4-point Only For 117, 121 Units Whitetails?

A proposal to restrict whitetail buck harvest in two Northeast Washington game units gets a cold reception in today’s Spokesman-Review.

Writes outdoor columnist Rich Landers:

Looking into the Stevens County-based campaign to set four-point-minimum antler restrictions on white-tailed deer hunts in portions of northeastern Washington, one logical conclusion emerges:

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls has compromising photos of other commission members.

… In the next week the commission will squander staff time and thousands of dollars – is the state budget crisis over? – on four public meetings across the state largely at Douvia’s behest. Three stakeholder meetings also were held earlier this summer.

The meetings start tonight in Puyallup and end in Yakima next Thursday.

At each, WDFW staff will discuss the proposal, brought about by a petition from the Stevens County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee, to change the 2011 hunting rules from allowing the harvest of any whitetail buck in GMUs 117 and 121 — 49 Degrees North and Huckleberry — to only those with at least four points on one side.

WHITETAILS LIKE JOSHUA GOODRICH'S NOVEMBER 2009 SPOKANE 3X4 WOULD BE LEGAL UNDER PROPOSED ANTLER RESTRICTIONS IN NEIGHBORING HUCKLEBERRY AND 49 DEGREES NORTH. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Leroy Ledeboer tackled the issue in our September issue. At the time of his reporting, regional wildlife director Kevin Robinette said this about WDFW’s position:

“If we’re convinced that a 4-point restriction would significantly improve our herd, then we’ll support it. If we’re opposed, it will be because we believe the bucks are doing fine under the present rules. Our mandate is to provide maximum recreational opportunities we can with our available resources, so that’s what we try to do.”

But according to Landers’ story, Robinette now typifies the agency’s thoughts this way:

“We don’t think we need antler restrictions. Northeastern Washington offers good escape cover for a good percentage of bucks to avoid hunters and grow to larger sizes.”

THE AREA PROPOSED FOR FOUR-POINT RESTRICTIONS STRETCHES FROM THE SPOKANE INDIAN RESERVATION NORTH TO KETTLE FALLS, EAST TO THE PEND OREILLE RIVER, SOUTH TO NEWPORT AND WEST TO DEER PARK. (WDFW)

Among those behind the proposal are Colville’s Danny Bell and Dale Denney, the latter gent the owner of Northwest Sportsman advertiser Bearpaw Outfitters.

Bell told Ledeboer it’s about helping out a struggling whitetail herd, hit by two bad winters in recent years and long-term declines in habitat:

“It’s about first saving, then rebuilding our whitetail herd. I used to see 30 to 40 deer right around my place. Now I see five or six. My neighbor, who has 1,200 acres, used to have hundreds on his land. Now he has a few dozen.

“Our mature breeding buck numbers are way down. The harvest overall has been low in recent years, but 70 percent of the bucks taken were 2 years or younger, so the mature bucks just aren’t out there.

“Consequently, too many does don’t get bred the first time around and have to go into a second estrus. That means their fawns are born later, making them much more susceptible to predation and winterkill.”

Denney cites changes in Pennsylvania whitetail regulations in the early 2000s — a 4-point rule and more antlerless permits.

“I’ve thoroughly researched this, and the consensus is it’s turned their hunt around. They now have a smaller but more productive whitetail herd. The doe-buck ratio is sound, the fawns are coming off on time, and hunters are now shooting bigger bucks.”

While Pennsylvania is as wooded as Northeast Washington, when restrictions began its forests were also more open due to overbrowsing by deer in the past. Landers’ article points out that in our brushy country, it may be more difficult to pick out how many antler points a buck might have, which could lead to bad decisions and headaches for enforcement officers who “are concerned about the number of fork-horn whitetails that might end up dead in the brush after a season with antler restrictions,” he writes.

Last year, 1,242 bucks were killed in the Huckleberry GMU by all hunters, including 144 spikes, 165 2-points, 289 3-points, 393 4-points and 251 5-points. Forty-nine Degrees North yielded 857 bucks, including 79 spikes, 117 forked horns, 167 3-points, 297 4-points and 189 5-points.

Both tallies are well below where they were in the early to mid-2000s.

Wanda Clifford, executive director of the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, urges her members to attend the Spokane Valley and Colville meetings.

“The INWC has taken a stand not to support the 4-point restriction in these GMUs based on the Department’s scientific studies and lack of documentation that a point restriction used as a game management tool is beneficial,” a statement from her reads, according to INWC member and past president Jim Nelson.

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Pierce County Library, PAC Room A & B, 3005 112th St. E., in Tacoma.

The others are slated for:

* Aug. 24, Colville Campus of Community College of Spokane, 985 S. Elm St., in Colville.

* Aug. 25, Center Place Regional Event Center, Great Room, 2426 N. Discovery Place, in Spokane Valley.

* Aug. 26, Yakima Convention Center, Room A, 10 N. 8th St., in Yakima. (Due to construction, visitors should access the convention center from the Yakima Avenue entrance or the North Parking Lot entrance.)

They also begin at 7 p.m.

Editor’s note (11:26 a.m., Aug. 26, 2010): The original version of this post misstated Wanda Clifford’s role with INWC. She is the group’s executive director, not its president. The latter post is held by Ken Hoff.

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One Response to “4-point Only For 117, 121 Units Whitetails?”

  1. james a nelson Says:

    Very good Andy

    jim

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