UPDATED 10:25 A.M., OCT. 18, 2017 WITH INFORMATION ON KLICKITAT WILDLIFE AREA OPENER RESULTS (NEAR BOTTOM OF STORY)
Deer harvest was down sharply on one side of northern Eastern Washington, but opening weekend of rifle deer season saw roughly the same success percentage as last year in the other corner.
That’s based on check station data collected by WDFW wildlife biologists.
At Deer Park north of Spokane, Dana Base reported 174 hunters coming through with 38 whitetails and mule deer, up from 101 with 24 in 2016 — 22 percent and 24 percent success rates, respectively.
As usual, nearly all of the deer were whitetails, including 22 bucks and 14 antlerless animals, but two muley bucks were also checked, including one dandy.
Base reports that 14 of the flagtail bucks were adults and eight were yearlings.
By comparison, in 2016 there were eight adult bucks and 11 spikes.
Over at the Red Barn in Winthrop, Scott Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen checked 83 hunters and seven deer — and one of those was actually shot down in Douglas County.
That’s the same number of hunters as 2016’s rain-soaked opener, but just 35 percent of that year’s harvest.
And it’s way down from 2015’s bumper opener, when 101 hunters came out with 39 deer. But that was also an unusually successful campaign that followed on a snow drought and massive conflagrations.
The caveat with the above figures is that the check stations are voluntary and participation probably varies based on hunters’ moods (less likely if unsuccessful, more likely if tagged out).
For what it’s worth, two of the six hunters in our party got their bucks over opening weekend in Okanogan County, but that success rate was not enjoyed by others camping nearby.
Where biologists wait for hunters to stop by the Winthrop and Deer Park stations, Susan Van Leuven takes a more direct approach on the Klickitat Wildlife Area, driving around to camps in the central Klickitat County state lands.
She and an assistant manager saw lower turnout than usual “with several popular campsites unoccupied and fewer vehicles encountered on the roads.” Of 62 hunters encountered on Saturday and 69 on Sunday, only one had a deer, a doe taken the second morning, though word is that someone got a three-point on the sprawling Soda Springs Unit on opening morning.
“The resident deer population appears to be in worse shape than we thought,” Van Leuven reports. “After the hard winter and a disease outbreak in East Klickitat during the summer we knew the numbers would be down, but weren’t expecting the season to be this poor.”
Rifle deer season for whitetails runs through October 24 or 27, depending on the unit, while mule deer are open through Tuesday, Oct. 24.
“Significant snow forecast for the high country may improve prospects for the second weekend,” Fitkin notes.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog inexplicably listed Chuck Hartman as Kevin Hartman because the editur is stupid and can’t read what’s directly in front of his nose. Our apologies.