mild winters and relatively good fawn ratios have contributed to this increase. Good buck ratios were observed last fall with a good proportion of mature bucks. However, spring fawn ratios were a little lower than desired which is likely due to last year’s dry summer and harder over-winter conditions. The lower fawn ratio will cause a slight decrease in yearling bucks available for harvest this year. Last year, archery and rifle hunters had average success and we expect to have similar results this year.

Deer hunters should look for areas where fire has occurred in past 5-15 years as deer tend to favor vegetation that occurs following fires. The Shake Table Fire on Aldrich Mountain is starting to show signs of increasing deer and may be a good place to find a buck.

ELK

Hunting prospects are average for the district. Elk populations are steady or increasing in most of the district and above management objective in all units except W Beulah. We have had reasonable calf ratios and good bull ratios in most of the district. Archery season in Desolation is now either-sex for elk rather than bull only.
Elk hunters should focus on areas with no open roads as elk tend to move away from traveled roads during hunting seasons.

HARNEY DISTRICT (Silvies, Malheur River, Steens Mt, Juniper, portions of Beatys Butte, Wagontire, and Whitehorse)

DEER and ELK

Habitat conditions are generally good and abundant water sources this year should disperse game populations more widely. The risk of wildfire remains a concern. Most of the large scale mega fires in our area occurred in 2012. Wildlife and hunters have been able to adapt by using different areas and pockets of areas within those fire boundaries that have started to recover.

Deer and elk populations are stable to increasing in most portions of the Harney District. Multiple efforts to improve habitat conditions and remove predators have contributed to this. The Malheur River Unit experienced some unusually high winter kill due to the heavy snow pack and prolonged cold temperatures. In response to that, biologist reduced deer tags by 35%. That was the only wildlife management unit in the Harney district that had an emergency tag reduction. Hunting prospects are good for our other units; there are plenty of animals available for harvest for all seasons and weapon choices.

All Harney units are currently below population management objective (MO) for deer although the district is seeing an increasing trend in most units over the past 6-7 years. But all units are above buck ratio MO for deer. They are also above both bull ratio and population objectives for elk.

Statistics are becoming more reliable since the implementation of mandatory reporting surveys, and they show harvest remains stable.

Hunters need to have good maps of the area and are encouraged to visit the county website for maps http://www.co.harney.or.us/huntmaps.html. Make some scouting trips and contact the local biologist to discuss more specifics once you have a better idea of the lay of the land.

HEPPNER DISTRICT (Heppner, Fossil, East Biggs, southern Columbia Basin)

DEER

Deer populations are decreasing in all units. Fawn survival from last year due to the hot dry summer and long cold winter was very poor in all of the units and will result in fewer yearling bucks available for harvest this hunting season. The summer has been very hot and dry with decent forage conditions in the higher elevations and poor conditions as you drop in elevation. Unless conditions change, early season hunters will want to focus on areas of good forage and water.

Public lands hunters in the Fossil unit can hunt the old Wheeler Burn, which is still producing a fair number of deer and is historically a good spot. Public hunters can also hunt the Heppner Regulated Hunt Area in the Heppner unit.

ELK

The elk population for the Heppner is still slightly above MO for the unit and the Fossil Unit’s population is stable. Bull ratios have remained constant from last year for both units. The elk calf ratio for both units remains low this year. While there will be fewer spike bulls than previous years, there are still good numbers of bulls in the forest.

Even though forage conditions are better this year, the dry conditions in the forest have elk condensed in areas that have more water as many of the springs have not recharged from several years of drought. Hunters will increase their success by focusing on north slopes with good grazing available near open water. With predicted cooler weather, elk generally become more active. Hunters are reminded to check fire restrictions which usually include no campfires early in the season.

KLAMATH DISTRICT (Keno, Klamath Falls, Sprague, SW portion of Ft Rock, West portion of Silver Lake, West Interstate)

DEER

Deer populations in Klamath County are stable or slightly decreasing. An above average winter likely contributed to lower fawn survival overwinter, which will effect hunter success on yearling bucks this hunting season. Yearling bucks generally comprise over half the buck harvest. The district-wide spring fawn ratios ranged from 16 to 21 fawns per 100 adults. With the above average precipitation last winter, forage conditions this summer are good.

Hunters should concentrate efforts in areas with healthy understory vegetation or thinned areas that offer good forage availability adjacent to cover, especially if weather remains hot and dry. In the absence of significant moisture before or during the hunt, expect deer to be more nocturnal in their movements and focus on areas within a few miles of water. Summer wildfire activity has been low in Klamath County, though conditions remain dry. Fire related restrictions to vehicle use on roads and camp fires will likely remain in place through much of the early fall hunting seasons.

For all units, buck ratios are above management objectives and a good component of older age bucks exists. The fall buck ratio in the Interstate Unit was highest among Klamath County units, with a measured ratio of 26 bucks/100 does. The Keno and Klamath Falls units are also above buck ratio management objective, however populations in these and all surrounding units remain below objective.

