WA 2010 Deer, Elk Forecasts Out

With Washington’s bow deer season starting tomorrow and archery elk the week after — and muzzleloader and rifle hunts in the coming months — now’s a good time to get the scoop on this fall’s forecasts.

In recent years, WDFW wildlife biologists have been posting hunting prospects for their districts. The information varies by field staffer — slim for some parts of the state that certainly merit more words, nonexistent in other spots — but in general provides a snapshot of what muleys, whitetail, blacktail and Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk have faced in recent years and winters and what conditions look like heading into 2010’s hunt.

The bios also provide some information on public access and how to get onto private lands, as well as head’s ups on rule changes new this year.

We’ll look at bear, upland birds and waterfowl later this week, but for now, here’s a region-by-region big-game breakdown, starting in the middle of the state:

CENTRAL COLUMBIA BASIN

Deer: District 5 is predominately characterized by mule deer, but white-tailed deer do occur in small isolated groups and are most prominent in GMU 284 (Ritzville). Overall, deer hunters should expect average success rates during the 2010 season. Post-hunt fawn:doe ratios indicate herd productivity was moderate in all surveyed Game Management Units (GMU), but buck:doe ratios declined slightly following the 2009 season. However, with the mild winter conditions in 2009, post-hunt populations are believed to have experienced minimal levels of winter mortality.

POINTS 1 THROUGH 12 FOR WHY TO PUT IN FOR A DESERT UNIT TAG. (DICK HEMORE)

Most deer harvest occurs in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 284. Although hunter success declined from 28% in 2007 to 22% in 2009 in GMU 272, this was largely caused by a 12% increase (1,210 hunters in 2007 vs. 1,359 hunters in 2009) in the number of hunters rather than declines in local deer herds. The number of hunters that hunted deer in GMU 284 (681 hunters in 2008 vs. 802 hunters in 2009) similarly increased by 18%, but hunter success remained relatively constant at 37%. Even though hunter numbers increased, total harvest in GMU 272 (319 deer in 2008 vs. 296 deer in 2009) decreased slightly.

In contrast, the increase in hunter numbers in GMU 284 resulted in a significant increase in total harvest (231 deer in 2008 vs. 298 deer in 2009).

Lastly, post-hunt surveys yielded buck:doe ratios of 16:100 in GMU 272 and 19:100 in GMU 284, during the 2009 season. GMU 284 is dominated by private property. Hunters should plan to seek out permission to access private lands and/or plan on hunting lands enrolled in the WDFW Access Program as little Wildlife Area land (~1,600 acres) occurs in this unit. GMU 272 includes 53,000 acres of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex, most of which is open to hunting.

All hunting opportunities in GMU 290 (Desert Unit) are issued through the public draw. With post-hunt ratios of 54 bucks:100 does, high success rates are expected to continue in 2010. Forty-one percent of land in GMU 290 occurs as the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, thus public opportunity is widely available. The area consists of riparian areas, associated primarily with the Winchester and Frenchmen Wasteways, surrounded by rolling, sandy dunes and varying densities of shrub cover. The majority of the private agricultural land in this unit occurs throughout the western half.

Harvest in GMU 278 (Wahluke) is again expected to be low in 2010. Since 2001, total harvest in GMU 278 has averaged 35 deer and only 26 deer were harvested during the 2009 season. GMU 278 provides approximately 36,000 acres of lands as part of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex, most of which is open to hunting.

Elk: Elk are extremely rare in most GMUs located in District 5. Since 2000, harvest estimates suggest there have only been 2 and 10 elk harvested in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 278 (Wahluke), respectively. However, 3 of those 12 elk harvested in GMU 278 were from the 2008 season. Elk do not occur in GMU 290 (Desert). These trends are not expected to change during the 2010 season.

If hunters wish to hunt elk in District 5 during the 2010 season, they are most likely to be successful in GMU 284. However, the majority of this GMU consists of agricultural and other private lands, so access may be difficult. The number of elk harvested in GMU 284 has gradually increased from 4 elk in 2005 to 25 elk during the 2008 season. However, only 12 elk were harvested during the 2009 season with an overall success rate of 11%.

It is difficult to predict elk harvest levels in GMU 284 during the 2010 season. Because harvest levels have, until recently, been extremely low, biologists do not conduct annual surveys for elk in GMU 284. Moreover, the elk harvested in GMU 284 are most likely part of a small herd that is known to occur near the border of GMU 284 and GMU 136 (District 2 located in Whitman County). Consequently, harvest in GMU 284 is probably dependent on whether or not that herd migrates to GMU 284 during the hunting season.

