Orange vest – check. Binoculars – check. Ice – guess I’ll need a whole lot more than last year!
As hunters make their Deer Camp lists for Washington’s big opener on Saturday, WDFW is advising those who plan on hitting private timberlands to also double-check on access.
Fall’s unrelenting dry, warm conditions have some landowners “limiting or closing public access due to high fire danger, including private forests typically open to hunters,” according to an agency statement out this afternoon.
No specific companies are named and some lands are expected to stay open for walk-in access. But checking ahead sure beats showing up at a gate and learning the woods behind it are shut down.
The advice does come as a bit of a crosswind as federal and state managers began easing fire restrictions late this week, including on BLM lands, in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest campgrounds and on most state wildlife areas.
But those actions are for lands in Eastern Washington.
In Western Washington, the National Weather Service this afternoon issued a “fire weather watch” along the west slopes of most of the Cascades for gusty east winds on Saturday and Sunday.
As it stands, Evergreen State deer hunters will find the usual mixed general season prospects.
“Generally speaking, whitetail deer hunters can expect tougher hunting than average due to reduced populations, especially in the Palouse, Blue Mountains and Selkirk Management Zones,” WDFW’s Kyle Garrison told me for my annual forecast. “Mule deer hunters shouldn’t expect too much deviation from last year – harvest was depressed in 2021 in several management zones but not to the extent of whitetail deer, likely a reflection of less severe impacts of hemorrhagic disease. Hunters pursuing ghosts of the forest, aka blacktail deer, can expect normal hunting prospects. The majority of management zones exhibit stable harvest trends, which indicate population stability.”
For hunters heading to 100-series game management units in the far eastern tier of the state, WDFW has sharply increased its chronic wasting disease monitoring game this fall in response to discovery of the always-fatal deer disease south of Lewiston. In addition to a number of new game check stations, there’s also a 24-hour self-service kiosk in Colville for hunters to drop off deer heads for testing.
Those hunting out of state should also know about new rules around importing game back into Washington, even from areas where CWD is not known to occur.