ELK

The Cascade Mountains (that area within Klamath County west of Hwy 97) offer the best opportunities for elk hunting in the Klamath District. The Keno Unit and those areas within the Sprague and Fort Rock Units west of Hwy 97 are included in the general season Cascade elk area. Bull ratios are above management objective and some older age bulls are available. Best prospects are in the Keno and Fort Rock Units. Elk numbers are lower in the eastern part of the county, and seasons east of Hwy 97 are limited entry. Overall population trends are stable to slightly increasing in some areas but below population management objectives like much of the region. Archery hunters will have a bull only bag limit in all units with the exception of the Fort Rock unit east of Hwy 97 where an either-sex bag limit is in effect.

LAKE DISTRICT (Warner, Interstate, Silver Lake, southern portions of Beatys Butte, Fort Rock and Wagontire)

DEER and ELK

With good winter precipitation and a wet spring, water availability is much improved over last year. In forested units, unless there are fall rains, deer will use areas with an abundant shrub component in the understory as this will be the only vegetation with any forage value. In desert units, focus on mountain shrub habitats within a few miles of water.

Deer populations have been consistent over the past few years. Hunting prospects should be fair to good as all units are above management objectives for buck ratios. Deer fawn ratios in the spring were in the high teens or low 20s which is below average and will affect hunter success on younger age bucks. Last season, hunter success was generally average. Fort Rock continues to have low hunter success for the number of deer that summer in the unit, but hunter success and satisfaction was good in all other units.

Fire activity has been moderate this year with a variety of small fires (less than 1000 acres) and only one large fire near Wagontire Mountain. The Barry Point Fire of 2012 has a lot of young shrubs and is providing some good deer habitat.

Some suggested areas to hunt for hunters less familiar with the district:

Beatys Butte: Focus on the high elevations with mountain shrub communities
Warner: For both North and South the forested habitats have more deer, and therefore more bucks, than the desert habitats. If you want to hunt the desert units there is a lot of private land mixed in with the BLM properties which also makes hunting these areas a challenge.
Interstate: Hunt any of the wildfire areas which are predominately south of Hwy 140. North of 140, the edges between private timberlands and USFS properties are good spots to check; these areas generally have high quality feed on the private timber properties and good cover on the Forest properties.
Silver Lake: The Tool Box Wildfire Complex of 2004 is still providing quality shrub habitat and good deer numbers. If we don’t get fall rains outside the fire area, any of the timbered vegetation associated with shrubs in the understory will hold deer.
Fort Rock: Natural openings or old clear cuts with shrubs in the understory are going to be the most productive.

MALHEUR DISTRICT (Whitehorse, Owyhee and Beulah Units)

DEER

The northern half of Malheur County experienced record snow over the winter of 2016-17. Snow began accumulating in early December and remained snow covered through the end of February. The harsh winter conditions had a significant negative impact on deer and pronghorn populations. The overall loss of these herds may not be fully understood until another population survey is conducted after next winter. While the southern portion of Malheur County experienced harsh winter conditions as well, the valley floors melted off between snow events providing wintering wildlife access to forage thus resulting in minimal loss of big game to winter conditions.

In the Beulah unit, fawn ratio (7/100 adults) and over winter adult mortality greater than 25% resulted in a 40% reduction in tags for the 2017 season. Additionally the management objective for the buck ratio has increased from 12 to 15 bucks per 100 does as part of the management objective review which took place in 2015. The combination of winter mortality and meeting buck ratio tag numbers means tags for this unit will remain at the reduced number for the 2018 season as well. As a result of the low fawn ratio, there will be also be very few yearling age class buck in the harvest this year.

Much of the best deer hunting is on public land near the edge of the Malheur National Forest. Other areas within the National Forest that have had recent fires or logging activity can also be productive

In Owyhee Unit, the northern portion of the unit was negatively impacted by severe winter conditions as well. Fawns ratio was 16/100 adults and above average winter mortality on adult deer resulted in a 25% cut in tags for 2017 (2018 tag numbers will remain at the reduced level as well). Wildfire and weed invasion continues to have an impact on the ability of this unit to produce deer. Even though it is a very challenging unit to hunt, hunter success remains above 50% with a majority of the bucks harvested being 3- and 4-points.

East Whitehorse Unit is another difficult unit to hunt if you are not familiar with the unit. Deer numbers are low and they can be widely scattered. The major fires of 2012 continue to have a negative effect. Winter conditions in the southern end of the county were significantly milder that in the Treasure Valley and did not appear to have a negative effect on deer populations.

In the Trout Creek Mountains, the Holloway Fire burned most of this area in 2012, except for the Oregon Canyon and Sherman Field areas. Since the fire, the higher elevations have had decent vegetation recovery. The deer population remains at similar numbers as pre-fire conditions and buck rations are well above 40 bucks per 100 does.