SOUTHERN COLUMBIA BASIN

Deer: Most of the District is private, open country farmland. Highest concentrations of deer (mostly mules with a few white-tails) are in GMU 381, with a large percentage migrating in from northern units starting in October/November. Hunter success rates (avg.=33% for modern firearm) tend to be high due to restricted access for hunters and a lack of cover for deer. There are some “Feel Free To Hunt” and “Hunt By Written Permission” acres where hunters can gain access to deer. Pre-season scouting is advisable in order to learn where to hunt. Classification surveys in December 2009 yielded an estimated 16 bucks and 43 fawns to 100 does. Both estimates were below the 5-year average.

Elk: Opportunity for elk hunting is limited in the District to lands surrounding the west and south boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (GMU 372). Hunts are geared toward addressing crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards. Access is extremely limited to either a couple pieces of state land north of Prosser and Benton City (contact Region 3 Yakima office for maps) and private land through special permit drawings. The best way to secure access is to apply for a special permit through the Landowner Hunt Program (LHP). If selected, permit holders are guaranteed a one day guided hunt.

Most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth hunters, but a few any elk permits are issued each year. Surveys in January 2010 yielded a total herd estimate of 677 elk with 50 bulls and 20 calves per 100 cows. The high bull ratio is typical for this herd since they can seek refuge on the federal Hanford lands during hunting season.

THE PALOUSE, EASTERN COLUMBIA BASIN

White-tailed Deer: The mild winter and the high forage production, due to the wet spring, should lead to high recruitment this year. Herds appear to be recovering well from the previous two hard winters. Number of mature buck may still be slightly lower than the 2008 high, but the persistent hunter should have ample opportunity to harvest a legal buck.

TERRI BATOR WITH A BIG PALOUSE RIVER BOTTOMS WHITETAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Mule Deer: Overall mule deer numbers appear to be stable, with some areas showing growth and some declines. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2009.

Elk: There are fewer elk in District 2 relative to District 3. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2009. Hunter access is an issue, since most of our elk herds are found on private land or on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR). New this year are the Turnbull permit only elk hunts (62 cow tags and 1bull tag) to address habitat damage. For those who missed the permit application deadline this year, the Turnbull permit hunts should be offered again next year.

BLUE MOUNTAINS

Deer: Mule deer and white-tailed deer populations have declined over the last several years due to lower fawn survival for mule deer, and EHD outbreaks in localized white-tailed deer populations. An EHD outbreak in 2008 along the Touchet River between the town of Touchet and Dayton killed approximately 500 white-tailed deer.

Mule deer populations appear to have stabilized along the breaks of the Snake River and in the lowlands. Mule deer populations in the mountains are still depressed, and hunters will find fairly low success rates in mountain units.

Although white-tailed deer populations have declined in localized areas, the population is still strong and will offer excellent hunting opportunity. The foothills of the Blue Mtns. and river bottoms hold the largest concentrations of white-tailed deer. Much of the foothill lands are in private ownership, so seek permission before hunting on private land.

W. SCOTT ALINEN'S LATE-SEASON BLUE MOUNTAIN FOOTHILLS WHITETAIL BUCK. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: Elk populations are doing well and have increased over the last few years, with most sub-herd populations at or near management objective. Calf survival has improved in recent years, but is still 15% below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest. The Wenaha sub-herd (GMU-169) still remains well below historic population levels, which hurts overall hunting opportunity in the Blue Mountains. Hunters can expect hunting conditions to be similar to previous years. Hunters lucky enough to draw the “any bull” permit will find excellent hunting opportunity in 2010.

CLINT HEINZ WITH A 343 GROSS BLUE MOUNTAINS BULL FROM 2009. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Mild weather conditions this winter and excellent rainfall during the spring and early summer have provided for optimum antler growth. Several bulls scoring over 400 BC have been observed in the Blues, so bull permit holders should find excellent hunting opportunity this fall.

NORTHEAST

2007-08 and 2008-09 better than the white-tailed deer, but have shown the same spotty pattern with some areas having stable to increasing numbers and other areas a decline. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2009.

White-tailed Deer: The long-term population trend for white-tailed deer continues to be on the downside with the vast loss of acreage in cereal grain and alfalfa hay farm production. Two bad winters immediately prior to this last one have further exacerbated this situation. On the positive side, the year 2010 is so far shaping up weather-wise to be the best of all worlds for white-tailed deer in NE Washington.

ROB CUNNINGHAM'S 2009 LATE-SEASON WHITETAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Last winter was extremely mild, and the rainy spring led to a tremendous flush of green forage vegetation making “tall cotton” for white-tailed deer. The overall whitetail harvest will almost certainly be lower this year than in the previous ten or more years mainly on account of needed restrictions in antlerless harvest opportunity. Youth/Senior/Disabled Modern Firearm Hunters will only have four days, October 21-24 in which to lawfully bag an antlerless white-tail. Muzzleloaders will also be limited to antlered white-tail bucks only during their season and the same for Archery Hunters during the early season only, September 1-24, 2010.

