Washington’s 2019 general rifle deer season is just about a wrap, with only hours worth of hunting time left in the state’s northeast corner for whitetails.
As hunters filtered out of Stevens and other counties up there this past Sunday, some encountered a game warden check station on Miles-Creston Road near the intersection with Highway 2, in northern Lincoln County.
According to WDFW, fish and wildlife officers chatted with 179 hunters as well as anglers in 117 rigs, and sportsmen were bringing quite an array of game home.
“We checked 35 white-tailed bucks (mostly shot in Stevens County), nine turkeys, two cougars, seven grouse, and assorted fish (trout and kokanee) from Lake Roosevelt,” reported Capt. Dan Rahn in Spokane.
While the late modern firearms whitetail hunt ends half an hour after sunset today in Game Management Units 105 through 124, turkey, cougar and grouse seasons there run through the end of the year, while fishing is open year-round on the bulk of the Upper Columbia impoundment.
WDFW biologists in these parts also ran their usual last-Sunday-of-season check station in Deer Park, though you might read the results while keeping in mind how many days of hunting were still available as hunters passed through.
This year, with two days of season left, district bio Annemarie Prince in Colville says that 99 hunters with 26 bucks were tallied.
That’s an uptick from 2018 when the count was 96 with 16, but when hunters had one more day in hand, and less than 2017, when it was 124 with 43 and no time left on the clock.
“Overall, hunters seemed happy with the season and we had some really nice whitetails come through,” says Prince, who notched her tag. “Most hunters at least saw does and fawns even if they never found a buck to harvest.”
Back at that Highway 2 game check, WDFW reported that officers had to give out 22 warnings, “mostly for improperly notched tags, no evidence of species/sex, and transporting fish/wildlife without written statements.”
But at least one violation may get someone in hotter water.
“One cougar was checked that was harvested without a valid cougar tag. The cougar was seized, and charges will be referred to the prosecutor’s office,” Rahn reported.
Meanwhile, the late blacktail hunt in Western Washington closed Sunday evening.
Next up are late general archery and muzzleloaders opportunities that begin tomorrow and in following days and weeks.
So far this deer season, judging by pics and stories on Hunting-Washington.com and a similar Facebook page, a fair number of riflemen tagged out in November, including with some pretty nice bucks as well as great firsts.
Prince was gunshy about making a prediction for how final harvest stats will shape up in her district, and while it won’t be for months that we do see hard numbers, I’m going to go out on a bit of limb and forecast that this year’s statewide kill will end up above last season’s admittedly modest take.
(Amy, go ahead and start on our crow recipe now, should still be on the counter.)