It’s always hard to get a good read on how opening weekend of Washington’s rifle deer season went down on the Monday right afterwards, but as some hunters happily share success pics of their bucks online, others are, well, drying out their camping gear after participating in the state’s most popular hunting season of the year.
From Westport to Newport, Kettle Falls to Goldendale, tens of thousands of hunters took the field in search of blacktails, mule deer and whitetails, and season continues into next week or the end of the month, depending on the species and game management unit.
Where in past years WDFW maintained a select few game check stations that at least provided a glimpse into opening weekend success, with the specter of chronic wasting disease just across the state line in Idaho’s Hells Canyon, the agency has shifted its focus to primarily testing for the condition that’s always fatal in deer and elk.
“This weekend we collected 105 CWD samples from harvested deer throughout Region 1. For comparison, last year opening weekend we collected 95 CWD samples,” WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane reported this morning.
Region 1 is far Eastern Washington, and samples were collected at eight new and existing check stations, including a resort in the Tucannon Valley of the Blue Mountains.
The disease is not known to occur in Washington, but WDFW and counterparts at ODFW have ramped up monitoring efforts since 2021’s discovery of infected ungulates south of Lewiston. Oregon hunters are required to stop at check stations in that state when transporting a harvested deer or elk.
“Districts 1 and 2 were the slowest and saw fewer samples compared to District 3, which collected 65 samples,” Lehman adds about the Northeast, Palouse and Blues regions. “Overall, we heard from staff and officers in the field that things were pretty slow in Northeast Washington. That could be a result of the warm weather, but hard to say for sure.”
The report from at least one western Okanogan County deer camp is that things were slow, with very few animals seen and even fewer shots heard. It was moist with intermittent rain, which helped to keep the woods quieter and cooler than last October’s ridiculously hot conditions.
While Tom Walgamott of Woodinville didn’t see any bucks hanging as he pulled out of the woods this morning, he said that after a one-year hiatus it was good to return to a camp he’s been attending since the mid-1990s. This afternoon he’s also among those drying out his tarp and tent.
Even as WDFW’s check stations are now primarily for CWD sampling, hunters without deer are still encouraged to stop by and say hi.
“We’d still like to hear from them about what they’re seeing in the field,” says Lehman.
For hunters who have shot a deer (or elk) in Region 1 and get it sampled for CWD are automatically put in a drawing for one of 100 multiseason deer tags purchased by the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as an incentive to get harvests checked. The earlier the detection, the better the odds of limiting an outbreak.
Besides the highwayside check stations, hunters can also make an appointment to have their game sampled at WDFW facilities or with the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council of Spokane, or use self-serve kiosks in Colville or Cusik,among other options.