Elk: There are fewer elk in District One relative to District Three. With rare exceptions the elk population does not appear to have been as heavily impacted as white-tailed deer from the two bad winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2009. Finding elk is the biggest challenge with so much closed canopy forest within NE Washington where they can effectively hide and “sit out” the season. The most successful “deliberate” elk hunters in District One tend to be Archery and Muzzleloaders as their seasons are at a time nearer the rut when elk are more vocal, especially bulls. Most Modern Firearm elk hunters when they tag out on an elk within District One appear to be just lucky through an incidental encounter and shot opportunity as opposed to some strategic plan or active methodology like bugling, cow-calling, etc.

CHELAN COUNTY

Deer:

Chelan County. A mild 2009-10 winter and good fawn production should result result in more bucks available this year. While the presence of hair loss syndrome has been documented in Chelan County, we have yet to document decreases in deer numbers. Our post season buck to doe ratios have stabilized over the past few years and we are currently at our management objective

Douglas County. Hunting success in Douglas County will most likely decline in 2010 with harvest dictated primarily by access to private lands. The open nature of the habitats in Douglas County decreases buck escapement and lowers the age of bucks within the population. Road densities are high, ensuring access to almost all areas, and resulting in few older aged bucks post season. The impacts of extended drought conditions may also be playing a role in fawn production and survivorship.

SEPTEMBER 2010 COVER BOY ERIC BRAATEN WITH HIS MUZZLELOADER MULEY FROM LAST FALL, SHOT IN DOUGLAS COUNTY. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: Elk are not a primary management emphasis for District 7, and as a result, little or no harvest occurs within some of the district’s Game Management Units. GMU 251 traditionally has the highest elk harvest, with GMU’s 249 and 245 coming in a distant 2nd and 3rd. The overall success rate on elk for these three GMUs is generally lower than the statewide average, indicating that for elk hunters, the Wenatchee district is not a prime location. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 changed to a “true spike” restriction in 2009 to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd. That restriction remains in place for 2010.

OKANOGAN COUNTY

Prospects for mule deer should be slightly better than last year throughout the district. Post season survey results of 20 bucks per 100 does (highest observed since 2002) in conjunction with a mild winter and good summer forage conditions points to good survival over the past year. Spring surveys resulted in mule deer fawn:adult ratios of 40:100. This level of recruitment means a moderately growing population for the past year.

White-tailed deer are less abundant than mule deer throughout the district but are found in most all valley bottoms. White-tailed deer have faired better than mule deer over the last four winters, so prospects should be somewhat better for those hunters targeting whitetails. Spring surveys resulted in fawn:adult ratios of 48:100. Most white-tailed deer are found on private lands in District six, so prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land.

YAKIMA AND KITTITAS COUNTIES

Deer: All data suggests the deer population is down by 30-50% since ~2003. The herd decline, first documented in P32 and P33 has spread south into P35 and P36 and east into PMU 34. Fawn production has been pretty good, but Hair-slip seems to be a nagging problem. There might be a slight increase in deer numbers this year.

Elk: Calf ratio data collected in February/March data indicated average recruitment in 2010. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, bull harvest is expected to be increase after a poor 2009 season. PMU’s 33 and 36 had the best recruitment.

NORM MCKEAN'S 2009 BRANCH-ANTLER BULL, SHOT ON A PERMIT IN THE COWICHE UNIT. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

COLUMBIA GORGE

Deer: Battle Ground (564), as well as the Klickitat County GMUs, i.e. West Klickitat (578), Grayback (388) and East Klickitat (382). However, deer populations remain suppressed in the Cascade Mountain GMUs, ie. Lewis River (560), Wind River and Siouxon (572). 2010 should offer deer hunting opportunities as the previous two winters have been relatively mild.

Successful hunting for black-tailed deer is primarily a function of the effort, focus and energy that hunters put into the hunt. Blacktail deer thrive in heavily vegetated habitats and are often very nocturnal in nature. This means that successful blacktail hunters must be in position early in the morning and carefully hunt near sources of food and in secure cover.

Bucks travel more during the rut when they cover large amounts of territory searching for does in estrus. This makes bucks more vulnerable as they spend less time hiding and are sometimes found in “open” habitats, i.e. clear-cuts and meadows. Not surprisingly, approximately 1/3rd of the annual buck harvest in Region 5 occurs during the 4-day “late buck” hunt held each November.

Klickitat County deer hunters are reminded to check the 2010 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet to re-familiarize themselves with some significant changes in hunting regulations in the Klickitat GMUs that were implemente4d in 2009. The 2009 changes include significant boundary changes, implementation of the 3-point antler restriction for all user-groups in GMU 578 West Klickitat, removal of the general late muzzleloader deer season in 578 and elimination of antlerless deer hunting from the late archery season in GMU 388 Grayback.

