Countdown To Washington Rifle Deer Opener
Need an earworm to energize your packing for Deer Camp? Repeat after me, “It’s the final countdown …”
Indeed, time is running short for Washington riflemen as the general hunting season for blacktails, whitetails and mule deer opens across the state this Saturday, and this guy is seriously unprepared!
I still need to put my hunting clothes through the laundry, gather up my camping equipment, go grocery shopping, reload my headlamps with new batteries, track down where in the hell I put my binoculars, sharpen all my knives, check and recheck the weather forecast …
Whether you’re farther ahead in the process than this slacker, or are just going to slam everything together in one frenzied night – tarps, Walgamott, don’t forget your tarps, and a couple camp chairs, and the coffee pot, and the … – here’s a look at what this season may bring, disease and access issues to be aware of, and why WDFW is adding extra game check stations in Northeast Washington.
WASHINGTON DEER HUNTING FORECAST
Last month I reviewed how the 2020 season went and looked forward to the 2021 edition.
The highlights: WDFW wildlife biologists in Chelan and Douglas Counties as well as the Blue Mountains are optimistic about mule deer hunting.
The lowlights: Disease outbreaks and wildfire access restrictions may play roles for some hunters.
Along with my story, you can also check out district-by-district prospects from WDFW biologists.
And here’s a link to the deer section of the agency’s hunting pamphlet.
Late summer’s bluetongue and EHD outbreak along the eastern fringe of the state and up into the northeast corner “means there will be less deer on the landscape,” Spokane-area district wildlife biologist Michael Atamian told Eli Francovich for a Sunday story in the Spokesman-Review.
WDFW also sent out an email to hunters who’ve pursued deer in Region 1 in the past five years, saying that the outbreak “appears to be more widespread than in 2015,” and advising them that “it is possible that your success this fall will be impacted.” While there won’t be any changes to this year’s season, the agency pointed out that it has reduced or eliminated the hunts for antlerless whitetails, calling adult does “the drivers of the population” and says that that “should mitigate declines attributed to this summer’s EHD outbreak.”
And there’s also been an AHD outbreak among San Juans Islands blacktails.
Thankfully, summer’s drought and wildfire situation has greatly improved as cool, moist fall weather has set in – Stevens Pass saw a dusting over the weekend and more is forecast in the coming days – but deer hunters will want to check in with the Forest Service if their areas, or the roads to them, saw burns.
Here are links to the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, the Colville National Forest and the Umatilla National Forest.
Meanwhile, nearly all of WDFW’s as well as all of DNR’s lands have reopened for use.
MORE CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE TESTING
Whitetail hunters will see more game check stations in Northeast Washington this month and next as WDFW and volunteers from a local sportsmen’s club team up on a new program to test for chronic wasting disease, a deadly deer family malady.
CWD is not known to occur in Evergreen State deer, elk or moose, but in 2019 it turned up in Libby, Montana, just 70 miles from Newport as the crow flies.
Dr. Melia DeVivo, WDFW’s ungulate research scientist, says that with zero ability to treat this disease that’s 100 percent fatal and which can lead to population declines, Washington’s best bet is prevention.
Here’s a link to my story on CWD, which units WDFW is focusing on this fall, and where and when game checks will be set up.
AND MUCH MORE
And don’t forget to grab a copy of the October issue of Northwest Sportsman, where we preview the season, detail mule deer and blacktail hunting strategies, talk rifles and serve up a deer shoulder recipe!
And if all that doesn’t get you excited enough, check out the annual deer harvest thread on Hunting Washington to fire up your desire to get crackin’ on packing!