Tag Archives: Washington

Predators May Be To Blame For Recent Moose Calf Survival Issues In Part of NE WA

Washington wildlife managers looking into how a growing suite of hungry predators are affecting deer, elk and moose populations believe a Shiras subherd in the state’s northeast corner bears watching.

WDFW reports an unusual signal seen in moose calf survival in east-central Stevens and southern Pend Oreille Counties in recent years.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS TWO MOOSE STUDY AREAS, THE NORTHERN ONE OF WHICH SAW LOWER CALF SURVIVAL THAN THE SOUTHERN ONE. (WDFW)

It was lower in back-to-back years than in a study area just to the south and a cause for concern, biologists say.

“Calf-survival in the northern area, particularly during 2014, was low enough to elicit concern for population stability,” note authors Brock Hoenes, Sara Hansen, Richard Harris, and Jerry Nelson in the just-posted Wildlife Program 2015-2017 Ungulate Assessment.

They’re not sure why that is, except to say it’s probable some — maybe all — of the calves in question ended up as dinner and that more study will help flesh that out.

“Calf mortality occurred irregularly, with no discernible seasonal concentration,” they report. “We are unable to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths (the study is not designed to attribute specific causes to any of the calf deaths). That said, it is likely that at least some of the calf deaths were caused by predators.”

Among the toothsome crew roaming this country are cougars, black bears, perhaps a grizzly or two, and wolves.

According to WDFW’s latest wolf map, the Carpenter Ridge, Dirty Shirt, Goodman Meadows and Skookum Packs occur entirely or partially in the northern moose study area, and  all of which were successful breeding pairs in 2016. And in the past the Diamond wolves were here too.

A CLOSE-UP OF WDFW’S MARCH 2017 WOLF MAP SHOWS PACK LOCATIONS. THE NORTHERN MOOSE STUDY AREA OVERLAPS ALL OR PORTIONS OF THE DIRTY SHIRT, GOODMAN MEADOWS, CARPENTER RIDGE AND SKOOKUM PACKS. (WDFW)

By contrast, in the southern moose study area — Blanchard Hump and Mt. Spokane — there are no known packs, or at least were at the time of the biologists’ review last December.

Their 186-page report was posted late yesterday afternoon, two days before the state Fish and  Wildlife Commission will be briefed on wolves, wolf management and the future thereof by WDFW Wolf Policy Lead Donny Martorello.

It’s important because buried in the aforementioned wolf plan is a section addressing the species’ impacts on ungulates.

If “at-risk” big game herds such as woodland caribou are found to fall 25 percent below population benchmarks for two straight years or others see their harvests decline by a quarter compared to the 10-year average for two consecutive seasons, it could trigger consideration of reducing local wolf numbers if that particular recovery zone has four or more breeding pairs, regardless of statewide delisting.

As for the assessment of the rest of Washington’s moose, as well as its wapiti, deer and bighorn sheep, the report looks at each species, breaking them down by major herds or zones, details recent hunter harvest, and discusses other sources of mortality and factors that may influence population dynamics, before wrapping up with “Sub-herd Concerns” and “Management Conclusions.”

“Using the data at our disposal, none of the ungulate populations in this assessment appear to show clear signs of being limited by predation,” state Hoenes, Hansen, Harris, and Nelson in the executive summary.

That conclusion may not go over well with some Evergreen State hunters concerned about what their and others’ observations are telling them about how the animals are doing in the woods.

And it’s not to say that bucks and bulls, does and cows, calves and fawns aren’t affected in other ways by mountain lions, bruins, coyotes and wolves. They are, of course.

New research is beginning to show how wolf packs affect mule deer and whitetail behavior in North-central Washington, leading to different use of habitat than before.

The authors also acknowledge that limitations in the data sets “might preclude the ability to detect impacts of predation on a specific ungulate population.”

But the assessment is another way WDFW is attempting to show hunters it is keeping its eye on wolf impacts as numbers of the wild dogs near recovery goals and the conversation begins to turn to post-statewide delisting management.

Biologists will also take to the air and woods again soon for year two of a half-decade-long predator-prey study in the Okanogan, and Huckleberry and Selkirk Ranges.

Without Boggan’s, ‘Fishing The Ronde Will Never Be Quite The Same’

I’ll be rooting around my parent’s basement on Thanksgiving Day, searching for an old yellow notepad that’s gathered nearly 20 years of dust.

The words scrawled across those 70 or 80 pages go with a few dozen slide photographs I dug out of the back corner of my cramped attic yesterday afternoon and put on the light box.

I hadn’t meant to resurrect them all for another year and a half, for a magazine feature I’ve mulled, but then I learned that Boggan’s Oasis burned down Saturday night and I needed to remember right then.