Elk: Significant changes have been implemented for elk season in several Game Management Units. Elk hunters are strongly encouraged to review the 2010 Big Game Regulations to be clear on the new rules.

Most importantly, the new regulations affect elk hunting in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). ANTLERLESS ELK ARE NO LONGER LEGAL DURING ANY GENERAL MODERN FIREARM OR MUZZLELOADER SEASON IN THESE GMUs.

Additionally, the THREE_POINT ANTLER RESTRICTION HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED IN THESE GMUs FOR ALL GENERAL SEASONS.

Antlerless elk hunting in these GMUs is now offered through the special permit process. Antlerless elk permits are available for both modern firearm and muzzleloader hunters. Tag numbers have been allocated at a level intended to maintain harvest and hunting opportunity at a level similar to that of the past 5-years in these GMUs. Again, please review the pamphlet and be familiar with these significant changes in elk hunting regulation in Washougal (568), Wind River (574) and West Klickitat (578).

SOUTHERN I-5 CORRIDOR

Deer: A mild winter will help improve the number of spike bucks this fall. Deer populations seem to be increasing west of I-5 as timber harvest takes place.

ROB CLAREY'S VAIL TREE FARM BLACKTAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: St Helens elk population is responding to the increased permit levels and some units saw a reduction in take last year. A mild winter should improve bull survival and we hope to see some mature animals being available soon.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY

Deer: Black-tail populations in Snohomish County are consistent with recent years; the 2010 season expected to be like previous seasons. Hunters should contact the local US Forest Service district office for up to date information about road and trail conditions because severe weather in recent years has caused lots of damage to many roads and trails. Hunters should scout their preferred hunting areas well in advance because many state and private timberlands are now gated, with access restricted to non-motorized methods.

SOUTH COAST

Deer: Deer hunting in GMU 648, 651, 663, and 672 in particular should be excellent. Along the coast, GMU 658 has produced nice bucks. Condition of animals should be excellent given the mild winter.

HAYDEN WOLF'S 2009 FALL RIVER BLACKTAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: Hunter success in GMU’s south of Hwy 12 continues to be good. In particular bull harvest in GMU 673 (Williams Creek) continues to be high.

CALLIE WILLIAMSON, THEN 10, AND HER 2009 WESTERN WASHINGTON BULL ELK. SHE POSES WITH DAD, DAVID. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk hunting in areas north of HWY 12 (GMU 615, 618, and 648) are improving annually and is likely due to improving habitat conditions.

SOUTH SOUND/HOOD CANAL

Deer: Overall deer hunting throughout the district should be comparable to last year.

There is good buck escapement. Green Diamond lands south of the Olympics present some of the best hunting opportunity due to the clearcuts which provide high deer densities. Many hunters enjoy hunting GMU 636 – Skokomish with its 2 point minimum restriction.

A CLOSE-UP OF THE AMAZING MOUNT OF RICK HAYES' MASON COUNTY BUCK (LEFT) AND THE BLACKTAIL IT FOUGHT TO THE DEATH WITH BEFORE HAYES CAME ALONG IN 2008. (RICK HAYES)

Elk: Elk hunting in this area consists almost entirely of permit only hunts. Success is expected to be down this year due to low bull escapement.

KING COUNTY

Black-tailed Deer: Hunting prospects should be similar to last year.

Deer in GMU 454 (Issaquah) continue to be managed with liberal seasons designed to prevent road kills and keep damage issues at acceptable levels in highly-developed areas.

This unit is approximately 90% private land and access continues to be a problem for hunters. Sportsman’s clubs may be trying to accommodate hunters by hooking them up with property owners interested in having a hunter harvest a deer on their property. Success in this unit and GMU 460 (Snoqualmie) may well depend on getting to know your neighbors and broaching the subject of hunting as a means of protecting their fruit trees and vegetable beds. Firearm restrictions are in place because landowners are concerned about safety. Bow hunters should have an advantage in gaining permission.

GMU 466 (Stampede) is a patchwork of private land, State lands, and Forest Service lands (Mount Baker-Snoqulmie National Forest). It consists largely of second growth timber with some old growth on Forest Service lands. This unit consists of a lot of steep ground, with about 2,500 feet in elevation change. Be prepared for early winter snowfall, which has the potential of standing hunters.

Hunters should scout their preferred hunting areas well in advance because many state and private timberlands are now gated, with access restricted to non-motorized methods. Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics based on hunter reporting can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/harvest/index.html

Elk: Hunting prospects should be similar to last year. See above comments for deer. Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics based on hunter reporting can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/harvest/index.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: