Editor’s note: Updated at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 25, 2018, with information on deer hunting in Klickitat County.
How warm and dry was it for the second weekend of rifle mule deer season in Northcentral Washington?
“It was so warm and dry the Crescent Mountain Fire flared back up and has burned an additional 3,000-plus acres,” reports WDFW’s Okanogan County district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin.
He says that given the conditions it wasn’t surprising how slow hunting was the final Saturday and Sunday.
The check station that Fitkin and fellow bio Jeff Heinlen run at Winthrop’s Red Barn saw 65 hunters bring in 12 deer, nearly as many critters as the first weekend (13) but by fewer riflemen (82).
Still, this year’s overall harvest saw an increase, at least as measured at the game check.
“For the season we checked 147 hunters and with 25 deer,” Fitkin notes. “Both of these numbers are up from last year — 131 hunters with 15 deer — suggesting a modest increase in hunter success in 2018 despite the mildest general season weather in recent memory.”
Indeed, it was a far cry from 2017’s hunt, when yours truly and my dad rolled into Deer Camp before opening weekend to find a skiff of snow, then a much heavier fall blanketed western Okanogan County during the second.
But despite the warmth and crackle of twigs, needles and cones underfoot and the haze from the aforementioned fire burning up the Twisp River, we gave it a pretty good go this October, and I had my chance at bringing home a buck. It was also pretty amusing to have two deer run through camp at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the final day of the 11-day season.
Hunting continues, however, through tomorrow, Oct. 26, in Northeast Washington for whitetails.
District biologist Annemarie Prince runs the Deer Park check station and she reports checking 81 hunters with seven bucks and seven does, all flagtails.
On last year’s second Sunday, 75 came into Deer Park with 15 bucks and 10 does, as well as one antlered muley.
WDFW also had a station at Chewelah, where another 11 whitetails were brought, including six bucks and five does, by 38 hunters, Prince reports.
The late rifle season for whitetails in Game Management Units 105-124 is Nov. 10-19, which includes two full weekends.
In the opposite corner of Eastern Washington, Klickitat Wildlife Area manager Susan Van Leuven says the general season was “very poor” this year.
“I only checked two legal bucks the first weekend. I heard of a couple other deer that were taken on or near the Soda Springs Unit, but that is all,” she says.
Van Leuven says it’s the fourth consecutive October with “near-nonexistent deer harvest” and she worries that the herd’s recovery will be more of a gradual one than a quick response.
Some of that is likely due to the hard 2016-17 winter in these parts, but her wildlife area is also primarily winter range and there hasn’t been any weather to speak of that would push deer down to it. There was also an adenovirus outbreak here in summer 2017.
Reports Van Leuven’s hearing from western Klickitat County aren’t much better.
In Western Washington, blacktail hunting runs through Halloween, and many units open up again Nov. 15-18 for the late season.
Next month and December also see numerous bow and black powder opportunities for those with unnotched tags and archery, muzzleloader or multiseason hunting licenses.
For a roundup of photos of successful hunters and their deer, check out this thread on Hunting Washington.
And feel free to send your pics and stories to Northwest Sportsman for our annual Bucks and Bulls feature in our February issue! Email the editor at email@example.com with details! All photos are automatically entered in our Browning Photo Contest.