ALL THAT REMAINS OF BOGGAN’S OASIS, THOUGH THE MEMORY OF THE ICONIC RESTAURANT ALONG HIGHWAY 129 HALFWAY BETWEEN ASOTIN, WASHINGTON, AND ENTERPRISE, OREGON, WILL LIVE ON IN THE HEARTS OF LOCAL RESIDENTS, STEELHEADERS, HUNTERS AND OTHERS WHO’VE STOPPED IN FOR A MILKSHAKE, A BOX LUNCH OR DINNER. (JENNIFER BRISTOL)

All that’s left of the restaurant is twisted metal, fallen cinder blocks and a hollow place in the hearts of everyone who knows this country.

Let me tell you about my connection to it.

I spent two weeks in a cabin and trailer above Boggan’s in March 1999, taking the aforementioned notes and images while fishing for steelhead above and below the iconic restaurant along Washington’s Grande Ronde.

I remember the kindness and wonderful meals served up by the owners, Bill and Farrel Vail, who today aren’t sure if they will rebuild or not.

“I’m 84, and my lovely wife, she’s 82,” Bill told the Spokesman-Review. “It will work out. Everything’s in God’s hands. It will work out.”

They’d been up later than usual Saturday night to watch Gonzaga beat Utah State when they heard some noises and realized the restaurant was ablaze.

With no fire stations able to respond and the fire’s heat having destroyed a water pump that otherwise might have helped hose things down a bit, there was nothing for the Vails to do but watch the business they’ve owned since 1983 burn.

If there’s solace, I’m told by a local resident that the shuttle service and cabins are still available; check at the double wide or call (509) 256-3418.

But the restaurant is “a complete loss.

I remember back in ’99, after the day’s steelheading was done, eating dinner there and tracking the Zags as they made their first deep run in the Final Four.

IMAGES FROM A MARCH 1999 STEELHEADING STAY ON THE GRANDE RONDE RIVER OUT OF BOGGAN’S. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I know I took a lot of notes as the plug rods bounced on those floats down from Cougar Creek, but I hope to find in the pages of that yellow pad in my folks’ basement more memories from the wonderful evening sessions spent with fellow fishermen and others inside the cozy restaurant.

It was an important way station for those headed north or south by road, or east or west on the river.

Whether you were going to end your day at the takeout below Boggan’s or start there on the float downstream to Schumacher, whether you were coming from Enterprise headed for Asotin or vice versa, in a land where services are few and far between, Boggan’s was where you stopped for breakfast, lunch, dinner, local information or just to let the brakes cool at the base of the Rattlesnake and Buford Grades while you enjoyed one of their famed milkshakes.

“That place truly was an oasis in an otherwise isolated part of the world,” noted Chris Donley, a steelheader as well as WDFW’s regional fishing manager. “I’m going to miss the pay phone to check in at home and some great all-you-can-eat meals served up with love from Farrel. More importantly, this was Bill and Farrel’s home. I worry for them that they have a place to go during the holidays and beyond. I will miss the place and all its worn-out quirks. Fishing the Ronde will never quite be the same.”

I remember stopping at the restaurant in the mid-90s during a winter circumnavigation of the Blues and Greg using that payphone to make a call home to his folks.

Several years later, during that 1999 trip, my mom called the restaurant and left a message to tell me that F&H News wanted me to come in for a job interview at their Seattle office. I put the magazine off a week so I could fish some more, but did eventually hire on there.

As editor of the Washington edition, me or Randall Peters would call Bill for a report on the steelheading, which was typically all right if not good, even if the boys at the tackle shop in Clarkston thought otherwise than the savvy businessman on the Ronde.

The history of Boggan’s traces back to the post-World War II era, and is named for its original proprietor. Even as the nearby farming towns of Mountain View, Anatone, Paradise and Flora faded into history, Boggan’s was a coal that continued to burn in one of Washington’s most remote corners.

During the Vails’ ownership, smallmouth and steelhead runs increased markedly, and if you’d asked me after my 1999 trip, I would have told you it would have been impossible for the fishing to have been any better than it was that March.

A nine-fish day, a seven-fish day. Yes, I was in the hands of someone on their way to expert status, but I hit three on my own one day from the bank and felt pretty good about that, even if it was just below Cottonwood Creek.

That winter-spring season was actually only so-so for summer-runs, at least when measured against the years that proceeded it, one of which saw more than 325,000 fish over Lower Granite Dam and a Ronde harvest in excess of 13,000.

But the fishing wasn’t very good at all this past winter, one of the harshest to hit this country in several decades.

The river froze, then blew out. Participation in Boggan’s annual derby was half of usual, and only 29 steelhead were weighed in.

“No fish turned in at all after March 7,” they told me. “This year we are trying to forget.”

Those words, written in April as the Ronde tried to green up for the last week of season, were hopeful, but would be followed by a poor return this year.

And now the fire.