ELK

E Beulah is an elk de-emphasis zone. Tag numbers are high with numerous long seasons to keep the elk population under control. Success rates are poor during early season without access to private lands. Later hunt dates can have higher success if winter conditions move elk to more accessible areas.

Whitehorse and Owyhee units are part of the High Desert hunt area. Whitehorse unit has very few elk. An increasing number of elk have been observed in the northwestern portion of the Owyhee unit. These elk are often observed in large groups and very nomadic which makes them difficult to locate consistently.

MID-COLUMBIA DISTRICT (Hood, White River, Maupin, West Biggs)

DEER

The West Biggs and Maupin Unit have seen a decline in deer numbers the last couple years, with drought and hard winter both taking a toll. Most of the reduction has been due to decreased fawn recruitment, so expect to find less young bucks on the landscape. Buck ratios are the highest in the John Day Canyon, as fewer hunters are able to access much of the landscape. Having a good map to ensure you know where you are is essential.

Deer hunting in the White River unit was poor last year, and is expected to be again this year with buck ratios below management objective. Deer are typically scattered throughout the unit with higher elevation habitats and wilderness areas the best opportunity to harvest a mature buck. There are quite a few deer on the White River Wildlife Area but most of the larger bucks move up into the higher country to summer and then migrate back down when the weather pushes them off the mountains. There are always a few nice bucks that hunters find hidden away in some of the more remote areas. However, hunting pressure can be high on the wildlife area.

Hunters headed for the Hood Unit should pay close attention to land ownership and fire restrictions. Some of the best hunting in the unit is found on private timberlands, and hunters should always check with these landowners to find out the most recent regulations. Historic burns on USFS lands around Mt. Hood have been increasing and deer numbers within the unit as well. Rainy or high pressure weather systems typically increase deer activity and the opportunity to spot a buck.

ELK

Elk numbers in the White River and Hood units are near the management objective and will be found scattered in small groups throughout the units on public lands. Herd numbers have been stable with bull numbers observed were slightly higher than last season. However, heavy cover makes harvesting a bull challenging. Most mature bulls are found at higher elevations, especially during the first season. Hunters often choose to hunt the second of the two general seasons for increased season length and a greater chance of winter weather to improve hunting conditions and success. Bull elk hunting in the Maupin and West Biggs also is general season, but the animals are almost exclusively found on private lands. Gaining landowner permission in that area could result in a successful hunt. The White River Wildlife Area has fair numbers of elk and is open to public hunting though hunting pressure will be high; remember fire restrictions are likely in effect during archery season and a wildlife area parking permit is required.

UMATILLA DISTRICT: (Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, Ukiah, eastern portion of Heppner, northern Columbia Basin)

DEER and ELK

Deer prospects in the Walla Walla, Mt. Emily, and Ukiah Units are good as the bucks/100 doe ratios are continually looking good. Even with our harsh winter with cold temperatures and record snowfall, fawn survival was nearly average. The same scenario played out for elk in these three units; bulls/100 cows are slightly up with spike hunting still a challenge in the Mt Emily and Ukiah Units with the Walla Walla Unit spike numbers looking fairly decent.

Low to mid-elevation forage is drying off quickly due to hot and dry conditions, so deer and elk may be found in higher numbers at or above mid-elevation areas. If early September rains arrive before hunting season, animal retention on national forest lands will increase over recent years, improving the hunting substantially. Additionally late summer and early fall rains will improve the chances for deer and elk to produce well, ensuring plenty of animals available for next year’s hunt.

UNION DISTRICT: (Starkey, Catherine Creek, East Mt. Emily, portions of Sled Springs, and Wenaha)

DEER and ELK

Elk and deer numbers are stable throughout the county, in spite of the tough winter. Adult elk came through the winter well, while calf survival was down. As a result, spike hunters can expect to see fewer yearling bulls this season. All units are at or above MO for elk. Deer numbers are stable, but are below management objective in all units. Hunters may encounter fewer yearling bucks this season due to a decrease in fawn survival over the winter. Controlled hunt deer tags were reduced by 30% as a result of the harsh winter.

Hunter success last year was on par with previous years with deer hunters averaging 30% and elk hunters 30%. Hunters can expect dry conditions in the early seasons that will keep animals closer to water sources such as springs and creek bottoms. Animals move little during warm conditions and hunters will need patience to be successful. The Starkey Unit Travel Management Area is a great place to start for big game hunters new to the area; maps are available online or at the La Grande office. General spike season is a great time to elk hunt in the Starkey unit without the crowds of first season. Look for elk in the steep terrain of the Starkey and Catherine Creek units.

WALLOWA DISTRICT (Wenaha, Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Snake River, Minam, Imnaha)

DEER and ELK

While deer populations are still low, buck season is expected to be fair in all units. Elk populations are doing well, and hunters can expect good prospects for bull hunting in all units. Deer populations are below MO in all units, while elk pops are above in all units except the Wenaha.

