UPDATE, 11:15 a.m., September 8, 2023: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest managers have lifted their Crater Creek wildfire closure, meaning Horseshoe Basin and other areas will be open for the start of Washington’s early backcountry rifle deer hunt next week.
“Good news for those hoping to utilize the Pasayten Wilderness this hunting season!” WDFW tweeted late this morning. “Cooler temps & precip have reduced fire activity but please remain vigilant.”
However, the Airplane Fire closure in the Glacier Peak Wilderness’s White River basin of the upper Wenatchee River watershed is still in effect at this writing.
Washington’s decades-old High Buck Hunt runs September 15-25 in select North Cascades and Olympic Peninsula wilderness areas, plus the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
Wildfire season has been relatively quiet in Washington’s Cascades – knock on wood, cross all fingers and toes, rub lucky rabbit’s feet – but High Buck Hunters are being advised that the eastern end of the Pasayten Wilderness is likely to remain closed come the mid-September season because of an ongoing fire.
Southern British Columbia’s big Crater Creek Fire has burned across the international border into the wilderness’s Horseshoe Basin area, leading the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to close a host of trails, roads and a campground.
“Forest Service administrators are reevaluating closures daily but expect that the popular Horseshoe Basin area will likely remain closed by the time the hunt begins on September 15,” reads a statement emailed by WDFW’s Staci Lehman this morning. “If you had planned to hunt that area, you are highly encouraged to find an alternate location.”
High Buck, which runs September 15-25, is the first chance in fall for Washington’s general season riflemen to pursue deer in select North and Central Cascades and Olympic Peninsula wilderness areas. Hunters ride horses or hike in for the long-standing and cherished backcountry opportunity.
Past fire seasons have impacted High Buck season in the Pasayten, Glacier Peak and other wilderness areas, so hunters are familiar with having to keep an ear to the ground about conditions and have alternative plans ready.
The Crater Creek Fire also led to BLM and DNR closures in the area.
For more on the fire that has burned nearly 5,000 acres on the Washington side of the border, see its Inciweb page.
Another fire that will impact High Buck Hunt access is the 2,300-acre Airplane Lake burn in the White River headwaters of the Wenatchee River basin, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.