Looking through old slides and reading notes from days gone by won’t bring back the Boggan’s I knew, or anyone else did, but I hope to get back there this Thursday, as my family and I sit down to give thanks for what we have, and have had.

TO BE FINISHED PROPERLY …

‘Pretty Good Last Weekend’ For NE WA Late Rifle Whitetail Hunters

Washington’s 2017 general rifle deer season is officially in the books, and it appears to have ended well in the state’s northeast corner.

Among those who stopped at the voluntary check station along Highway 395 in Deer Park yesterday, one out of three hunters had a whitetail to show the biologists.

WDFW DISTRICT WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST DANA BASE INSPECTS A WHITETAIL BUCK AT THE DEER PARK CHECK STATION ON NOVEMBER 19, THE FINAL DAY OF SEASON FOR RIFLE HUNTERS IN WASHINGTON. (WDFW)

WDFW reports 124 hunters brought in 43 bucks, for a near-35-percent success rate.

It’s hard to compare this year to last because of how the final day of season falls on the calendar — it’s always the 19th, which this year fell on Sunday — but for the record, 2016’s last check station at Deer Park operated Nov. 13 and recorded nine deer for 74 hunters.

WDFW did run a stop at Chattaroy on Highway 2 on last year’s last day, a Saturday, and checked 79 hunters with 17 deer.

“Even though it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, we think it was a pretty good last weekend of the season this year, in terms of participation and success,” says agency spokeswoman Madonna Luers in Spokane.

Buzz Ramsey and a friend were among the hunters poking around far Eastern Washington’s woods as the late rifle whitetail hunt came to a close.

For the famed angler who does his share of hunting as well, it was a bit of an exploratory trip to the Newport area, one that yielded knowledge for future seasons, as well as venison this winter for his hunting partner, fishing guide Bill Harris.

IT TOOK A LITTLE BIT OF BLOOD TRAIL WORK, EASED BY THE SNOW, BUT BILL HARRIS TAGGED OUT WITH THIS LATE-SEASON WHITETAIL DEER IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

“New to the area, we spent the first two days hunting too high in elevation, where the cover was thick, deer scarce and snow deep but moved lower where Bill tagged a buck the day prior to the season close,” Ramsey reported. “Although I saw a two small bucks the last morning, I was unable to get a shot. It was a fun hunt though and we learned a lot about the whitetail hunting opportunities in this part of the state.”

On the west side of the state, the late blacktail hunt wrapped up on the 19th too, but there are no check stations like at Deer Park or Chattaroy. A friend who was out two of the four days struck out, but others found bucks, judging by fresh threads at Hunting-Washington.

While modern firearms season is now over, late archery and muzzleloader seasons for mule deer, whitetails and blacktails have begun or will start this week.

OlyPen Senator Named Natural Resources Committee Chair

A state senator representing a fish- and wildlife-rich part of Washington — and who’s known to dangle a hook there — will head up the committee where WDFW-related issues come before lawmakers.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim was named the chair of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks by fellow Democrats after last week’s special election in which they picked up a seat and became the majority party in the legislature’s upper chamber.

SENATOR KEVIN VAN DE WEGE REPRESENTS THE 24TH DISTRICT, WHICH ENCOMPASSES ALL OF THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA EXCEPT MASON COUNTY. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

Van De Wege, a firefighter, had been the ranking minority member in former Sen. Kirk Pearson‘s Natural Resources and Parks Committee, and was believed by observers to be interested in the chairmanship.

The senator, who was also a five-term state representative for the sprawling 24th District, enjoys fishing. A quick scan of his personal Facebook feed shows he and family members on the saltwater with bottomfish and salmon. And in March he was among those calling for a seven-day halibut season this year.

Through bills he’s sponsored, Van De Wege has shown an interest in regulating the fishing guide industry, particularly out-of-state entrants, and one he introduced earlier this year addressing Olympic Peninsula rivers led to WDFW’s ongoing meetings around the state on managing salmon and steelhead guiding.

Also this session, he twice voted against Senate Joint Memorial 8009, which called on Washington DC to expedite Puget Sound hatchery reviews.

The committee Van De Wege now heads is where many WDFW-related bills originate in the Senate, and the chair has the power to hold public hearings on them and determine if they advance. This past session, the agency’s fee increase package got zero traction with Pearson in charge. When Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) was chair, he questioned WDFW’s 2012 lethal removal of the Wedge Pack and planned to hold hearings before election results changed the equation and Pearson came in.

Sen. John McCoy, the Tulalip Democrat who was also a member of Natural Resources & Parks, will sit alongside Van De Wege as the committee’s vice chair.

Van De Wege will also serve on Ways & Means and Health & Long Term Care Committees.

“These committees focus on major issues critical to all Washingtonians but particularly critical to 24th District residents,” he said of all his committee assignments in a press release. “I look forward to solving problems confronting residents of our district as well as prioritizing legislation that will lead to stronger households and communities across our state.”