Deer and elk harvest has been stable the last few years. Archery season is expected to be warm and dry as usual, making hunting conditions a little difficult. Archers in the Sled Springs unit need to be aware of motor vehicle restrictions and no camping restrictions on Hancock Timber property during fire season.

The district has not detected any drop in deer or elk populations as a result of wolf activity.

NORTH COAST DISTRICT (Saddle Mt., Wilson, western Trask, western Stott Mt., western Alsea, north Siuslaw wildlife management units)

DEER

Black-tailed deer on the north coast (Saddle Mt., Wilson, western Trask wildlife management units) survived a very cold, long winter with very little post winter mortality was observed. Deer densities overall are moderate as was the survival of bucks from last year’s hunting season. The best bet for buck hunting will be the Wilson WMU.

There has been a lot of recent clear-cut timber harvest on state forest lands, so be sure to take a look at ODF lands if scouting for areas to hunt deer. Generally, deer densities tend to be highest in the eastern portions of these units. Most industrial forest lands will be open to at least non-motorized access once fire season is over with the exception of Weyerhaeuser lands, most of which will be in a fee access program this fall.

In 2017, the deer bag limit for archery hunters and hunters with a disability permit will continue to be one buck deer having not less than a forked antler.

Along the mid-coast (western Stott Mt., western Alsea, north Siuslaw), overall deer numbers appear to be stable to increasing slightly in various areas and buck numbers are fair to good in most areas. The 2016 and 2017 growing seasons were very good which has likely improved overwinter survival. The prevalence of deer hair loss syndrome continues to be present in the district during late winter and into spring and mortalities continue to occur due to this syndrome. The best deer hunting opportunities are the central to eastern portions of the Alsea unit and Siuslaw unit; deer are less abundant and patchy as one gets closer to the ocean.

The Stott Mt – North Alsea Travel Management area provides some walk-in hunting opportunities. Due to private land fire season rules, the vast majority of private industrial forest lands are closed to public access for archery season. Most private lands are not expected to open public access until fire season is officially over as determined by Oregon Department of Forestry, which is typically in October. Hunters must contact the individual companies or check the Oregon Dept. of Forestry website for corporate closures. http://www.ofic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2017-Closure-Form.pdf

SADDLE MOUNTAIN UNIT

Some areas to look at include Clatsop Ridge, Davis Point, the lower Klaskanine, Young’s, Lewis and Clark and Necanicum Rivers in Clatsop County, and Fall and Crooked creeks in Columbia County. While much of the unit is industrial timber land, most timber companies offer plenty of walk-in access in some areas and open gates for dawn to dusk vehicular access in others, once the fire season is over. See the newly revised North Coast Cooperative Travel Management Area map from ODFW for details.

WILSON UNIT

Clear-cut habitat is increasing, with much of it occurring on state (ODF) forest lands. Areas with recent logging include the lower Wilson River, North Fork Wilson River, Standard Grade, Buck Mtn. and Camp Olson. Deer populations continue to be on the increase, with excellent buck to doe ratios.

TRASK UNIT

On state forest lands in the western portion, look in the Trask River and lower Wilson River basins. On industrial forest lands, the upper portions of the South Fork Trask River and Widow Creek, as well as Cape Lookout and Cape Meares blocks, have a lot of good habitat.

ELK

On the north coast (Saddle Mt., Wilson, western Trask) elk populations are only at moderate levels currently, and achieve their highest densities in the western portions of these WMUs. Bull elk hunting this year should be good in the Wilson and Trask due to high bull survival from last year’s hunting seasons. Both WMUs have general season archery and rifle hunting opportunities. The Saddle Mountain also had good bull survival from the last several seasons, but bull rifle hunting is controlled only.

For archery elk hunters, most industrial forest lands will be open to at least non-motorized access once fire season is over with the exception of Weyerhaeuser lands, most of which will be in a fee access program this fall.

In 2017, the bag limit for elk for disabled hunters in the Saddle Mtn., Wilson and Trask WMUs will not include an antlerless elk. Please check the 2017 Oregon Big Game Regulations for details.

Along the mid-coast (western Stott Mt., western Alsea, north Siuslaw), elk population numbers are lower than management objectives for all three units. In 2017, the observed bull ratios were below 10 per 100 cows in both the Stott Mt. and Alsea units, and in 2017 the Siuslaw unit is above 10 bulls per 100 cows. The second rifle bull elk season in Siuslaw has a bag limit of one spike bull; the bull ratio there continues to be highly variable year to year but is appearing to be showing signs of increasing. .

In 2017, the elk bag limit for disabled hunters and archers hunting in the Alsea and Stott Mt. Units is “one bull elk.”

Elk will be scattered throughout the units, with larger numbers of elk close to agricultural valleys. Industrial forestlands north of Hwy 20 typically receive lots of hunting pressure, with young tree plantations providing good visibility and some travel management roads providing walk-in access. Forest Service lands south of Hwy 34 have low to moderate numbers of elk, and are much more difficult to hunt in the thick vegetation and rugged terrain. However, during archery season many industrial landowners are closed due to fire season and state and federal public lands may provide the only access for hunting. Hunters should check with landowners before hunting or check the Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s website for fire restrictions and closures.

We advise hunters to be aware that Weyerhaeuser may implement a permit/lease program on their lands for the 2018-19 hunting seasons next year and to check with Weyerhaeuser for more information (www.Wyrecreationnw.com )

SADDLE MOUNTAIN

Elk rifle hunting in this unit is all limited entry, but archery elk hunting is through a single general season. Both seasons are managed under a 3-point minimum regulation. Areas with higher elk numbers and open habitat include Tillamook Head, Davis Point, the lower Klaskanine, Young’s, Necanicum and Lewis and Clark Rivers, Ecola Creek, and upper Rock Creek.

WILSON UNIT

Bull elk rifle and archery hunting is through general seasons, and the second coast elk rifle season has a bag limit of a “spike-only” bull. Some popular hunting areas are the lower Wilson River, God’s Valley, Cook Creek, upper North Fork Nehalem River, Standard Grade, Buck Mtn. and Camp Olson.

WESTERN TRASK UNIT

For archery elk hunters the bag limit for 2017 continues to be one bull with a visible antler, and this applies to the entire unit. Like with the Wilson unit, bull elk rifle and archery hunting is through general seasons, and the second coast elk season has a bag limit of a “spike-only” bull. Some popular areas with higher numbers of elk and open habitats include Cape Lookout, Cape Meares, Wilson River tributaries, lower Nestucca River and the Trask River, especially the South Fork.

STOTT MOUNTAIN, ALSEA UNITS

Some popular areas to hunt elk in the Stott Mountain Unit include the South Fork Siletz River, Fanno Ridge, Gravel Creek, Mill Creek, Elk Creek, Euchre Creek, and the mainstem Siletz River. Popular elk hunting areas in the Alsea include the Yachats River, Five Rivers, North Fork Siuslaw River, Big Rock Creek Road, Luckiamute River, Airlie, Burnt Woods, Grant Creek, Wolf Creek, Logsden, Pee Dee Creek, and Dunn Forest.

NORTH WILLAMETTE DISTRICT (Scappoose, eastern Trask, north Willamette, north Santiam wildlife management units)

DEER

Hunters heading to the North Willamette Watershed (Scappoose, north Willamette, eastern Trask and north Santiam Wildlife Management Units) should find good hunting opportunities for black-tailed bucks. An increase in post-season buck ratios in the Scappoose (22 buck per 100 does), and eastern Trask WMUs (30 bucks per 100 does) should increase the number of mature bucks for hunters in the Coast Range. A downturn in the buck ratios in the north Santiam WMU (19 bucks per 100 does) will make finding a legal buck a little more difficult but large, mature bucks are still frequently harvested in the unit. Regardless of which WMU you hunt, the late closure (Nov. 3) of rifle buck season should produce good hunting opportunities during the last few weeks of the season. Deer Hair Loss Syndrome continues to be more prevalent in the Scappoose Unit but only spotty in the low elevation lands in the eastern Trask and north Santiam units.

Hunters are reminded to contact local timber companies to obtain updated access information and check the Oregon Dept. of Forestry’s website for fire restrictions and closures. Archery hunters may find many industrial timberlands closed to access due to fire season restrictions. State and Federal lands typically remain open during the archery season and provide the primary hunting opportunities.

Hunter access to the majority of Weyerhaeuser lands in the Scappoose, eastern Trask and north Santiam WMUs will be limited to those hunters who purchased an entry permit. Hunters can obtain a 2017 North Coast Travel Management Area map showing landownership and access opportunities at the northwest Oregon ODFW district offices. The majority of properties in the Willamette Unit are privately-owned and hunters are reminded to obtain permission before hunting on those lands. Hunters headed to the north Santiam have a variety of access opportunities from federal forestland, private timberland and agricultural properties.

SCAPPOOSE WMU

Increased buck escapement from the last two seasons should result in above average hunting this fall. While younger age class bucks typically make up the majority of the harvest, hunters should also find a few mature bucks to keep things interesting. Hunters should be looking for habitat that has a variety of plant components and associated water sources for deer concentrations. Hunters with access to agricultural lands will find higher populations of deer. Some areas to locate deer this fall include Tater Hill, Long Mt., Serafin Point, Burgdorfer Flat, Buck Mt. Bunker Hill, Baker Point, Bacona, and the hills above Pebble Creek.

EAST TRASK WMU

Deer surveys show a good increase in buck ratios and opportunities for deer hunters should be above average this fall in the eastern portion of the Trask WMU. Some of the best hunting is on private timberlands where timber harvest has occurred within the last three to five years. Hunters wanting to experience less road traffic and more walk-in hunting opportunities are encouraged to explore the Upper Tualatin-Trask Travel Management Area located west of Henry Hagg Lake. Some areas with good habitat include the upper portions of the Yamhill and Tualatin Rivers, Trask Mountain, Barney Reservoir, Pumpkinseed Mt., Green Top, and Willamina Creek.