The Buck

Editor’s note: This morning I received the following text from a buddy out in the woods in search of a bruin or wapiti but who ran into another critter he likes to hunt.

By Eric Bell

It starts with a sound.

Deer season in my unit has come to end but I find myself up here this morning pursuing other game. Mainly it’s for the exercise, but there’s always a chance of coming home with a bear or elk.

A RUTTY BUCK RUNS THROUGH A STREAM. (TERRY WIEST)

I passed another hunter on my way up, both of us exchanging pleasantries and cursing at the steep climb we have just made. He’s after bear and is not too familiar with the area, so I give him directions on where to try since I’m going further back.

Now I near an abandoned spur road that holds a lot of memories and personal history — losing a machete as well as a slip-on recoil pad on my rifle. The brush is thick.

I hear a noise. I know what it is. It’s the same sound I wanted to hear during my unsuccessful deer season that ended 10 days ago.

A part of me wants to see what materializes out of the brush and another part is reluctant.

This time I don’t prepare my rifle or binoculars. I don’t drop down to my knees. I don’t unholster my revolver.

I can’t. Season is over. So I stand there and do the only thing I can. Watch.

Sure enough, two gray bodies filter through the brush.

First is a doe, and hot on her heels is a magnificent four-point buck.

She spots me and blows her warning. He doesn’t care. He’s interested in only one thing and it isn’t me.

Both stand below me at 15 yards and I can’t take my eyes off of him. Seeing a mature blacktail buck in rut in his realm is an amazing sight.

His scent is strong as his odor reaches me. I’m in awe and I’m cursing him at the same time. Where were you hiding 10 days ago?

I slowly get my camera ready to take some pics, but the doe doesn’t like the movement and she starts to walk off. The buck isn’t going to let her get away. He pursues.

Two gray bodies moving through the brush.

I continue on further back.

It all started with a sound.

Nearly 100 Pronghorn Released On North-central Washington Reservation

Just under 100 pronghorn were let loose on the Colville Reservation in late October, according to tribal wildlife managers.

It’s the second batch of the native but extirpated species that has been released on the sprawling North-central Washington reservation in the past two years.

The Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department announced the release in a short Facebook post.

PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ORIGINALLY RELEASED ON THE COLVILLE RESERVATION IN JANUARY 2016 MADE THEIR WAY SOUTH ACROSS THE COLUMBIA INTO DOUGLAS COUNTY BY THAT WINTER. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

As with January 2016’s 52, the latest transplants were originally captured in Nevada, as were 99 that went to the Yakama Reservation in South-central Washington in January 2011.

Dozens of those pronghorns swam across the Columbia to Douglas County last year and were said to be hanging out on CRP lands.

At least 14 collared animals died.

Well to the south, mid-March 2017 aerial surveys in Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties turned up 116 antelope — 44 on Yakama lands and 72 outside those borders — with a population estimate of 121.

“Both the Yakama Nation and WDFW consider that the population will require at least a few more years of growth before recreational harvest should be considered,” reads a state report.

Unknown Wolf Packs In North Cascades National Park? Hmmmm

A somewhat dull interagency teleconference on Washington wolves this morning turned jaw-dropping an hour and a half in when a National Park Service ecologist said they believe they have two or three packs in the North Cascades.

It particularly stunned the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s wolf managers.

“Stephanie had to revive me,” said Donny Martorello about the agency’s carnivore manager, Stephanie Simek, who was leading the call.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS NO KNOWN WOLF PACKS IN THE NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK (GREY INSIDE RED CIRCLE) AS OF LAST WINTER, BUT A BIOLOGIST THERE TOLD A TELECONFERENCE THERE MAY BE TWO OR THREE. (WDFW)

That’s because WDFW’s maps and its regular wolf updates don’t show or list any packs in that highly rumpled country south of the Canadian border, and the agency’s public reports site records very, very few observations over the years.

“We weren’t aware at all you had pack-level activity in the park,” said Martorello, who is the state’s wolf policy lead.

Now, whether the Park Service actually does or not is a good question.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the wolves that NPS wildlife ecologist Jason Ransom referred to were discrete packs that heretofore haven’t been identified, were wanderers from the two known packs in western Okanogan County, the confirmed solo animal in eastern Skagit County or others from southern British Columbia, or were some combination thereof.

Nor was it clear what the evidence was — observations, trail cam pictures, tracks, scat, howls, bumps in the night?

Or whether the park’s definition of a pack is the same as WDFW’s (two or more wolves traveling together in winter).

(A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman regularly queried since June has made no mention of anything.)

While recent years have seen wolves around Hozomeen, on upper Ross Lake just east of North Cascades park proper, activity there in the early 1990s and that NCNP still touts on its website was related to a more sordid episode.

Ransom didn’t return a phone call and email to Northwest Sportsman, but did tell the teleconference that data and DNA samples were being collected for analysis.

Under the math we’re locked in to get wolves delisted at the state level, breeding pairs would be relatively helpful in that region.

Needless to say, Martorello and Simek directed their lead wolf biologist Ben Maletzke to get in touch with Ransom asap.

All four were among the couple dozen or so federal, tribal and state staffers who took part in the call, which was the first get-together of the group in a year and a half.

Interested parties could also listen in on mute.

Most of the rest of the teleconference was fairly tame in comparison, and it allowed WDFW to bring its wildlife and land management partners up to speed on all things wolf in Washington.

This winter will see district biologists scouring the mountains south of I-90 for signs of Canis lupus, said Maletzke.

“There are a lot of reports to follow up on, especially after this hunting season,” he said.

(Hunters, keep ’em coming.)

There’s also a lot more work to be done on the big predator-prey studies that were launched last winter in the Methow Valley and Northeast Washington.

Biologists and others captured and collared cougars, wolves, deer, elk and moose in some of the state’s best hunting country to try and figure out the dynamics between the herds, packs and prides.

Analyzing the results is a ways out, but that particular subject weighed heavily on the mind of one caller

Near the end of the teleconference, Ray Entz of the Kalispel Tribe called for proactive management of wolves where they overlap endangered species, versus WDFW’s somewhat reactive one used with livestock depredations.

“We cannot afford to wait for a dead caribou. There are only 10 left. We’ve really got to up our game, people,” Entz said.

He said that without Canada going after wolves preying on the South Selkirk herd, “we don’t think we’d have any caribou left.”

Entz said that radio collar data shows that the herd’s last two “transgressions” into the U.S. were to Northeast Washington rather than habitat in Idaho and Northwest Montana, but the jaunts — not to mention the caribou — are becoming “fewer and farther between.”

ACCORDING TO RECENT SURVEYS, THERE ARE NOW ONLY 10 SOUTH SELKIRK HERD WOODLAND CARIBOU LEFT. (USFWS)

He said that tribe has just completed constructing an 18-acre maternity pen in southern BC for use next spring to keep woodland caribou moms and calves safe from predators.

Earlier in the meeting, Martorello said that with Washington about halfway to meeting wolf population goals, it was time to start thinking about what’s next and developing a postdelisting plan. He will bring that topic to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission at the oversight panel’s December meeting.

While Anna Schmidt with the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought now might be time to update the state’s management plan — itself a five-year endeavor the first go-around — Travis Fletcher with the Colville National Forest, which is home to more wolves than any other federal woods in the state, noted that with recovery “going quite well” it was “better to look forward than back.”

2018 Northwest Sportsmen’s And Boat Show Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

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

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

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

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

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

(O’LOUGHLIN TRADE SHOWS)

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

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

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

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.

‘A True Washington State Public-land Giant’–The Story Of Jake Fife And His Muley

Written by Jake Fife

It all started in late June, that time of the year when unwavering excitement comes over so many hunters across the state, myself included, as we anxiously await the draw results.

I sat there with my info typed in, waiting to press the login button in hopes of finally seeing “selected” as I was starting to see some posts trickle in. I held my breath like I do every year, expecting to see “not selected,” but after 16 years of applying and never drawing a deer tag I finally saw it: Selected!

WITH AN UNOFFICIAL GREEN SCORE OF 234 7/8 FROM A LOCAL TAXIDERMIST, JAKE FIFE’S NONTYPICAL CENTRAL WASHINGTON MULE DEER TOWERS OVER THE STANDING STATE RECORD, A 203 3/8 BUCK FROM CHELAN COUNTY TAKEN IN 2008. FINAL MEASUREMENTS CAN BE TAKEN AFTER THE DRYING PERIOD ENDS, NOV. 10. (JAKE FIFE)

I knew I had my work cut out for me, as I had very little experience in the unit. But as a school teacher, I knew if I ever drew the tag, I would have a lot of time to scout over summer in hopes of making up for that.

I made it out on my first scouting trip on July 21st and spent the better part of the next five days scouring over different areas in search for a mature buck. But over the course of the next five days it began to sink in that this wasn’t going to be an easy hunt, and I really wasn’t seeing the amount of animals I had hoped to, though it was 100-plus degrees out every day by lunchtime.

About the author: Jake Fife was born and raised in Selah, Washington, by Angie and Gary Fife, and graduated from high school there in 2009. Jake has always been an outgoing guy who loved to play baseball, hunt, fish, spend time with family and friends and be outdoors. After high school he accepted a full ride to play baseball while continuing his education to earn his Bachelor’s Degree. Jake graduated from Central Washington University in 2014 and is currently a PE teacher at Naches Valley High School, where he is also the head varsity baseball coach for the Rangers.

So after a week or so of seeing a few scattered bucks here and there I decided it was time for a new game plan – not only to keep checking other areas but essentially I wanted to start gridding the whole unit. I figured eventually I’d have to run into some big deer somewhere … right?

It wasn’t until my ninth day of scouting that I finally found an area where I began seeing consistent numbers of deer, though not “the one.” About the time I was thinking “There’s got to be big bucks in this area; where are they?!” I encountered a beautiful tall four-point that was probably a 170-inch deer. That got me extremely excited, as it was the first “shooter” I had seen. I thought, “Well, that’s a buck I would be proud to take,” but it was getting later in the morning and now I was eager to keep following these big deep draws and glassing into them in hopes of seeing some more deer before it got too hot out.

Within the next 10 minutes I had gone maybe another 500 yards and run into a bachelor group of six bucks – “Whoa, that’s a nice buck, there’s another nice buck, and another, and a couple smaller ones.”

THOUGH NOT AS WELL KNOWN FOR MONSTER MULEYS AS OTHER WESTERN STATES, WASHINGTON NONETHELESS PRODUCES A FEW. RECENT YEARS’ WHOPPERS HAVE INCLUDED THE TRIPOD BUCK AND OTHERS FROM OKANOGAN COUNTY, AND A 9X12 FROM THE SOUTHERN SCABLANDS. (JAKE FIFE)

I WAS REALLY STARTING TO FEEL GOOD about finally seeing some nice bucks. Then out of nowhere, a different deer stood up and immediately caught my attention. I thought,” Whoa! That’s a real big buck.”

It wasn’t until I pulled up my binoculars for a good steady look that my jaw instantly dropped: Oh my god … There he was! The biggest, most majestic, beautiful deer I had ever laid eyes on, in perfect velvet at 150 yards looking at me. All I could see was a massive body, massive frame, and points sticking out everywhere! I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I instantly called my best friend and hunting partner Trevor Dallman and told him I had just found the buck I wanted to shoot. I tried to explain to him what the deer looked like but just couldn’t find the words. Giant? He was a giant.

With my hunt starting in exactly two weeks I can’t even count how many hours I spent driving out to this area in hopes of seeing the deer again and possibly start trying to figure out his pattern. Over 10 or so trips and countless dollars worth of gas money, I was able to narrow in on the buck’s home, but found he just wasn’t patternable. He was a wanderer; he rarely would get water from the same place or even be working the same trails, and often times he was with a couple other nice bucks constantly watching each other’s back. I finally concluded that my best option would probably be to spot and stalk him after he had bedded down in the morning after he was done feeding.

FIFE WATCHED HIS BUCK FOR DAYS ON END, HOPING TO PATTERN IT, BUT SAYS IT WAS SOMETHING OF A WANDERER. (JAKE FIFE)

I glassed, and glassed, and glassed, so much so that I thought some days my eyes were going to bulge out of my head, but I just couldn’t stop looking at this buck! I tried to keep tabs on him every day leading up to the first day of the hunt. I’d rush home after work to grab my gear and head out to the hills, then come home in the dark. It made for some long, tiring days, but I knew it would all be worth it if I somehow was able to get it done on this deer.

I was infatuated, obsessed. I would lay in bed at night thinking about hundreds of difference scenarios that could happen, losing countless hours of sleep thinking about this buck, and waking up the next morning for work extremely tired – but looking forward to going back out in search of him again that evening.

FAST-FORWARD TO OPENING MORNING. I was exhausted when my alarm went off because I literally don’t think I was able to get even five minutes of sleep the entire night. Restless, the scenarios had played over and over in my head, as I couldn’t stop thinking about hopefully being able to harvest this buck.

As the sun started to rise on the first day of the hunt I began to see a few deer popping up, and about 15 minutes later there he was. I watched him feed for a couple hours before he bedded down in a draw – by himself!

“This is too perfect,” I thought. For once he was alone, but then again so was I, without a spotter. I’d left the truck on my first official stalk of this deer and he was in a prime location.

As I drew closer and closer to the top of the brushy draw he was bedded in it began to sink in. I just might pull this off on the first stalk on opening day! At that point I figured I had to be within 100 yards of the deer, but he was bedded in some thick stuff and I couldn’t see him. Still, I had pinpointed the bush he was laying under, or so I thought. I ranged the patch of sage at 70 yards.

“Alright, this is good,” I told myself. I had the wind at my face and needed to cover another 20 or so yards, then stand him up at 50 yards. I took that first step and out of nowhere he stood up behind a different sage – at 30 yards!

We locked eyes, then I tilted my head down as subtly as I could and got my release on the string. I pulled back to full draw, but as soon as I got to full draw he took off – gone, not stopping and not looking back.

I sat down as quickly as possible to watch and see where he might go only to watch him disappear two ridges over. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I had blown it; I had ranged the wrong bush and had no idea I was within 30 yards of him at that time.

“Wow,” I thought, “that might be the only chance I get.”

I looked and looked for him until nightfall to no avail. My stomach churned all day; I was sick: I couldn’t eat or even drink anything as I replayed my screw-up over and over. Driving home that night, I was having a little bit of a pity party for myself when it dawned on me: “Hey, it’s only day one. I’ve got a lot of time and now is not the time to feel sorry for myself or give up. I am determined, I will find this deer again.”

And I did.

AFTER AN INITIAL CHANCE AT THE BUCK ON THE FIRST DAY OF HIS HUNT, FIFE AND THE DEER PLAYED A GAME OF “CAT AND MOUSE” FOR MORE THAN A WEEK AS THE BOWHUNTER TRIED TO LINE UP ANOTHER CHANCE AT IT. (JAKE FIFE)

FOR THE NEXT EIGHT DAYS I PLAYED cat and mouse with this buck, often times getting within 100 to 120 yards of him, but with no play from there. I often ended up sitting in a bush for hours, roasting in the sun only to see him get up and feed over a knob and out of sight. Some days I would glass for hours before he stood up and showed himself; some days I would find him in 10 minutes. Most days he was with three other bucks and I had no play. They would bed up out in the open or be strategically bedded to where there was no way I could get in close enough.

I decided I wanted to play this one the right way. It would have been easy to just go put a stalk on him every time I saw him, but I knew I needed to be smart, patient and wait for the perfect moment, especially after already bumping him pretty hard that first day. I prayed to God for one more chance to find him by himself again. “I won’t screw it up it this time,” I told myself, “I can’t screw it up this time.”

September 10th, day 10 of the hunt, I got to my usual glassing spot and spotted something sticking out of the brush that just didn’t look right. As I looked closer I could see a bright, blood-orange-colored rack, freshly rubbed velvet towering out from behind the sagebrush – that’s him! He had rubbed most of his velvet off throughout the night and it was as fresh as it gets. I watched him feed, then rake his horns on and off every five minutes for the next two and a half hours. It was amazing to see him darken his horns up in that short amount of time! And I was hoping this just might also be the perfect time to get him – he was by himself!

Just as I went to leave the truck for my stalk I spotted a doe and a fawn feeding right where I needed to walk in the bottom of the draw – not good – so I waited another 10 to 15 minutes to head out. Luckily, they fed up and to my side of the draw above the buck about 20 yards.

I knew I had to slip below the does first and thought that if I could make it past them, I would be getting close to the sagebrush I had marked to shoot from. I discussed the game plan with my hunting partner Trevor: I had perfect wind coming up the mountain and I needed to stay right in the bottom of that draw. It was time!

Equipment Used:
Bow: Bowtech Carbon Knight
Arrows: 300 Spine Black Eagle Spartan
Broadheads: Radical Archery Design Ti Con 125
Sight: Spot Hogg 7-pin, Cameron Hanes Edition
Rest: Ripcord Ace Pro
Release: Scotty Mongoose XT
Binoculars: 12×50 Vortex Viper HD Binoculars
Spotting scope: Vortex Viper HD 20-60×80
Clothing: First Lite Llano Merino Crew Top and Kanab 2.0 pants in Fusion Pattern
Boots: Cabela’s Instinct Pursuitz
Pack: Horn Hunter Full Curl System
Rangefinder: Nikon ProStaff 550
Knife: Outdoor Edge Razor Pro
GPS: Garmin 62S

I made my way down the mountain, staying out of sight, and noticed I had a steady 5 to 7 mph wind coming up the draw I was working down – perfect. Once I figured I was about 150 yards from the buck I took my shoes off and continued inching my way through the bottom of the brushy draw, ignoring the cheatgrass and stickers burying themselves in my feet, and kept going. I crawled on my hands and knees just low enough to slip by the other deer – I could literally see their ears as I belly crawled below them, moving about an inch a minute.

After 10 agonizing minutes I made it past them and came into a deeper pocket of the draw, where I was able to stand and take a breath to try and calm my nerves. About that same time I glanced over and noticed the bush I had marked to shoot from; I was only 15 yards from it! The adrenaline kicked right back in and I could feel my heart pounding and beating through my ears. As I took my first step towards the sage, all of the sudden a jackrabbit exploded out of a bush right next to my foot and took off down the draw and ran right by the buck!

PERSISTENCE AND PATIENCE PUT THE BOWMAN IN POSITION FOR ANOTHER SHOT AT THE BUCK, BUT NOT BEFORE TWO OTHER DEER AND A JACKRABBIT  NEARLY UPSET HIS PLAY. (JAKE FIFE)

I stood still praying that the deer wasn’t going to blow out; luckily, he was still there but he had his head up and was alert, so I waited another minute or two for him to relax. As I snuck up to the bush just uphill out of the draw I could see his antler tips but couldn’t get a range on him because 1) there was too much brush in the way, and 2) I’ll admit, I was shaking like a leaf. I decided that wasn’t going to work, so I spotted a little sagebrush on the opposite side of the draw that looked parallel and was able to range it at 43 yards. I figured the deer was right at 40.

“Okay, here we go; this is it,” I told myself, “don’t screw this up!” I pulled back my bow while crouched behind the bush and then stood up and took a half step out from behind it. Immediately the buck whipped his head right towards me. We locked eyes but I was still pretty hidden by the bush, so we had what had to be a 10-second stare down. All I could see was his head and rack, with my 40-yard pin right between the eyes. There was no way I was taking that shot, and I was also starting to get shaky and wasn’t in the best posture or balance for a shot.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for the buck to stand my bowstring tried to jump on me! In that moment I instantly realized that things weren’t going to work as is. I picked up my left foot from behind the bush to get a firmer stance, stood up tall and planted myself rock steady at full draw, knowing he might dart out of his bed and I’d have no shot.

I stayed locked in on my 40-yard pin and he stood up and stomped his foot down. As soon as he did that I let fly with a perfect broadside/slight quartering-away shot. I watched my arrow fly true, hitting perfectly right behind his shoulder and disappearing! I smoked him! Perfect shot!

(JAKE FIFE)

I WAS PRETTY SURE IT WAS A PERFECT LETHAL SHOT, but soon realized it wasn’t all said and done as I had hoped. The deer took off like a rocket, showing no signs of being hurt whatsoever. I called Trevor and told him I’d smoked him and thought it was for sure a lethal hit, though if anything it might have been a bit low. “Better a bit low than high,” I thought.

For the next half an hour I searched all over the draw for my arrow and blood. Nothing. What … ?

I really started to get in my own head and second-guess what I knew I had seen. I couldn’t find the arrow, but then I spotted the tiniest little specks of blood towards the top of the draw. By that time I was getting worried. Trevor asked if I was sure I’d hit him because the buck had run like no other, but said he did seem to slow down and look hurt right before he lost sight of him going into sagebrush over a little knoll. In addition to second guessing because my spotter hadn’t seen the deer go down, I got a bit paranoid thinking of the worst possible things, like I had somehow missed vitals or something. I knew what I had seen, though: It looked good.

TWO MORE ANGLES ON THE FIFE BUCK. (JAKE FIFE)

(JAKE FIFE)

I told Trevor I was going to wait another 30 minutes, then at 12:30 I would have him lead me down to where he last saw the buck. After what was the longest hour of my hunting career had finally passed, it was time to go find this buck. I followed an almost nonexistent blood trail for about 250 yards. I was getting close now, tip-toeing in hopes the deer would be dead and I wouldn’t bump him into the next county. I got to 20 yards from the sagebrush pocket and knew that if he was alive he should have gotten up or I should have seen him by then. I took a few more steps and then couldn’t believe my eyes: There he was, laying under a sage, even bigger than I had ever dreamed of him being.

I looked back up the mountain to Trevor and raised my arms. I had done it! I had finally harvested the buck I had been dreaming of and spent so much time focusing on. After all the video, pictures and time behind the spotting scope glassing this deer he just kept growing on me. I was in shock; I was overjoyed; I felt so many emotions I didn’t even know what to say or think. He was a giant – an absolute Giant of a buck – and I was so thankful I had the opportunity to harvest this deer, let alone even see him and be able to hunt him.

JAKE FIFE AND HUNTING PARTNER TREVOR DALLMAN POSE WITH JAKE’S BUCK. (JAKE FIFE)

Trevor made his way down to the deer and I, and I gave him a giant hug and we just stood there in astonishment looking at the deer. We couldn’t stop smiling and laughing and retelling our perspectives of the hunt. After taking what seemed like a hundred pictures it was time to get to work, as I am very particular about making sure to take care of the meat quickly and properly. We were able to get the buck packed to the truck within the next hour and a half and it was all done.

This hunt will be forever etched into my memory as I got to share it my hunting partner. We have been fortunate enough to share a lot of success over the years and I look forward to hopefully many more in the future, but I think this one will always stick out. A true Washington state public-land giant. I am so very humbled and thankful I was even given the opportunity to hunt and harvest this deer. The hunt of a lifetime, The Buck of a Lifetime.

Notes: The buck was scored by Todd Peyser of Peyser Taxidermy the day it was harvested, September 10, 2017. It green gross-scored at 234 7/8ths. Three inches of deductions put it at 231 7/8ths green score net. It had 45½ inches of mass. It will be taken back in after the 60-day drying period on November 10th to be scored again and get the official score.

ONE LAST LOOK AT JAKE FIFE’S 2017 WASHINGTON PUBLIC-LAND GIANT. (JAKE FIFE)

Editor’s note: I’d like to personally thank Jake Fife for sharing his story and photos with us, as well as Mark Bove, Jake’s friend, for working on getting it to us. Thank you, fellas!