NORTH SANTIAM WMU

The north Santiam Unit buck ratios decreased to 19 bucks per 100 does so prospects for those hunters willing to hunt thick cover where deer concentrate should be average this season. Hunters will find a wide diversity of terrain in the WMU, ranging from high elevation meadows, thick old growth forests, industrial forestlands and agricultural fields, so a variety of hunting styles can be accommodated. Whether hunters choose to still hunt, set up a tree stand, rattle antlers or conduct deer drives, scouting will be critical for success. Hunters looking to stay closer to home should consider hunting on industrial forestlands where land managers are reporting deer damage to recently planted conifer stands. Some locations to consider include the upper Collawash and Clackamas Rivers, Granite Peaks, High Rocks, Butte Creek, and Molalla River.

NORTH WILLAMETTE WMU

The long hunting season in the Willamette Unit should provide hunters with a very good opportunity to harvest a deer this season. Deer damage to agricultural crops remains high throughout the northern portion of the unit. Hunters are reminded that land within this unit is primarily privately owned. Hunters need to have established a good relationship with landowners to ensure a hunting opportunity. Hunters can find some public land hunting opportunities in the Willamette River area (http://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=194); many of the hunting spots are also listed on ODFW’s Hunting Access Map.

ELK

Bull elk hunting in the coastal mountains of the North Willamette District should be similar to last year in both the Scappoose and eastern Trask WMUs. Overall elk populations in both WMUs are below the Management Objective and antlerless elk tags available to hunters will be similar to 2016 with the exception of a few agricultural damage hunts in the southwest portions of the WMU. In the Scappoose WMU, elk are more numerous in the timberlands of the northwestern and agricultural lands along Hwy 26. In the eastern Trask, elk are widely scattered and can be found near agricultural fields and within the private timberlands.

In the north Santiam WMU, elk populations in the Mt. Hood National Forest continue to decline due to limited forage availability. Hunters will find the majority of elk on the industrial forestlands and agricultural fields at lower elevations. Hunters should concentrate their efforts on these low elevation lands for their best chance of success. Contacting private landowners prior to the hunting season will be the key to finding these elk. Hunters are reminded to always ask for permission before entering private lands.

The majority of Weyerhaeuser lands in the Scappoose, eastern Trask and northern Santiam WMU’s are limited to those hunters who have a lease agreement or acquired an access permit.

SCAPPOOSE WMU

Harvest should continue to be dominated by younger age class bulls but there should be a few mature bulls available for the persistent hunter. Hunting opportunities for antlerless elk will increase slightly due to changes in a few controlled hunt boundaries (North Plains hunts 1-4) in the southwest portion of the WMU. Hunters are reminded that most of the timberland managers within this WMU participate in the North Coast Travel Management Area and hunters should read and follow all posted regulations to ensure continued access. Some areas to consider include Upper McKay Creek, Green Mountain, Buck Mt., and Bunker Hill.

EAST TRASK WMU

Bulls will be widely scattered throughout the WMU and hunters are encouraged to spend time scouting in order to locate elk before the season begins. Late season antlerless elk hunting opportunities will be similar to 2016 to address elk damage concerns in some areas. Hunters that have drawn an antlerless elk tag should still have good success if they can find elk concentrated near agricultural fields and low elevation timber stands. Hunters need to be aware of frequent changes of land ownership in the agricultural-forest fringes and always ask for permission before entering private lands. Hunters wanting to do more walk-in hunting should be looking at the Upper Tualatin-Trask Travel Management Area west of Forest Grove as a good option. Other areas to consider include Trask Mt., Stony Mt., Windy Point and Neverstill.

NORTH SANTIAM WMU

Declining elk numbers within the Mt. Hood National Forest will make for poor elk hunting on public lands and hunter success should be average on lower elevation private timberlands. Hunters heading for the Mt. Hood National Forest will find elk highly scattered and difficult to locate. Scout early and often to be successful there. Places to begin scouting include Timothy Lake, Rhododendron Ridge and Granite Peaks. At lower elevations, hunters should explore Butte Creek, Upper Molalla River and Eagle Creek.

SOUTH WILLAMETTE DISTRICT (S. Santiam, McKenzie, N. Indigo wildlife management units)

DEER and ELK

Although the long-term harvest and hunter participation trend has been declining for both deer and elk, over the last couple of years harvest has stabilized and success rates have seen a slight increase. Hunters that are knowledgeable about habitat, take the time to scout, and then hunt hard will have the best chance for success. Populations are strongly tied to habitat conditions and hunting prospects are fair to good in places with high quality habitat. Hunting prospects are poor in lower quality habitats.

Forage is key to good deer and elk habitat. Early seral (brush and forb) forest conditions provide some of the best deer and elk forage. On public lands, early seral habitat is often found in areas burned by wildfire and may be found in thinned areas if the enough trees were removed. On private timber land, forage is best in clearcuts beginning a couple years after the timber harvest.

Access to private timber land is continually changing. Hunters need to ensure they have permission before hunting on private lands. Weyerhaeuser has expanded their fee permit and lease program this year. Hunters that usually hunt Weyerhaeuser land will want to check the Weyerhaeuser website to see if the area they hunt is now included in their fee program.

Elk herds are below populations Management Objectives resulting in reduced antlerless hunting opportunities, particularly on public lands. However, herds are at or above bull ratio Management Objectives indicating opportunities for mature bulls.

Black-tailed deer populations are meeting buck ratio Management Objectives but are below population benchmarks. Rifle hunters typically find the best success in the later portions of the season when the leaves drop and the rut approaches. Archery deer hunters consistently have the best success during the late season.

S. Santiam

The old B&B Fire in the Santiam Pass area continues to hold good numbers of deer but the brush is becoming fairly thick making the hunting a bit more challenging. Still, this is a good early season place to hunt on National Forest lands if the private lands are closed to access. Elk can be found around the edges of the burned area.

McKenzie

The Wendling TMA is still open to free public hunting access and will be in operation from Sept. 30 through Nov. 30. This time period will allow increased access for late season archery, muzzleloader, and youth hunters. The Wendling TMA is a good area for both deer and elk hunting. Refer to the kiosks located at the TMA entry points or call (541) 741-5403 prompt #6 for updated Wendling TMA access information. Please be advised that 2017 will be the last year that the Wendling TMA is in operation. Weyehaeuser, the primary landowner, is withdrawing from the TMA agreement and will be converting their lands into fee access starting in 2018. Hunters should check with the other private landowners for access information starting in 2018.

N. Indigo

In the Indigo, the Tumblebug Fire that burned in the upper Middle Fork Willamette drainage improved deer habitat and the deer population in the area is expected to improve over the next few years. Additionally, the US Forest Service and sporting organizations such as Oregon Hunters Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have been hard at work thinning old clearcuts to improving forage conditions south of Hills Creek Reservoir. These habitat projects will help maintain the deer and elk populations in the area. Still, the strongest deer and elk populations occur on private lands where expansive timber harvest results in improved forage. Please remember to check access restrictions before hunting on private lands.

UMPQUA DISTRICT – COOS COUNTY (west Tioga, west Powers, north Sixes, southwest Siuslaw)

DEER

Deer population abundance appears to continue to be stable in Coos County, overall. Deer herd dynamics such as buck ratio is measured after the General Rifle Buck Season concludes each year to indicate how many bucks survived the hunting season and will be available the following season. Surveys conducted after the 2016 season indicate the buck ratio is adequate to provide good opportunities for hunters to be successful in the 2017 season. Based on those surveys, it appears buck ratio in the Tioga Unit is down some but still high enough for a good season if weather is cooperative. As in the past, surveys indicate deer densities are highest in the Sixes and Powers Units.

Hunt for deer in brushy openings, meadows and clear cuts where brush is beginning to grow up. Areas where vehicle access is limited will be the most productive. Scouting before the season will increase your odds of success.

In the past few years there have been some large tracts of private timber company lands that changed ownership. Some of the new owners have different public access policies than past owners. Hunters need to make contact with private landowners and managers to ensure they may access private land where they intend to hunt. In some cases, land owners and managers will charge a fee for access. Luckily there is still a large amount of Bureau of Land Management lands, National Forest land and the Elliott State Forest for hunters to hunt. It is imperative that hunters know what land they are accessing and what the policy is regarding access. A good way to determine whether access is allowed to a piece of land is to look for signs at access points to timberlands. Often these signs will provide information as whether public access is allowed and whether permits are required. If permits are required, there may be information on how to obtain them.

Another issue hunters need to be prepared for is restrictions for access to private lands due to fire concerns. This is especially true of hunters who want to hunt the bow season in late August and September. While the spring was quite wet in Western Oregon, the summer has dried things out. This has resulted in a situation where grass grew well and it is now dry and ready to burn easily. Hunters may find access will be restricted until the fire conditions subside.

ELK

Elk populations are above the Management Objective in the Sixes Unit and close to objective in Powers and Tioga. Bull ratios have been relatively good in all units. Generally moisture retention is best on north slopes and as a result grass growth is best there. Those hunting in bow season should concentrate their efforts on these slopes. Fall rains, when they come, will have an effect on elk distribution in the controlled bull seasons in November.

Often the most important factor that determines where elk will be found is human activity. Elk can be expected to move to places where vehicle and other human activity are minimized. During times of significant human activity, like during controlled bull seasons, human disturbance can be more important in determining elk distribution than food availability. So road closures are often the best places to find elk on a regular basis. Within these areas, hunting may be best on north-facing slopes in the early seasons. A particularly productive habitat type to hunt in the Oregon Coast Range is where foresters have thinned timber stands. Thinning the tree canopy encourages grass and brush growth on the ground, improving feed quality.

In the past few years there have been some large tracts of private timber company lands that changed ownership. Some of the new owners have different public access policies than past owners. As is the case for deer hunters, elk hunters need to make contact with private landowners and managers to ensure they may access private land the hunter intends hunt. In some cases land owners and managers will charge a fee for access. Luckily there is still a large amount of Bureau of Land Management lands, National Forest land and the Elliott State Forest for hunters to hunt. It is imperative that hunters know what land they are accessing and what the policy is regarding access. A good way to determine whether access is allowed to a piece of land is to look for signs at access points to timberlands. Often these signs will provide information as whether public access is allowed and whether permits are required. If permits are required, there may be information on how to obtain them.

Another issue hunters need to be prepared for is restrictions for access to private lands due to fire concerns. This is especially true of hunters who want to hunt the bow season in late August and September. While the spring was quite wet in Western Oregon the summer has dried things out. This has resulted in a situation where grass grew well and it is now dry and ready to burn easily. Hunters may find access will be restricted until the fire conditions subside.

UMPQUA DISTRICT – DOUGLAS COUNTY (Dixon, S. Indigo, NW Evans Creek, Melrose, SW Siuslaw, E. Tioga and NE Powers Units)

DEER and ELK

Deer hunting should be good in the Cascades and Umpqua Valley. Elk hunting in the Cascade Units should be about the same as the past few years.

Despite a prolonged winter season, spring surveys indicate good over-winter survival for deer and elk in the Douglas portion of the Umpqua District. The fawns per adult deer ratios in the Dixon, Indigo and Melrose have been stable to increasing over the last few years. Elk numbers in the Tioga Unit are close to population management objective and doing well. Cascade deer and elk hunters will have better success hunting areas with good cover adjacent to openings. Some of the better wildlife openings are created by clearcuts, thinnings, or wildfire after several years. Hunters need to check weather forecasts frequently as that will play a key role with fire season restrictions and hunting access.

Over the past few years, Western Oregon rifle deer hunters have done fairly well in the Cascade Units (Indigo/Dixon) and recent surveys show that trend should continue as long as the weather cooperates. Cascade elk hunters have averaged about 5% success over the past few years and this year is expected to be the same.

The large amount of fire activity in the district recently will create great big game habitat in the years to come. However, in the short term, hunters may want to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and stay out of the very recently burned areas. Hunters unfamiliar with this area are advised to hunt smarter, not harder. Use Google Earth or Google Map (Satellite layer) to explore the area with a birds-eye view and get an idea of the terrain and vegetation. Get a hold of some good maps from the Forest Service/BLM/Local Fire Protection Association and use them in conjunction with Google Map to locate areas away from roads that will provide you a quality hunting experience. Another good source of information is to view historic fire perimeters online (https://www.geomac.gov/viewer/viewer.shtml).

These maps will give you an idea where large areas have been opened up by wildfire which enhances forage opportunities for deer and elk. Find the food, and you’ll find the game.

ROGUE DISTRICT (Applegate, Chetco, Evans Creek, Rogue, portions of Dixon, and Sixes)

DEER

Overall black-tailed deer populations remain good in our district, in general the Rogue, Dixon, Evans Creek and Applegate units within Jackson County have mostly a migratory deer population. Within these units hunt in high elevation (4000+ft) during the early half of the season and hunt lower elevation (4000ft) during the late half of the season after deer have migrated. Deer in Josephine and Curry County will be found at all elevations throughout the season.

Big game hunting statistics indicate that all units within Jackson, Josephine, and Curry County had a slight increase in black-tailed deer hunter success last year. The Rogue unit had a success of 20% in 2016 which is up from 19% in 2015. Dixon is up from 27% to 31%, Evans Creek increased from 32% to 34%, Applegate is now at 31% compared to 27%, and the Chetco dropped to 37% from 39%. Most units show an increase in success compared to 2015, however over the past four years deer hunter harvest has remained roughly the same in all five units, indicating that this year should be the same.

ELK

Elk numbers in recent years are lower on most of the public lands and pre-season scouting is very important. As most private timberlands are closed until fire season restrictions are lifted, look for many hunters to be sharing our public lands. The best place to look is on lands with minimal roads and north facing slopes during periods of warm/dry weather.

Cascade General Elk season success rates have been roughly the same over recent years with the Evans Creek success slightly up and the Rogue Unit slightly down. Chetco coastal seasons hunter success was down, with first season at 25% and second season at 10%. Applegate coastal seasons were down in 2016, the first season was only a 1% success and the second season had a 6% success.

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

Creative Commons Licence
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

Creative Commons Licence
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

Creative Commons Licence
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.